Tag Archives: bill frick

Frick Attacks Opponents for Budget Shortfall

Montgomery County is facing a budget shortfall and across-the-board operating budget cuts of 2%–and warning that’s just a start. Del. Bill Frick is highlighting the cuts to go after his three opponents in the Democratic primary for county executive who have served for many years on the County Council:

It is time for new leadership in Rockville.  Our councilmembers ignored warnings from County Executive Leggett to restrain spending.  Despite an increase in the recordation tax, and a nearly 9% increase in property taxes, we find ourselves without sufficient revenues to pay for these councilmembers  pet projects, and, as a result, public services are being cut.  Our county deserves better.

The full press release and supporting documents are posted below.

Frick Press Release on MoCo Budget Shortfall by David Lublin on Scribd

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County Executive Candidates on the Liquor Monopoly

Question: The county’s liquor monopoly has come under heavy criticism–not least from Seventh State. If at all, how would you reform or change, or press the state legislature to change, the Department of Liquor Control?

Roger Berliner

At the county level, I have been the chief advocate for ending our unique – and counterproductive – liquor monopoly.  As someone who has fought monopolies most of my professional life, I know in my bones that monopolies are rarely, if ever, in the public interest.  Government monopolies are generally even less efficient.  And a government monopoly that tries to do a job that the private sector does in the rest of the country is almost always less efficient.  That is true in MoCo.  As a result, our residents vote with their feet.  Almost one-third of our purchases of liquor are made outside Montgomery County.  Our restaurants hate it.  Top flight restaurants have said that they would never come here. Bottom line: our monopoly needlessly perpetuates the reputation of our county being anti-business and anti-consumer and stunts our economy.

However, the state is a critical partner in this conversation.  It is state law that created our monopoly, and state law must be passed to change it.  The positive side of this dynamic is that the state would be the principal, direct beneficiary of increased liquor sales.  I would work with the Governor and our legislature to split the savings that the state would derive and hold the county harmless as it weans itself from this monopoly.  The dollars are not that significant given that our retail operations should continue to do well – assuming that they can compete!  And in the long run, our county will prosper more without the monopoly than with it.

Marc Elrich

Any discussion of the Department of Liquor Control (DLC) must acknowledge that the Montgomery County budget relies on over $30 million in liquor revenue per year.  That is no small amount of money, and it supports critical county services, including almost $11 million for bond payments.  Nobody who has proposed privatizing the county’s liquor supply has a workable plan to fill the budget hole privatization would create, likely because there is no way to do so that doesn’t create other problems for the state.

Privatization proposals thus should not be taken seriously; instead, we should continue to look for ways to make the DLC more efficient and effective than it has been in the past, and to increase sales so that we can increase the revenue that the DLC generates.

We’ve already changed the way the DLC is run by bringing in industry professionals, including the director and the warehouse manager, who have improved the operations of the liquor system and brought in a philosophy of continuous improvement.  I’ve also encouraged introducing lower markups for more expensive items, which they did, and I’ve supported and will continue to support efforts to help local breweries and wineries sell and distribute their goods.  Both the new director and I want to hear and consider other ideas for helping transition the DLC from something that the county has long taken for granted into a professionally run system.

In fact, if a private-sector business had a division that produced a substantial profit but was identified as having management problems and customer service issues that prevented it from being more profitable, its most likely course of action would be to change management, work to improve services, and strive for greater profits.  That is exactly what we have been doing with the DLC.

Bill Frick

I have been the state’s leader on fixing this abysmal broken system.  My “end the monopoly” effort, helped immensely by the Seventh State’s Adam Pagnucco, fell short in 2016 in large part because of vigorous opposition from the Council and County Executive.  We agreed to let the Executive lead a work group on the issue, but that work group served no real purpose other than to push the issue onto the desk of the next Executive.

This is a great opportunity.  The DLC has value, and I have proposed to ensure that the value stays with Montgomery County by selling off the DLC’s assets, such as its franchise rights to beer distribution, its stores and warehouse, to generate millions in capital dollars that can be spent on school construction.  Because the elimination of the DLC will generate millions in repatriated sales and excise tax dollars, I would work with my colleagues in the legislative leadership to help return some of those revenues to the County.  Finally, we all know that the work of alcohol distribution will not disappear with the end of the DLC, rather, those jobs will migrate to the private sector and will likely grow in the County as our consumers come home to buy their beer, wine and spirits here.  I will work with the private sector distributors and unions to find the best outcomes for current DLC employees as we get the County out of the liquor business.

George Leventhal

I am willing to entertain serious negotiations with parties who are willing to make a serious offer to purchase the right to distribute beer, wine and spirits in Montgomery County. In FY 2018, that enterprise generated more than $33 million in surplus revenue over expenses to the county’s general fund, of which $11 million was spent on debt service for approximately $100 million in Liquor Control Revenue Bonds, which were issued more than a decade ago to pay for transportation improvements, including the Montrose Parkway. I think we should commission an independent economic analysis of the present value of a guaranteed revenue stream of more than $30 million each year. My understanding is that it would come to hundreds of millions of dollars – more than enough to retire the bonds. I do not think the county should simply give away these valuable rights, which belong to the people of the county. However, serious offers from serious buyers should be considered. Simply giving the rights (and the associated revenues) away would require that the bonds be retired or refinanced through other means. If general obligation bonds were used to refinance the Liquor Control Revenue Bonds, it would reduce the county’s ability to construct new schools and other capital projects by $100 million.

In the absence of a serious offer to buy the rights to the entire enterprise, I continue to support the County Council’s 2015 proposal to privatize special order sales of beer and wine. Problems with delivery of special orders comprise the vast majority of complaints from restaurants, but the Montgomery County delegation to Annapolis declined to take up the County Council’s proposal in the 2016 session after County Executive Leggett asked for more time for study.

The Montgomery County delegation also declined to take up proposals for immediate privatization or for a voter referendum. Candidates for County Executive who have concerns about the Department of Liquor Control’s shortcomings should remember that liquor laws are made in Annapolis, not in Rockville. I would also support action by the state legislature to allow sales of beer and wine in grocery stores. Beer and wine stores will soon be able to sell spirits under legislation that passed in the 2017 session, which I supported.

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Bill Frick: Name One Program You Would Cut

Name one program in the county budget that is not working and can be cut.  Tell us how much in annual savings that would yield.

For too long, Council members have used the County budget as a piggy bank to fund their pet projects and ideas, often ones that could not survive a serious cost/benefit review.

As we reorient County government to be a constituent-consumer focused organization, we can find savings.  For example, the county employs nearly 40 personnel in its 311 call center, despite the dramatic shift in technology away from phone calls and towards electronic communications.  If Montgomery County complemented this with a constituent service app, as exists in neighboring jurisdictions, many constituent services would be routed directly to the relevant agencies instead of going first through bureaucratic call centers, and we could save taxpayer money.

Finally, the County should not be a leader in corporate welfare.  I would end our tax credits for investors, money that goes from everyday taxpayers straight to the pockets of wealthy investors, often to reward them for making investments they would have made regardless.  This is a fight I led at the state level as the architect of the Tax Credit Evaluation Act, legislation to spotlight and reform our runaway subsidies, and by going toe-to-toe with Hollywood to make sure our tax dollars were being spent productively.

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Bill Frick on Jobs

Job growth has been stagnant in Montgomery County over the past few years. What would you do to encourage increased job growth?

For far too long, our Council has been complacent with the status quo and at times even outright hostile to the private sector.  Resting on the expectation of stable employment from the federal government, the Council has been largely indifferent and even averse to growing the private sector economy.  We can no longer afford to talk about the need for job and wage growth and yet show no interest in facilitating business growth that creates those jobs.  As Norm Augustine likes to say, “you can’t be for jobs and against employers.”

From our notorious permitting process to our burdensome tax policies, we need to stop treating small business as the enemy.  Small businesses are the vital engine that will drive our middle class growth.  We need to reorient our administration to recognize that being punitive to businesses isn’t actually in our interests.

We must also foster and facilitate growth and entrepreneurship.  We benefit from an amazingly well-educated and creative workforce. But our women and men often find DC or Virginia or Baltimore to be more promising environments in which to grow and create businesses.  I want to enhance access to capital by building on our programs to keep local and state dollars in the community banks that are most likely to lend to small businesses, like I did at the state level. And I will help jump-start our hospitality, service, and restaurant economy by reforming or eliminating the Department of Liquor Control, a broken system that has functioned as a repellent to restaurants and consumers alike. I led this fight in the legislature, and will win this fight as County Executive.

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Implications of the Minimum Wage Outcome

Bethesda Beat has the story:

The County Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to a compromise that will phase in the $15-per-hour wage over four years based on businesses’ size.

Under the compromise:

  • large businesses with more than 50 employees will be required to pay the minimum wage in 2021
  • businesses with 11 to 50 employees will have to pay the wage in 2023
  • small businesses with fewer than 11 employees will need to pay the wage in 2024.

The council also approved a measure to tie the wage to the inflation rate in 2022 to prevent the need to vote to increase the wage in the future.

Indexing’s Long-Term Impact

This last bit may be the most important. Indexing to inflation assures that Montgomery’s minimum will continue to rise. As a result, the gap between the minimum wage in Montgomery and elsewhere will continue to grow.

If demand for labor keeps the going rate below Montgomery’s minimum, especially as indexing drives it up, it will make the county less competitive in businesses that don’t need to be located here, though have less impact on many services that are hard to move. However, even these businesses, like restaurants, can choose where to open and we would likely see the result.

The impact on the County budget over the short term is unclear. Over the long term, it may force the County to ratchet up wages and cut other services more in lean budget times, since the County will no longer be able to limit COLAs for workers at the bottom and will have to fight wage compression.

Any future economic and budgetary pressures will be made more acute, as the popularity of indexing wages makes it politically perilous to remove. These potentially negative impacts, however, will occur enough in the future that the current crop of officials will not have to address any consequences of their actions.

Political Impact

The short-term politics are more interesting. It gives Marc Elrich a major victory to tout and undermines critiques of him as ineffective in marshaling his colleagues behind him. At the same time, the unanimous adoption of a compromise takes a lot of the juice out of the political issue as it was adopted unanimously.

Candidates can’t differentiate themselves when there is no difference on an issue. Incumbent Sidney Katz’s opponent, Ben Shnider,  regards this as a victory since he pressured Katz on the issue. But the Council’s action makes it very hard to campaign against Katz on this basis – a win for Katz.

The decline of the issue’s salience also benefits outsider candidates worried about the financial impact, as they are on the less popular side of the question. It may give an opening to County Executive Candidates Bill Frick and Rose Krasnow with the business community, which won’t like the outcome.

Roger Berliner will be grateful this issue is off the agenda and will tell business leaders that he did the best he did to mitigate its impact. Ultimately, however, he still voted for a policy they think is harmful, while Frick was willing to say publicly that minimum wage policy should be left to the state.

Frick will argue to business that his actions show that he is willing to take on tougher causes and they should get behind him. Krasnow is not yet formally in the race, which limits any lumps she can take but also prevents her from earning points on this issue. As the Maryland Lottery has spent much money to explain, “you have to play to win.”

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Raise the Minimum Wage? Bill Frick Answers

As the County Council is getting ready to vote on raising the minimum wage, Seventh State continues its series of candidate responses to questions with this issue.

Do you favor an increase in the Montgomery County minimum wage and, if so, by how much and on what timeline? Would you have any exemptions and, if so, for whom?  

I have co-sponsored and voted for bills to raise the minimum wage statewide in Annapolis. A thoughtful minimum wage policy, properly enforced, can be an important tool in reducing income inequality. That is why I helped enact a minimum wage increase as a legislator in Annapolis.  Minimum wage policy, however, is more effective as a state policy than as a local one.  Maryland has a Department of Labor, with the statutory power and duty to enforce minimum wage and other employment laws.  Montgomery County does not.  Just as zoning and land use decisions belong at the County level instead of the state, I believe employment regulation is better in the hands of the state, where those regulations can be effectively enforced and implemented.

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In Their Own Words, Part III: Bill Frick

We continue with our County Executive questionnaires today with Del. Bill Frick (D-16).

What was your most important achievement in your current or past office? How do you think it demonstrates your leadership ability?

During my career in Annapolis there have been many legislative successes that I am proud of, and each highlight different approaches to leadership.  For many, I have been a negotiator and dealmaker. I was the lead legislator in creating a state-sponsored retirement plan to help low-income workers save for a secure retirement. When I started on this path, the bill was seen as a fringe liberal proposal, but I worked with colleagues in the House and Senate of both parties and carried the bill to a bipartisan success that has been held out by AARP as a national model.

There have also been times when I have served as an unapologetic warrior for our values.  I was the lead house sponsor on legislation to increase the state’s reliance on clean renewable energy, an issue that enjoys little Republican support.  For two years, I championed this legislation until it passed the House and Senate in 2016, only to have Larry Hogan veto the bill.  As a part of the leadership team, I led the override vote that finally allowed the Clean Energy Jobs Act to become law, despite the united objection of the Republicans.

Different circumstances call for different leadership styles, and I am proud that I’ve been able to adapt my role and style to promote and protect Maryland’s values.

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Bill Frick on Hogan’s Road Plan

The following post by Del. Bill Frick (D-16) continues Seventh State’s series on reactions to Gov. Larry Hogan’s road proposal by candidates for county executive:

Traffic congestion is possibly the biggest challenge to Montgomery County’s quality of life and its economy, so I am pleased that Governor Hogan is talking about taking bold steps to deal with this problem.  That said, what little we know of Hogan’s strategy raises many questions that must be answered.

Will we really be able to accomplish all he has outlined with private dollars?< Will there be any work to remedy clogged arterial streets and the bottleneck at the American Legion Bridge?

Would an all-toll solution provide enough capacity that it benefits non-toll drivers?   

Will Hogan address Metro’s problems with seriousness and collaboration with DC, VA and the Federal Government?

Will Hogan include – and fund- the Corridor Cities Transitway as part of the I-270 strategy?

These are merely some of the policy questions.  This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the practical and logistical issues that the proposal presents.

I hope that Governor Hogan is committed to real solutions to a real big problem.  Press conferences are not enough.  We need leaders to devote serious work, provide adequate resources, and bring stakeholders together across party and jurisdictional lines to get this county moving again.

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Bill Fricks Up the Executive Field, Part Two

By Adam Pagnucco.

Delegate Bill Frick’s candidacy for Montgomery County Executive raises a number of questions that will impact both him and his rivals.  Here’s our shot at asking them and teasing out some answers.

Question 1: The Path Not Taken

Four years ago, the higher office Frick really wanted was Attorney General.  His path at that time was blocked by his district’s Senator, Brian Frosh, but it could be much more viable in the near future.  Frosh will be 76 years old at the end of his second term.  If Frick were to remain in the House and raise money, expand his connections and build a statewide network, he would be a strong contender to succeed Frosh.  Frick would also have a great rationale for an AG candidacy: his legislative history on consumer issues demonstrates that he would be an aggressive crusader against predatory banks, rapacious credit card companies and sleazy Internet scammers.  That’s a politically powerful message.  But a losing race for Executive would let other candidates jump ahead of him for an AG run.  It’s a huge opportunity cost that should not be paid lightly.

Question 2: Geography

How much are Frick and Council Member Roger Berliner handicapped by the fact that they represent much of the same area?  Berliner’s District 1, which includes Bethesda, Chevy Chase, Kensington, Potomac and Poolesville, contains 31% of all Super-Democrats (Dems who voted in all three of the 2006, 2010 and 2014 primaries).  Frick’s Bethesda-based District 16, which is inside District 1, contains 19% of all Super-Dems.  These areas are excellent bases from which to launch a countywide campaign.  But Frick and Berliner could split these votes, hurting both of them.  Also worth considering is that Council Member Marc Elrich will get votes in this region as well owing to his criticism of unpopular master plans passed by the County Council.

Question 3: Prior Races

Consider this.  In the last four years, Frick has run for four different offices: Attorney General, Delegate, Congress and now Executive.  No other MoCo politician can say that.  Accordingly, there is some skepticism in the political community that he will be in the Executive race to the end.  That is going to play itself out with large contributors, who are critical since Frick will be using traditional campaign financing and there are only nine months left until the primary.  The last thing a big donor who cares about county government wants is to go all in for a candidate who drops out and runs for something else.  This is huge considering that Frick reported a balance of $45,818 in his state account in January and he cannot transfer funds directly from his federal account.  Frick needs to have a convincing argument to address this with donors or he will be unable to fund a competitive campaign.

Question 4: Counter-Attacks

Frick’s early strategy is to attack the County Council, a message that should get some traction among the majority of county Democrats who voted for term limits.  Frick told the Washington Post, “Our demands exceed our capacity, on our roads and in our classrooms… Too often, local leaders have been complacent, content to raise taxes and resist vital reforms, and our small businesses and parents grow more and more frustrated.”  In Bethesda Magazine, he criticized the “Rockville bubble” and blasted the council for protecting the liquor monopoly.  (Berliner is the one Council Member who agrees with Frick on that issue.)

But Frick has a record too and his new rivals are sure to bring it up.  While Frick attacks the county’s giant property tax hike, he voted for numerous state tax increases during the O’Malley years, including a 2012 state income tax hike of which MoCo residents paid 41% of the increase.  The Council Members will grill Frick on the state’s anemic performance in financing school construction in MoCo, a major issue for voters.  And Council Members Marc Elrich and George Leventhal, both of whom have co-sponsored a bill establishing a $15 minimum wage in MoCo, will ask Frick why he was not a co-sponsor of the state’s $15 minimum wage bill in the last General Assembly session.  In politics, no one gets to throw a sharp elbow without taking one in return.

Question 5: Other Candidates

We suspect that Frick may not be the last non-Council Member to enter the race.  Senator Cheryl Kagan (D-17) is sure to look at a field that includes four men and think, “In a primary electorate that is roughly 60% female, maybe there’s room for a woman in this race!”  Former Council Member Valerie Ervin, who polled an Executive race in 2013, might think, “Yeah, I got that, plus I have a base that no one else has!”  Businessman David Blair, who can self-finance, is polling and would be a true outsider candidate – even more than Frick.  Elrich, who has an immovable base of true believers who could be a fifth of the electorate or more, would no doubt welcome a large field.

And there could be even more surprises in an election that is shaping up to be one of the wildest in MoCo history.

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Bill Fricks Up the Executive Field, Part One

By Adam Pagnucco.

Delegate Bill Frick (D-16) has dropped out of the Congressional District 6 race and is running for County Executive.  This is the biggest story so far in the Executive race.  Council Members Roger Berliner, Marc Elrich and George Leventhal have been preparing to run for Executive for years but Frick has never before expressed interest in county office.  Additionally, Frick is the first person who is not a term-limited Council Member to declare for Executive and he may not be the last.

So  who is Bill Frick?  He’s a MoCo native who went to Northwestern and Harvard and is an attorney with Akin Gump downtown.  He was little known to the MoCo political community until he stunned the establishment by defeating a formidable field for a Delegate appointment in 2007.  He worked his way up in the House to become Parliamentarian and later House Majority Leader.  After first serving on Ways and Means, he joined the powerful House Economic Matters Committee, which decides all issues connected to alcohol, public utilities, insurance, banking, economic development and workers compensation.  He is the Chair of the Property & Casualty Insurance Subcommittee.  Frick is generally liked by his colleagues, often pranking them by stealing their phones and typing worshipful Facebook posts (“Bill Frick is my hero!”), but he is also respected as a substantive lawmaker.  His multiple, aborted runs for higher office (Attorney General in the prior term and CD6 until just recently) have raised questions among some of his colleagues about his political savvy but have not dented his popularity in Annapolis.

Frick has been a busy legislator over the years with a focus on consumer issues.  He has attracted news by introducing legislation to crack down on credit card companies and Internet scamming.  His bill to tighten renewable energy standards was vetoed by the Governor but passed after an override by the General Assembly.  Frick achieved countywide renown by introducing legislation in 2015 to allow MoCo voters to decide whether to end the county’s liquor monopoly.  It was a tremendous act of political courage that few MoCo politicians can match.  It provoked the county government employees union, which represents liquor monopoly workers, to target his wife and call for an investigation, none of which went anywhere.  The union may never endorse Frick in a future race, but for those who want to End the Monopoly, Frick is an eternal hero.

One more thing:  He is one of the most witty, charming and likable humans on Planet Earth. No one other than George Clooney, Bill Clinton or Bono is going to win a personality contest with Bill Frick.

Frick holds court in 2010.  Is this how MoCo voters will react to him?

For all of his undeniable assets as a candidate, Frick’s entry into the race provokes more questions than answers.  We will examine those questions in Part Two.

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