Education Cuts at the University of Maryland

Education cuts by both outgoing Gov. Martin O’Malley and new Gov. Larry Hogan are hitting the University of Maryland. Most of the following information is cribbed from President Wallace Loh’s letter from last month.

State Funding Cuts

Gov. O’Malley made a one-time cut of $15.6 million before leaving office in order to address budget shortfalls. While Gov. Hogan’s budget includes a 1.3% increase for UMD, he has made O’Malley’s one-time cut permanent. Moreover, he further rescinded COLAs of 2% and merit raises of 2.5%

Impact at the University of Maryland

Tuition Hike:
After four years of no increases, UMD made an unusual mid-year tuition hike of 2%. The new tuition levels will be maintained in the upcoming year.

Faculty and Staff Salaries
Taking away the COLA means that faculty and staff will see their remuneration decline in real terms. Moreover, this is now the fourth consecutive year with no merit increases, so faculty have seen no real increases over that period.

Furloughs
will take another bite out of the salaries of faculty and staff who earn more than $60,000 per year:

State-funded employees who earn less than $60K—about 40% of our workforce—will have no furloughs; those who earn $60K+ to $100K will have 1 furlough day; $100K+ to $180K will have 2 furlough days; and those that earn $180K+ will have 3 furlough days.
Eliminate vacant positions
Instead of filling current vacancies, including teaching and research faculty, positions will no longer exist.

Overall Impact

The State of Maryland has made enormous investments in the University of Maryland over the past several decades. Universities, highly labor intensive by nature, cannot attract the best faculty or build new modern facilities without it.

These efforts have paid off–the quality of the students and the faculty at UMD has steadily risen. UMD’s admission to the Big Ten was a sign not just of athletic prowess of but of the university’s desire to take its place among its academic peers.

Gov. O’Malley kept tuition down, which has only increased the attractiveness of the university and helped keep many of the most talented Marylanders in state. It also acknowledged the reality of the barrier of the cost of education for many families.

Tuition increases were bound to begin again at some point, though they are now rising from a lower start point than would have otherwise occurred. And, as already mentioned, universities need money with tuition being a major source. The real impact of these increases will depend on their rate relative to inflation.

However, as UMD is demonstrating, tuition increases alone are unlikely to makeup for cuts of these levels. President Loh expressed concern, rightly, about retaining and attracting top-notch faculty who can go to other high-level research institutions.

In short, we have to be very careful not to allow to crumble what the State and UMD have built painstakingly over many years. Beyond being a waste of past investment, we should leverage UMD more economically as North Carolina has done with UNC. Indeed, the goal should be not just to maintain UMD but to continue its upward trajectory. As a high-income state, educational advantage will be critical to continuing to advance economically.

Next Up: Why Such Big Cuts Now?

Note: Just a reminder that I am a professor of political science at American University in Washington, D.C.

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Updated: Off to the Races

Barbara A. Mikulski

Sen. Barbara Mikulski in 1987–Her First Year as Senator

UPDATE: Martin O’Malley will not seek Senate seat.

As my former co-blogger on Maryland Politics Watch Adam Pagnucco accurately sussed out on Facebook, I am very grateful to Sen. Barbara Mikulski for her surprise retirement decision. While I thoroughly approve of Maryland’s four-year election cycle, it does leave election junkies like me in need of a fix.

On Senator Mikulski

Much will be made of Sen. Mikulski’s political career and, as she said yesterday, it’s not over just yet. I’m still surprised she has chosen to retire because she clearly revels in her job. Moreover, in my view, she remains Maryland’s most popular politician. Anyone who thought they could defeat her was in for a rude shock.

Sen. Mikulski will deservedly get a lot of accolades as someone who blazed a path for women in politics. However, as I once heard Geraldine Ferraro point out many years ago, most Marylanders didn’t vote for her because she is a woman or in spite of her being a women but because she was the person we wanted for the job.

Sen. Mikulski got her start as a local Baltimore activist fighting a highway. Unlike many senators, she isn’t independently wealthy but she has always been a tough organizer and campaigner. Never afraid to learn, she also doesn’t forget her roots and fights relentlessly for Maryland. Most of all, I think people liked voting for her because of her authentic concern and understanding of people.

Democrats for the Senate

Open Senate seats are like rare jewels and there are many people who are eying running for the seat. Here are some of the Democrats rumored to be thinking about it. Doesn’t mean that they will run (or should run) but are in the mix.

Former Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown
Rep. Elijah Cummings
Rep. John Delaney
Rep. Donna Edwards
Former State’s Attorney Glen Ivey
Former Del. Jolene Ivey
Former Del. Heather Mizeur
Secretary of Labor Tom Perez
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake
Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger
Rep. John Sarbanes
Former County Executive Ken Ulman
Rep. Chris Van Hollen

There is also a list of Democrats that could run but I think won’t run:

County Executive Rushern Baker
Comptroller Peter Franchot
Former Attorney General Doug Gansler

Announced he won’t run today:

Former Gov. Martin O’Malley

Republicans for the Senate

Larry Hogan’s election has got the Republicans dreaming too. While they have a shorter bench of people currently holding elected office, here are some who might jump in:

Don Bongino
Dr. Ben Carson
Former County Executive David Craig
Former Gov. Bob Ehrlich
Former Commissioner Robin Frazier
Rep. Andy Harris
Charles Loller
Former County Executive Laura Neuman
Del. Tony O’Donnell
Former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele

And here are Republicans who could run but I think would be unlikely to run:

County Executive Alan Kittleman
Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford

The Outsiders

Of course, someone could swoop in from either party and beat the known quantities as John Delaney did in the Sixth Congressional District. However, several credible outsider candidates campaigns just didn’t get any oxygen when Ben Cardin won his open seat.

 

Air In, Vaping Out in MoCo

On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council looks set to pass Council Vice President Nancy Floreen’s bill to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. The bill would also prohibit their use where smoking is already not allowed and mandate child-resistant packaging.

Here is Councilmember Floreen’s argument for the bill:

It is hard to keep up with the mounting evidence that electronic cigarettes pose more risks than their marketers would like us to believe, especially for children and teens.

Although electronic cigarettes do not produce tobacco smoke, they do contain nicotine and other dangerous chemicals. That’s why I introduced a bill in the Montgomery County Council to prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes in public spaces where traditional cigarette smoking is banned, including in public buildings and restaurants. The bill also would prohibit use of electronic cigarettes by minors and would require child-resistant packaging for them.

The use of electronic cigarettes, commonly called “vaping,” has grown dramatically since the product’s introduction in 2007. The practice has become so commonplace that the Oxford Dictionary selected the word “vape” as its 2014 “Word of the Year.”

Perhaps swayed by the belief that electronic cigarettes are safe, or emboldened by the fact that e-cigs have little odor that parents could detect, teens who have never tried traditional cigarettes are using e-cigs. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that e-cig use has tripled among teens in just two years. These young people are unwittingly putting themselves at risk for nicotine addiction and nicotine poisoning, as well as potentially graduating to harmful tobacco products.

What exactly is in an electronic cigarette? It is hard to say. In addition to the most common ingredients — propylene glycol, nicotine and flavorings — studies have revealed a lot of unsavory things, like carcinogens, heavy metals and even silicon fibers in some e-cigs. But with 90 percent of electronic cigarettes being manufactured in China, where production lacks even the most basic of regulations, they could contain just about anything.

Many states, including Maryland, prohibit the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. Municipalities including New York City, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago, also have enacted restrictions on their use.

While the Food and Drug Administration is currently considering regulations to address electronic cigarettes, it is not clear when those regulations would be finalized or take effect. In the meantime, I’m not willing to gamble with the health of our current generation of young people. We must put some protections in place, and we must do it now.

Councilmember Floreen makes a good case. It seems very odd that someone can buy vaping materials at a mall kiosk but that cigarettes must be sold behind the counter. If adults want to use these materials, that’s their business. But we shouldn’t facilitate the addiction and the poisoning of people who are not yet legal adults.

Delaney Bolts Dems, Harris Defies Tea Party on Key DHS Vote

Rep. John Delaney (D-6) bolted his party and voted in favor of Republican Speaker John Boehner’s proposal for a three-week extension of funding for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Rep. Andy Harris (R-1) defied the wrath of the tea party, which opposes any bill that does not undo President Obama’s executive orders on immigration, by also supporting the bill.

The failure of Boehner’s bill to pass on a 203-224 vote represented a major defeat for the Speaker. Democrats wanted a clean longer-term funding bill and largely united behind Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s opposition to the three-week extension that would leave the country facing the same dilemma in three weeks.

Boehner could have easily passed a clean bill through the House through a bipartisan coalition but refused to allow a vote because it  violated the “Hastert rule” of only moving forward on legislation that commands a majority within the Republican Caucus. As usual, that isn’t working out so well for him.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi’s strategy has been sound for a number of reasons. First, it highlighted the inability of Republicans in Congress to govern due to their rogue wing. Boehner needs Democratic support to make the House work.

On this specific issue, it looks like a total win for Democrats. Boehner got a one-week extension and will either have to pass a clean funding bill for DHS or shut it down–untenable in the face of Republican trumpeting of the importance of security in fighting the War on Terror in the wake of events in Europe.

Rumor has it that Boehner promised a vote on a clean bill to gain the support from either Republicans who favor that option–if only as it is inevitable anyway and opposing it is just killing the GOP in the public eye–or the Democrats. However, Boehner denies it, which just leaves him twisting in the wind.

While Rep. Delaney issued a press release touting his support for a bill providing back pay for DHS employees in the event of a shutdown, he did not issue a similar explanation of his break from the Democrats on this key vote.

Rep. Harris has expressed pride that the House has held to its position that Obama’s immigration executive orders must be undone legislatively in order for DHS funding to pass. But he has not issued a press release explaining why he did not join tea party representatives in opposing any further funding without achieving this goal.

Did Simonaire Violate Ethics Rules with Commercial?

Sen. Bryan Simonaire’s (R-31) Commercial

Sen. Bryan Simonaire (R-31, Anne Arundel) has done a commercial for Walt Eger’s auto service center. In the commercial, shown above, Sen. Simonaire uses his title and appears in front of his vehicle complete with Senate license plate and a Simonaire-State Senate sticker on the front of the hood.

The ethics laws governing conduct by members of the General Assembly prohibit commercials like this in a clearcut manner:

Use of Prestige of Office (§ 15-506) The Ethics Law prohibits the intentional use of a legislator’s “prestige of office” for private gain or that of another, but allows the performance of usual and customary constituent services that are provided without compensation.

Even more specifically, the ethics guidelines state:

Do not publicly endorse a commercial entity or product under circumstances that invoke one’s position as a legislator.

Unfortunately for Sen. Simonaire, this is exactly what he did.

If Sen. Simonaire got paid to do the commercials, that would move the problem to selling the prestige of office instead of just using it for the private gain of another.

Simonaire Serves on Ethics Reform Committee

Sen. Simonaire serves currently on the Senate Special Committee on Ethics Reform. In the past, he also was a member of the Work Group to Review Disclosure Requirements of the Public Ethics Law. While ignorance of the law would not serve an excuse, it seems especially thin in this case.

Eger Made Campaign Contributions to Simonaire

Sen. Simonaire received $1000 in campaign contributions from Walt Eger in 2014 election cycle, according to his campaign finance report filed on October 19, 2014.

This same report also reveal loans by Sen. Simonaire in the amount of $54,100 to his own campaign. The most recently filed report indicates that the loan amount remains the same, so it does not appear that the Eger’s contribution has been used towards reimbursing that loan.

The reported cash balance for Simonaire’s campaign committee is $36,701.47. Simonaire could conceivably use funds to pay back the loans. But many legislators never reimburse themselves for these loans and carry them forward for many years.

Conclusion

This could all be friendly in the sense that Walt Eger likes Sen. Bryan Simonaire enough to donate to his campaign. Similarly, Sen. Simonaire could want to help out his friend’s business.

The problem is this sort of cozy relationship that works to the commercial benefit of Walt Eger and the political benefit of Sen. Simonaire is exactly what the General Assembly’s ethics rules are designed to prevent.

This likely serious violation of ethics rules will provide a test for not only how the General Assembly handles these problems–including the leadership of both parties–but also how Gov. Larry Hogan addresses problems within the party that he heads.

Gone Twitter: PSC Nominee Higgs Update

Two days ago, 7S published snapshots from the twitter account of Montgomery County GOP Chair and PSC Nominee Michael Higgs. However, his twitter account, @MightyTerp, is no longer available on Twitter (h/t Luke Pinton, @lpinton).

People who missed such tweets as:

HiggsTweet1

and

higgstweet4

will now have to visit the 7S historical archives. Or talk to others who have preserved portions of his public thought. While people Fear the Terp, @MightyTerp appears more fearful. Regardless, this vanishing act provides more evidence that @MightyTerp realizes that these tweets won’t help his nomination.

 

Ending Felon Disfranchisement

Freshman Del. Cory McCray (D-45) and Sen. Joan Carter Conway (D-43), the Chair of the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee are sponsoring a bill (HB 980/SB  340) to restore the voting rights of former felons:

The bill would remove the obstacles that are in the way of an estimated 40,000 ex-offenders in Maryland who want to vote.

Current law in Maryland prohibits individuals with a felony conviction from voting until after they have finished parole, probation and paid restitution. Advocates say many of the former felons who are eligible to vote are uncertain of their voting status. They fear of being accused of voter fraud and being arrested again.

[Sen. Joan Carter] Conway described the current law as a form a voter suppression.

“The criteria doesn’t make sense,” Conway said. “The debt has been paid.”

A Good and Right Idea

The General Assembly should pass this legislation for a variety of reasons. First, we should make it easier for people who have the legal right to vote to participate–not placing barriers in their path, including fear of running afoul of the law.

Some may not like that former criminals get to vote. But we are all citizens of this country. Once someone has paid their debt to society, their citizenship rights, including rights, should be restored as part of their return to the community.

Moreover, the criminal justice system does not always treat similar offenses in the same way. As a result, some people who commit become classified as ex-felons while others do not. There is no reason for this disparity in sentencing–a whole different area for debate–to carry over into the restoration of voting rights.

But Don’t Expect Too Much

Studies show that education is the best predictor of the likelihood to vote. Additionally, people who are more likely to vote include older voters, married voters, and people with a long-established residence.

As a group, former felons are far less likely than other Americans to possess these characteristics. Difficulties in obtaining a job exacerbate problems in gaining a stable housing situation. Barring some very serious organization, former felons will remain much less likely to register or to cast a ballot.

So Republicans who fear that this is a plot by Democrats to get more of “their” voters on the rolls should chill. The impact will likely be small. More importantly, even if every single one voted, no political party worthy of the name should be afraid of citizens participating in our democratic process.

Moving Forward on Public Transit

WMATA_Metro

Making This Work Should Be Our #1 Priority

In a series of posts, I’ve outlined how the major light-rail and streetcar projects are in deep trouble and why. Today’s final post completes the more recent portion of the series on what we should do to spend smart to produce workable, effective transit.

Fix Metro

Members of the Maryland General Assembly have rightly come to the conclusion that they have had enough of the failing WMATA status quo and want to grapple in a serious way with the issue. Fixing the Metro system should be our #1 transit priority because it remains the lungs of the region’s public transit network. We need a serious assessment of how to turn the corner on this one because the problems have only been getting worse. MTA also has major problems that need attention and merits more oversight.

Reorganize Existing Bus Lines

I love solutions that don’t cost any money. This isn’t a case of getting something for nothing (that just doesn’t happen) but getting a lot more out of our existing budget. Houston just showed the way by reorganizing its bus routes in a smart way:

The old system, like many bus routes in the United States, expended a lot of resources on very low-ridership routes for the sake of saying there’s “a bus that goes there.” The new plan says that the focus should be to provide reasonably frequent service on routes where reasonably frequent service will attract riders. That does mean that some people are further than ever from a transit stop. But it means that many more Houstonians will find themselves near a useful transit stop.

Just check out the before and after maps. I’ve often heard advocates of light-rail claim that we need it because there is no bus route that does not connect place A to place B. But this is, after all, an easily solvable problem without building light rail. In Houston, the difference is amazing and it didn’t cost the city any more money. Now that’s smart growth.

Bus-Rapid Transit

Bus-rapid transit (BRT) has real cost-benefit advantages over other more expensive modes. You can build an equivalent mode of transit at a far cheaper price. Montgomery County has already moved forward tentatively in this area. I hope they will continue.

Build Only What We Can Afford to Maintain

The key lesson from Metro is that transit systems take a lot of money to operate and to maintain. Governing recently highlighted an even more disastrous example from the Boston area. Though Boston is a slow-growing area, it embarked on very fast paced transit growth that it could not afford either to build or to maintain. Beyond the system’s collapse this winter:

Today the MBTA owes nearly $9 billion in debt and interest, which translates into more than one-quarter of its operating revenue going to debt service. And since money that should have funded maintenance had to be diverted to the legally mandated expansions, the system faces an estimated $5 billion maintenance backlog.

This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t build anything. It means that we need to spend smart because money is always tight and we need to build future operation and maintenance costs into the plan before we begin construction.

Final Word

The point of this series was not just to discuss how and why we arrived in our current cul-de-sac of overly expensive projects but how we can get out of it through transit that provide more in the way of transit and economic benefits at a much lower cost and will be more sustainable over the long term.

Leventhal Says Leggett “Grandstanding” with Redskins Resolution

Grandstanding–Not by Leggett–Begins at 1:04

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett is considering asking the County Council to pass a resolution urging the Washington Redskins to change their name. The D.C. City Council has already passed a resolution declaring it “racist and derogatory.”

County Council President George Leventhal thinks it’s a bad idea, as he explained in this response to a constituent who wrote him on the issue:

“Your comparison to the civil rights struggle is, I think, inapt,” Leventhal wrote back Nov. 8. “Those who were in a position to change the law and enact civil rights protections had the moral obligation to do so. The Montgomery County Council has no authority over the names of NFL teams. If we were to pass a resolution like the one that passed the D.C. Council earlier this week, its effect would be only hortatory and would be perceived by many as grandstanding.”

Where to begin?

Symbolism Matters

The Council and the County engage in many actions that are symbolic. In this case, the statement would be a powerful one not just because Montgomery is home to many Washington football fans but because Dan Snyder lives and grew up here. It would speak loudly that the elected representatives in his hometown believe that the moral and the right thing to do is to change the name.

Consider just one example of the importance of symbolic actions highlighted in a press release from the County Council: “recognition” of the start of Lunar New Year:

“I am delighted to be joining with my friends and leaders in the Asian American community to recognize Asian Lunar New Year,” said Council President George Leventhal. “Montgomery County’s diversity is its strength, and one of the best parts of my job is being able to share in these celebrations.”

The County Council passed legislation in 2006 making Lunar New Year a day of commemoration to recognize the significant contributions Asian Americans have made in the County. Approximately 14 percent of Montgomery County’s population is Asian American.

Too bad for Native Americans that they compose only 0.7 percent of Montgomery’s population.

Hortatory and Grandstanding

Let’s next get the obvious out of the way: George Leventhal is no stranger to hortatory and grandstanding. Infamously so. More than any other elected official in Montgomery, George is renowned for his bursts of temper, lecturing and posturing in public and private. The clip above from the Washington Post is one example (see George unable to help himself starting at 1:04).

Whether it is what allows him to accomplish his goals or impedes him from being as effective or successful as he might like, many people in the County have seen or experienced it. Indeed, as in the above example, it often elides into bullying from exhortation or grandstanding.

Has George Leventhal Ever Met Ike Leggett?

For those of you less familiar with Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, who recently began his third term, allow me to explain that most of his speeches and actions are political oatmeal: reasonably satisfying and nothing that upsets the stomach.

While he has often been called highly cautious and prudent–and criticized at times for being overly so–I have never heard anyone ever describe the County Executive’s actions as “hortatory” or “grandstanding.” I heard him once get mildly exercised about Maintenance of Effort for a minute at a Committee for Montgomery breakfast but the moment passed.

Let me suggest that this is not accidental.

Notwithstanding the election of President Barack Obama, the election of African Americans from jurisdictions that do not have either a black majority or a combined black and Latino majority remains relatively rare. (If you go on researchgate.net, you can find some of my own publications on the topic.)

Unfortunately, the same actions that might be labelled as passionate or firm leadership by a white politicians have sometimes been stereotyped as angry and hostile when done by a black politician. Disciplined, successful African-American politicians who achieve high levels of non-black support tend to stay away from actions that could be perceived as hectoring or confrontational.

As a result, no one has ever confused Ike Leggett with H. Rap Brown. The payoff has been high: Ike Leggett is not just the County’s first African-American County Executive. He is one of Montgomery’s most successful politicians ever. Full stop. But no one views him as “hortatory” or “grandstanding.”

There is a reason that the Post has never run a clip of Ike like the one of George. It doesn’t exist.

 

Maryland Politics Watch

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