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Early Voting 2012

Early voting information for the 2012 General Election can be found here: www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/elections/pdf/EarlyVoting.pdf

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Montgomery, Prince George's lawmakers introduce bill to help underwater homeowners

By Danielle E. Gaines and Daniel Leaderman
Gazette.Net
February 3, 2012

During a General Assembly session dominated by talk of tax increases, two lawmakers Friday proposed extending a tax break for homeowners whose mortgages are underwater.

Del. Craig J. Zucker (D-Dist. 14) of Brookeville and Sen. Douglas J. J. Peters (D-Dist. 23) of Bowie introduced the Maryland Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, which would prohibit taxation on “phantom income” when homeowners sell their homes for less than their assessed value through foreclosure, short sale or mortgage restructuring.

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Md. bill that would shed light on water, sewer fees wins key support in Annapolis

State Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters was puzzled. He had recently spent $4,000 to replace a water pipe linking his Bowie home to the public water supply. That got him thinking: Why had he — and thousands of homeowners like him — already paid the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission more than $15,000 for a pipe that cost him only $4,000 to replace?

Armed with complaints from confused constituents, Peters (D-Prince George’s) decided to seek answers. And on Wednesday, he won key support in Annapolis for a bill he hopes will help unravel a host of mysteries about how much suburban homeowners are charged for water and sewer connections and whether that matches what utilities and developers actually paid to install them.

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News Article: Md. Health Organization Pushes Employers to Hire Vets

ANNAPOLIS, Md. -- Maryland's largest long-term health care organization launched a program Thursday aimed at giving military veterans a job.

The Health Facilities Association of Maryland (HFAM) pledged to give military personnel hiring preference on job openings. 11 News reporter David Collins said the organization is challenging other private companies to do the same.

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News Article: Lincoln Vista to get new recreation building after 30 years in the making

by Abby Brownback
The Gazette
October 20, 2011

Three decades after residents began petitioning for a recreation building, officials broke ground Saturday morning for the newest addition to Lincoln Vista’s community park.

The long-awaited building, a $1.1 million, 2,000-square-foot creation of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, “is going to be a tremendous resource to the community... another way for us to reach out and get to know one another,” said Krista Williams, the vice president of the Lincoln Vista Civic Association.

The building, which will not be staffed, will include one large multipurpose room, a kitchenette and restrooms. Residents said they will have community association meetings, family reunions, church events, weddings and children’s after-school and summer programs there once the building is complete in late 2012.

The park already houses a playground, a pavilion, a football/soccer field and a tennis court.

“We want something that’s right here that we can enjoy,” said Juanita Smith, the wife of the Rev. Charles D. Smith, the pastor of the neighborhood’s Seaton Memorial AME Church.

Prince George’s County Council Vice Chairman Eric Olson (D-Dist. 3) and state Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Dist. 23), whose districts include Lincoln Vista in Lanham, addressed about 60 people who celebrated the beginning of construction on the recreation building.

Erma Anderson, the recreation chair for the civic association, said she and other community leaders have requested funding for a recreation building at the park commission’s budget hearings for 30 years, in part because children in the 100-year-old neighborhood of about 300 houses have long had to be bused to community centers in Glenn Dale, Glenarden or Bowie for summer programs.

About six years ago, Anderson finally heard a “yes,” and the Lincoln Vista project was added to the park commission’s Capital Improvement Program.

Then the commission began accumulating funding, assessing environmental and program needs, and doing architectural and engineering work, said architectural supervisor Yvonne Johnson.

High ceilings let in natural light, which decreases energy needs, Johnson said. Thermally insulated walls and low-flow toilets also minimize the effect on the environment.

"It’s an innovative and contemporary design,” said Carol Binns, a senior planner with M-NCPPC. “I think this community is absolutely going to love it.”

Ruby Richardson, who has lived in Lincoln Vista for 45 years, said she will have family gatherings with her 17 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren at the recreation building.

Carrie Hay, 95, who raised 10 children in Lincoln Vista, said residents will no longer have to look outside the neighborhood for venues for banquets, weddings and children’s programs.

“Everybody, not only the kids, needs recreation,” Hay said. “We need a place in the community where we can gather.”

Williams said the civic association plans to pursue grants to fund programs at the recreation center.

“A lot of the residents have been waiting a long time for this to give some of the younger residents a chance to have their own programs,” she said.

abrownback@gazette.net

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State senator outlines budgetary concerns as 2011 General Assembly begins

The 2011 General Assembly began this week and this year a majority of the debate will focus on the budget. My position on the Senate Budget and Tax Committee, coupled with my new appointment as vice chairman of Capital Budget will put me in the eye of the storm. Crafting a budget is always a challenge. There are many competing needs and limited funds. But this year our challenge is more daunting. To put it simply, the state brings in approximately $13 billion in revenue and is spending close to $15 billion. So our job is to cover the $2 billion shortfall. The process begins with the governor submitting his proposed budget to the General Assembly. And unlike the federal government, the state of Maryland is required to balance its budget every year. In past years some of the budget shortfall was covered with the infusion of federal stimulus money. That money no longer exists. We have not yet seen the governor’s budget; however, by state law he must introduce it by the 10th day of the General Assembly which this year is Jan. 21. Once that bill has been introduced, the process will begin in the House of Delegates this year. (The budget process alternates each year, beginning in the Senate one year and in the House of Delegates the next.) Once the House of Delegates has reviewed and made its changes, it will be sent over to my committee for our review and changes. It is important to note that in Maryland the governor proposes a budget and the Legislature can make cuts, however, we cannot add programs and funding. As chairman of the Prince George’s County Senate Delegation, I feel one of the ways for counties to move forward is to give them the flexibility they need in addressing their education needs. My legislation would do this by removing the current prohibition on spending state funds on school planning and design, and allowing counties to use state education dollars to get much-needed construction projects moving. I highlight this because I believe that reflects the type of legislation that is likely to dominate this year’s General Assembly. It addresses priority issues — education — but it does so without requiring additional funding. We must find creative ways to address our most pressing challenges, and we must do so without funding increases. I will also be working to nurture small business in the state. As one of the only small business owners in the Senate, I believe I bring a special perspective to the table on this issue. One bill I introduced last year would bring an influx of $100 million in investment capital from insurance companies which will allow small businesses to expand their operations and hire additional workers. While that bill did not pass last year, the governor chose to include it as part of his legislative agenda for this session. I also championed passage last year of legislation which will set aside approximately $30 million a year in state contracts to go to small veteran-owned businesses. I will continue to work to find ways to grow Maryland business and bring additional jobs to our state. Other areas of special interest and responsibility include serving as the Senate chairman of the Veteran Caucus. Further, I serve on the Joint Committee on Base Realignment and Closure, which works with the Department of Defense to realign its base structure and which will bring significant numbers of new jobs to our state. I am privileged to work with my colleagues Delegates James Hubbard, Marvin Holmes and Gerladine Valentino-Smith to serve the citizens in the 23rd Legislative District. If you have questions or issues to discuss, I can be reached at Douglas.Peters@senate.state.md.us. I look forward to hearing from you. The writer is the state senator representing Bowie.

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News Article: O'Malley signs tax break for Prince George's residents

Read this article at the Gazette

Cap put on park and planning, water quality fund and transit commission increases
by Daniel Valentine | Staff Writer

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) signed legislation Tuesday that will provide a tax break for Prince George's County homeowners despite objections by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

Senate Bill 683 mandates taxes paid by county residents toward the M-NCPPC, the Chesapeake Bay Water Quality Fund and the Washington Suburban Transit Commission will not increase by more than 10 percent per year. Currently, property tax increases are capped under the Homestead Property Tax Credit, which the legislation expanded to include the three other taxes.

The legislation was one of 204 bills O'Malley signed at a ceremony in Annapolis on Tuesday.

Park and planning officials opposed the legislation, which was supported by all of the county's state delegates, because it would cost the agency $18.4 million in funding in the next budget. Park and planning officials had been pressuring O'Malley to veto the legislation, saying they will have to cut back on new projects to make up for the loss.

Previously, Prince George's residents did not get the Homestead cap on the taxes they pay to the three independent agencies that handle planning, parks, water services and transportation for Prince George's and Montgomery counties. However, Montgomery County residents have received the cap on their tax bills for more than 20 years, said Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Dist. 23A) of Bowie.

"Residents in Prince George's County have been paying more than they should," said Peters, the bill's lead sponsor. "It needed to stop."

Since 2006, Prince George's residents have had their taxes to the three bi-county agencies increase by an average of 14 percent each year.

Each resident tax bill is based on the assessed value of their home, so each bill is different. State analysts, using an example of an owner of a $375,000 home, estimated the new caps will cut about $846 from the $2,048 total paid on the three taxes. Other state estimates for a $449,000 home in Bowie placed the savings at about $492.

The change takes effect on the next round of property tax bills that go out in July.

Park and Planning officials tried to put off the start date on the last day of the General Assembly on April 12, and circulated a list of projects they said could be cut if the tax break was imposed.

"You should know that projects in your district are now on the chopping block because of [the bill]," M-NCPPC Attorney Adrian Gardner wrote in an e-mail to lawmakers at the end of the session.

Gardner did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

M-NCPPC spokeswoman Andrea Davey said the agency budget is still being worked out and that no specific cuts have been made. M-NCPPC officials will likely meet with the Prince George's County Council to work out the changed budget, Davey said.

After lawmakers declined to rescind the tax cut, commission officials had lobbied O'Malley to veto the bill, warning that it would impact Prince George's County's plans to cancel furloughs since the M-NCPPC planned to give $30 million to the county this year.

A spokesman for County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) has said the commission will need to make internal cuts to balance the loss, but said that it should not affect furloughs or other major county expenses.

"We feel the commission can absorb the cuts in other ways," said John Erzen, a spokesman for the county executive.

O'Malley Spokesman Shaun Adamec said the governor supported the tax relief and that the agency should absorb the loss.

"The governor is confident the leaders of Prince George's County will make the tough decisions they need to, as they have always done," he said.

County lawmakers have said privately O'Malley was unlikely to veto a county tax cut this year, when he is running for a second term against former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).

Over the last week, hundreds of county residents have signed petitions urging O'Malley to sign the measure, Peters said.

"They've come out in force," he said.

E-Mail Daniel Valentine at dvalentine@gazette.net

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News Article: State senators push for limits on more taxes

Hikes in park and planning, transit would be limited to 10 percent per year
by Daniel Valentine | Staff Writer

State senators representing Prince George's County are seeking limits on three taxes that could save county property owners several hundred dollars each year.

Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Dist. 23) of Bowie is the chief sponsor of Senate Bill 683, which aims to expand the state's Homestead Tax Credit — a limit on how much an owner-occupied property's taxable value can increase each year — to include taxes Prince George's homeowners pay to park and planning, transit and storm water management.

"This is money that really belongs to the taxpayers," Peters said. "We want to save them money."

The Homestead increase cap only applies to Prince George's County property taxes, but property owners also pay taxes to the Maryland National-Capital Park and Planning Commission, Washington Suburban Transit Commission and the Chesapeake Bay Water Quality fund for storm water management.

Montgomery County already has the cap on property taxes and the three that Peters is seeking to limit in Prince George's.

If passed, tax increases for transit, storm water management and Park and Planning would not rise more than 10 percent each year. Each fee has gone up 14 percent each year since 2006.

The disparity for Prince George's has led to soaring tax bills in the past decade as home values sometimes doubled in value under the real estate boom. According to budget documents by sponsors, one homeowner in Bowie with a $449,000 house paid $5,549 last year on county, state, city and other taxes, including $1,374 in taxes to the park, transit and storm water agencies.

If the credit were applied, the same homeowner would have saved $492 on those three taxes, and seen their overall bill drop 9 percent to $5,056.

Other case studies included a homeowner outside of Hyattsville with a $386,000 home who would have saved $855 on the three taxes for their $3,406 bill for last year. The Bowie home included city taxes, while the Hyattsville home does not.

The limits would cost the agencies, budget analysts report. Since 2006, the Park and Planning office grew its tax collections by 14 percent each year to $256 million in 2009.

Park and Planning officials said they are supporting the bill.

"We do believe it is manageable," said Adrian R. Gardner, general counsel for the M-NCPPC.

Officials for the transit commission and storm water fund did not return calls for comment.

Support in the Senate is strong for the bill, which also comes in an election year. All eight county senators are signed on as sponsors.

Support is less prominent in the House of Delegates, which also has to pass the measure for it to become law. Only Del. Doyle Niemann (D-Dist. 47) of Mount Rainier is sponsoring a similar measure.

"I'd say that the prospects are good," Niemann said.

Peters said he has not discussed the bill yet with House Delegation Chairwoman Melony G. Griffith (D-Dist. 25) of Upper Marlboro. Griffith said she had not heard of the bill yet and declined to comment when reached March 11.

http://www.gazette.net/stories/03182010/prinnew172553_32548.php

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News Article: County’s 2011 Budget Reveals Harsh Reality

Source: The Washington Afro-American, March 13, 2010 - March 19, 2010

http://www.afro.com/dcepaper.html

County’s 2011 Budget Reveals Harsh Reality

By George Barnette
AFRO Staff Writer

Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson released the budget for fiscal year 2011 on March 3, and as predicted, the numbers were discouraging.

The county has gone from a funding peak of $220.8 million on education and public safety in fiscal year 2008 to a deficit of $51 million in 2010.

The county is facing a major budget crisis due to the current economic situation and Gov. Martin O’Malley’s reduced funding in Prince George’s will make the situation worse for residents.

“We don’t generate the kind of dollars that we need,” said Johnson. “We just cannot raise those funds through taxes, policies or individuals.”

Though the governor’s budget has placed Prince George’s in a larger bind, county officials haven’t abandoned hopes of garnering more funding.

“We’ve been working with the Montgomery County delegation and some of the other delegations to work on the two issues that we think are paramount,” said Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Dist. 23). “The first is the disparity grant where we are down $18 million. We have yet to tackle the education money which is a $28 million shortfall, but that’s just because the formulas didn’t go our way this year.

“We’re experiencing some serious cutbacks so we’re hoping we can resolve that and we’re working on that right now.”

Peters believes relief will come with the disparity grant, as do many members of the Prince George’s delegation in Annapolis.

Despite the decreased funding, county officials still plan to honor their commitment to the school system. Johnson pledged the county would continue to give 62.8 percent of the funding to education, while building new schools, renovating existing educational facilities and improving classroom performance.

Though funding for public safety has dwindled as well, officials believe there are enough staff to police the number of residents living in Prince George’s.

After the county showed record lows in crime last year, county leaders are optimistic that 2010 will have similar results.

“The one positive thing about the economy is that there’s not a lot of new construction going on,” said Peters. “Residential is flat and therefore the police officers that we’ve hired are close to the ratio of police to-residents. At this point right now, I think we’re in very good shape.”

Those good vibes are shared by Johnson, who believes the county can rebound from its current economic situation. He believes the success of new business and retail opportunities in Prince George’s will bring much needed jobs and tax revenue.

“We have to build our commercial base,” he said. “We have the infrastructure in place now. National Harbor, Brandywine Crossing, University Town Center, East Campus, Konterra, Woodmore Towne Center and others are coming on line and they’ll begin to generate huge additional dollars for us.

“With the commercial starts we’ve had for the last four, five or six years, we will begin to close to the gap.”

However, while the economy continues to falter, financial gains for the county will remain static. It’s a frustrating situation for officials, who say there’s little more they can do until the economy improves.

“We’re obviously having difficulty meeting the maintenance of effort,” said Peters. “We have to cut in all areas so we’re going to continue to have difficulty funding at the levels we did in the past.”

The budget goes before the County Council on March 15. The Council has until June 1 to approve the plan.

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News article: Veteran presses for bigger tax break on pensions

www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/bal-md.exempt02feb02,0,4531319.story
baltimoresun.com
Veteran presses for bigger tax break on pensions
Md. Senate panel to hear Kreiner, 80

By Mary Gail Hare | The Baltimore Sun

February 2, 2010

After 30 years serving with the Navy in World War II, Korea and Vietnam, Edward T. Kreiner Sr. is spending his retirement years fighting for Maryland veterans.

The 80-year-old Bel Air man will testify in Annapolis today as the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee considers a proposal to double the state income tax exemption on military retirement pay to $10,000.

For nearly a decade, Kreiner and other veterans have pushed to exempt all military pension earnings from the state income tax - a step that he says would benefit nearly 50,000 Maryland residents. In making his case, he cites a 2003 state task force report that showed that such an exemption would be a boon to the state's economy.

"It's really a stimulus package that would help Maryland retain the current vets and attract more," he said.

BRAC, the military base realignment that officials say could add as many as 30,000 jobs to Maryland by the fall of next year, has increased demand for military retirees, who may offer experience and security clearances that are otherwise costly and time-consuming to obtain.

"Maryland has to be competitive for these employees," said Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters, a Prince George's County Democrat. "Military retirees will not move here, if it means paying more taxes."

Maryland already exempts the first $5,000 of military pension from the state income tax. Peters, who sponsored an unsuccessful exemption bill in the 2009 session, has now submitted a bill that would double the exemption beginning in 2012.

The state Task Force on Military Retirees found that veterans' households spend more than $2.5 billion each year on goods and services in the state, generating nearly $100 million in sales and real estate tax revenues. If Maryland continues to levy an income tax on their retirement pay, Kreiner said, it will lose the veterans to neighboring states that do not impose the tax.

Del. Sheila E. Hixson, whose House Ways and Means Committee will take up a similar bill Thursday, says the state can ill afford any cuts to revenue in the current economy.

"We do understand this issue and have worked with the veterans groups," the Montgomery County Democrat said. "But it is just too expensive for the state at a time when we are furloughing workers. This will not be at the top of the list this year."

Del. Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick, who has long worked for the exemption, said BRAC has made the need for a tax exemption more immediate.

"These vets bring a wealth of knowledge, information and experience in addition to the security clearance many of these jobs require," the Dundalk Democrat said. "This can be a win-win for the state."

John Goheen, spokesman for the National Guard Association, said the exemption would be "a small but meaningful expression of gratitude to those who have served their country."

"These retirees have a set income every month and with a second job, that income can be disposable," Goheen said. "They will spend those dollars where they live and help regenerate the economy. Maryland should not just think of lost income but of all the aspects of the people the state might attract."

Copyright © 2010, The Baltimore Sun

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