Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Baker’s “Compromise” Tax Hike for Schools Plan Still Misses

County Executive Baker. Image by MDGovpics on flickr.
In a hastily arranged press conference earlier today, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker finally threw in the towel on his ill-conceived and politically doomed plan to dramatically raise property and other local taxes to fund a $133 million increase in the public schools budget.

But in a final “Hail Mary” effort less than 24 hours before the scheduled County Council vote, he’s now proposing a “compromise” plan for a $65 million increase.

The problem for the county executive is that simply cutting a bad plan in half does not transform it into a good plan.

Claiming that he had heard the public’s voices in opposition to his original request over the last several weeks, Baker essentially adopted the purported compromise proposal that the county Chamber of Commerce had floated last week—the same one he flatly panned at the time. In addition, Baker said he’d support a sunset of any tax increases in 2020, after the projected education revenues from the new MGM Casino at National Harbor had a chance to come in.

Baker’s latest proposal came with no financial specifics as to how he envisions the $65 million infusion being allocated—and Baker’s spokesperson did not provide a response when asked for specific figures. However, the county executive did indicate that teacher pay increases, pre-kindergarten expansion, and school-based budgeting should remain priorities. He also claims that anything less than $65 million would not “move the needle.”

Without providing specific numbers at this late stage, Baker’s proposal simply cannot be taken as a serious effort to urge new ideas to the council. Instead, the county executive’s proposal seems designed to salvage a partial victory out of a proposal that was headed for certain defeat tomorrow.

The CEO of Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), Dr. Kevin Maxwell, did not appear with Baker at his press conference today and offered no comment in response to his eleventh-hour revised proposal.

Earlier this week, I suggested that the council should adopt a modified version of Dr. Maxwell’s original $1.84 billion budget request. I still urge the council to take that course tomorrow, for all the reasons previously stated. At the very least, Dr. Maxwell’s budget was well thought out and contains specific numbers—which is way more than can be said of the county executive’s plan.

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