By Adam Pagnucco.
This morning, the county council and representatives of the executive branch discussed the county’s abysmal new fiscal plan, which raises the prospect of cuts to county government (excluding MCPS and Montgomery College) of up to 12% next year. That attracted many comments from the council as one might imagine. Council Member Will Jawando was the only one to call for a tax hike to prevent draconian cuts. His comments (which can be seen on county video) are transcribed below.
Thank you, Mr. President and thank you to Mr. Madaleno [the county’s chief administrative officer] and Mr. Coveyou [the county’s finance director] and acting director [Jennifer] Bryant [the county’s acting budget director]. Excited to confirm that shortly. And to all the staff.
A couple things I just wanted to note. I think Council Member [Evan] Glass said something that’s really important I want to underscore and I agree with, that our focus needs to be on maintaining services for those who need it the most, and Director Bryant, you said this as well, and I think everyone agrees with that. But I also want to make sure that we are also looking at how we’re going to come out of this crisis. And we are in the unenviable position of having to both manage our fiscal situation, deal with the multiple pandemics – health, social, economic – and try to make sure that we don’t exacerbate inequality and we plan for the recovery at the same time.
And that’s not easy, right? We’re dealing with that, as is the nation, as is the world. But I think we are in a better position than most to try to make those plans. And I want to urge us to do a couple of things as we’re thinking about that, so as Mr. Madaleno, as you’re coming back in January with your team. We have reserves for a reason. So we should use them. If we’re not going to use them now, I don’t know when you would use them. I’ve said this since the beginning. And we have been using them on special appropriations and we have been seeking reimbursement.
Jawando speaks in open session today.
But I think to – as we’re looking at, there’s been a lot of talk of savings plans. We cannot cut critical services to those in need that are going to exacerbate income inequality. And if those decisions are being made or are on the chopping block, we have to use reserves.
The other thing is we have to consider how we’re going to raise additional revenues. This has been one of the most unequal pandemics and recessions that we’ve ever seen. There was a report out in October that billionaires increased their net worth by $637 billion through October during the pandemic. And obviously those numbers are smaller for millionaires. But equal growth. While at the same time, you see more than 40 million Americans applying for unemployment insurance. My office has helped hundreds, I know other colleagues have. So this recovery, this pandemic has not been equal. And Montgomery County is a perfect example of that. We have – we are in the wealthiest county in the wealthiest state with the most millionaires per capita in the country. And so as a state and as a county, some who have done well, and I’m happy that that’s the case – we’re going to do have to do more for our residents. So before we discuss any cuts to services that are in need that are going to exacerbate inequality, we’re going to need to look at these types of options.
I’m glad that we included in the statement we sent to Annapolis asking for the authority to levy a progressive tax bracket on the income tax. We need to do that. I’ve said it before. If we were to increase the top bracket from 3.2 to 3.5 percent on just millionaires in the county, you’d bring in over $90 million in revenue a year. I’m not saying that’s the specific proposal we need to do, but we certainly need to be talking about those things in the context of this larger picture. And I just want to say that because it hasn’t been said. So I look forward to reviewing the details. I appreciate the sobering picture and look forward to working through this with you and our colleagues.
Thank you, Mr. President.