Saying that not enough citizens and legislators understand the state's budget process, Frederick County Delegate Galen Clagett has sent out a letter explaining how it's done. "It was really frustrating to try to explain how this critter works," he says. "So what I did was spend some time to gather information and try to piece into some kind of organized document that people could look at and maybe help them understand why it is the way it is," he says. "This process is vital to our untangling the comments issued regularly in our media outlets."
Clagett has been a member of the House of Delegates for 12 years. For ten of those years, he was a member of the House Appropriations Committee. Delegate Clagett decided not to run for re-election in 2014.
In his letter, he points out that the governor presents a balanced budget to the legislature for approval. Delegates and senators can make cuts in the spending plan, but they cannot add to it.
The letter goes on to say the state's General Fund Budget is funded by the sales tax, corporate and individual income taxes, the state lottery and other miscellaneous taxes and fees. There are also special funds that are designed for specific projects, such as the Transportation Trust Fund and the Higher Education Fund.
Clagett goes on to say that 30% of the General Fund Budget goes to state agencies, and nearly half supports entitlement funds and local aid. There are over 130 specific constitutional or statutory mandates or entitlement programs in place.
Spending has increased, says Clagett's letter. He says federal spending went up by 40%, mostly the result of Medicaid caseload increases and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps). Maryland has to match every federal dollar spent on Medicaid.
And while spending has grown, there have been cuts in the budget, according to the letter. Since 2007, more than 2,200 positions have been eliminated from the state's Executive Branch, and 21 state facilities have been closed.
Critics have said that Annapolis has too many politicians who want to continuously tax and spend. "It's horse-hockey, and you can quote on that," says Delegate Clagett. "The summary of this thing basically says, the Constitution says we have to have a balanced budget; we have to fund education."
Clagett says his comments are also directed at the critics of the budgetary process. "They want to have the wedge issue which says these guys are tax and spend Democrats and all they want to do is to raise taxes and spend money, which is truly wrong," he says. "As I leave, I want to be able to say 'look: this is how it really works.' I'm sorry if you don't think that's true but you can check the facts for yourself."