Baker Optimistic about New Budget

by: Hamil R. Harris Special to the AFRO
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Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III recently unveiled his $3.8 million FY2018 budget proposal that he said reflects how far the county has come since he took office in 2010.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker boasts of the county’s achievements and says he looks forward to future success.  (Courtesy Photo)
Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker boasts of the county’s achievements and says he looks forward to future success. (Courtesy Photo)

Baker said his budget reflects an increase of $130.7 million or 3.5 percent over the FY2017 budget that shows how far the county has come in terms of education, public safety, general government, public works, the environment and other critical services.

“We did not fixate on past history, we dreamed of a better future and created a way to get there,” Baker told reporters March 15. “Well this year’s budget shows that our focus on key priorities was the right direction for us to take.  I firmly believe, the approach we took is why our economy is getting stronger, our opportunities are greater and our stature around the region and in the state have risen.”

According to the State of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, in 2016 the number of people with jobs in Prince George’s County climbed to 313,192.

“We have seen historic levels of economic development activity with over $9 billion in development projects that have taken place or are in the pipeline.  Housing values are up 61 percent since 2010. Unemployment has dropped 50 percent since 2010.  We have created 15,100 new jobs in the County since 2013 and when the MGM’s 3,600 new jobs are added, that will be over 18,000 new jobs.”

These jobs are a result of the more than $9 billion in various projects that were recently built, under construction, or in the pipeline for economic development in the County.  Prince George’s County unemployment has dropped to 3.9 percent from 7.8 percent in 2010.

“Six years ago, I stated that Prince George’s County would become the economic engine of this region and state,” Baker said in a statement. “The reactions I generally received to that declaration was that I was being very optimistic and hopeful, or they were patronizing, assuming that I was naïve.  But I knew that we had the location, the resources, and, most importantly, the residents and a business base to make this happen. We all needed was to start growing in the same direction, and we have.”

The budget also cited a $50 million Economic Development Incentive Fund (EDI Fund) that has been utilized to attract, retain, and expand businesses located in the County, with $32 million in EDI Funds leveraging almost $750 million in private capital and investments.

“We have achieved a litany of achievements from property values increasing to graduation rates hitting record highs to massive reductions in crime.  But one of the best feelings comes from talking to a County resident whose job was saved or created as a result of the County’s efforts.” Baker said.

Prince George’s County’s  economic success also includes noticeable increases in retail options including attracting the County’s first Whole Foods, two Harris Teeters, the Tanger Outlets, Dave & Buster’s, and the transition of the Laurel Mall to the new Laurel Town Centre.  Most recently, the $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor resort opened.

“And with each job comes a career, an education and, often, an identity and purpose in life.  For far too long, Prince George’s County was a place where people lived, but did not work.  We have begun to change that trend, which is going to be better for our quality of life, the environment, our budget, and the limitless possibilities that lie in the future for this County,” Baker said.

Even though the county has reported economic success, money has yet to be found to fund the Regional Medical Center in Largo and the new consolidated Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Headquarters that is expected to generate 11,000 jobs.

“It seems like just yesterday when our budget preparation was focused on cuts and overcoming tremendous deficits,” Baker said. “But despite having low revenue during those times, we were optimistic that better days were ahead. We knew if we focused on making sound investments that would generate more revenue for the County, the payoff would be a stronger financial foundation. Well this year’s budget shows that our focus on key priorities was the right direction for us to take.”

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