By Senator Cory V. McCray
Over the holiday weekend, Governor Hogan informed the public that he would not be releasing important funds from the most recent Maryland State Budget. These funds total $245 million, and it is important to note that this bipartisan budget received favorable votes from both Democrats and Republicans. It was especially disheartening to hear this news because the Governor’s decision to withhold these funds will directly impact the 45th Legislative District.
For example, the Oliver Community has been without a supermarket since the Stop, Shop, and Save closed its doors several years ago. When I knock on doors in Oliver and surrounding communities, the consistent concern that I hear is that those in the community have to do their grocery shopping at the Walgreens on Harford & North Avenue or at one of the corner stores in the neighborhood. Because of this, I was eager to work with my colleagues in the General Assembly to secure a $200K incentive for the owner of the property only if it would be used as a healthy food option.
This serves two purposes. First, it gives the community more of a stake in the types of businesses that are coming into the community. Second, it encourages the owner to do the right thing instead of having yet another hair store, methadone clinic, or nail shop, which already dominate the corridors of many African American neighborhoods in the City of Baltimore.
We also included support in the unreleased funds for neighborhood park space such as Ambrose Kennedy Park, which has already completed a great Phase One and looks beautiful. In recognition of the promise the park shows, we laid the groundwork for Phase Two to proceed with a $500K grant from the State of Maryland. Similarly, the Johnston Square green space is a community-driven effort to beautify the neighborhood, which was allocated $15K in grant funding from the State of Maryland. The Bond Street Park which is another attempt to beautify the neighborhood. That project would have received a $50K grant from the State. In all, this totals $765K that will not be coming back to the 45th District because of the Governor’s unwillingness to fund the efforts.
Not only do the Governor’s actions hurt the 45th District, they hurt Baltimore City as a whole. In addition to funding for a new grocery store and added green space, the Baltimore City Delegation worked with our colleagues to secure $7 million for technology upgrades for our Baltimore City Police Department, $1 million for Baltimore City Youth Works, new funding for 600 more youth to do something constructive during the deadliest months of the year, and $600K in transportation aid for the Yale Heights community that has been enduring record flooding. Yet, as citizens in Baltimore ask what elected officials are doing to combat crime and ensure that our youth are on a productive path, the Governor’s office has blocked funding for all of these efforts.
In addition to the efforts of the Baltimore Delegation, Delegate Hettleman worked extremely hard on the backlog of rape kit testing by securing over $3 million, Senator Nathan-Pulliam secured $1.3 million of funding for Hepatitis C-related initiatives, Senator Elfreth secured $500k for Anne Arundel Youthworks, and Sen. Griffith secured $168K to assist Prince George’s County youth with transit challenges during their summer employment. All of these efforts have now been sidelined.
The statewide budget is a document that tells all of us the priorities of the Governor, but it also is designed to show the priorities of the state legislature. I am proud to have worked with the 188 legislators across the State of Maryland to build consensus around a bipartisan budget of more than $46 billion. A critical piece of that budget was the funding we allocated for district-based initiatives. At this moment, there is $245 million worth of those initiatives that are being left unaddressed. It’s time for the Governor to do the right thing for Marylanders across our state and release these funds.
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