May 1, 2010

As Maryland Republicans hold State convention, their website goes down

Click the image to the right and see proof of how the Maryland Republican Party has its website go down as they hold their state-wide convention. It's definitely because of bad hosting, too, since the forwarded link says "This domain name has expired. Find out how to renew it today." To go to the dead link of, click here.

Here's What the Oil Spill Would Look Like at the Mouth of Chesapeake Bay

A picture is worth a thousand barrels of oil. At left is a satellite image of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. At right is a computerized image (by my talented CBF colleague Mike Dougherty) of what an oil spill of the same size would look like at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, where offshore drilling is now proposed. Notice the threat posed by the blob's oily tentacles to the Assateague National Seashore, Virginia Beach, Ocean City and the blue crab spawning grounds of the southern Chesapeake Bay. If you ever needed a reason to oppose offshore drilling in our region, here it is... in vivid color.

Worth noting is the fact that the blob would not just stay put in this location. It would likely ooze ashore, and devastate wetlands and wildlife, as the oil in the Gulf of Mexico is now doing. SOURCE: Chesapeake Bay Foundation

No word on suspects in Principal Betts' murder

WASHINGTON - On a day that was supposed to be happy, investigators still have no arrests and no named suspects on what would have been murdered Shaw Middle School Principal Brian Betts' 43rd birthday. "Detectives are aware that it was his birthday," Montgomery County Police Capt. Paul Starks tells WTOP. "And they're aware that a memorial is scheduled for Saturday." Starks would give no indication whether police were closing in on whomever shot Betts in his Silver Spring home. Betts' body was discovered by police April 15.

Police have said they believe at least two suspects may be responsible for Betts' murder and the robbery of his SUV and several items of value that police say were taken from his home.

"It would be symbolic and healing for people on his birthday and at the memorial to not be talking about the criminal case, but we have wanted to close this case since we first heard about it."

Students, teachers, and parents from Shaw Middle School at Garnet-Patterson, where Betts led for about 18 months, are holding a private tribute Thursday. Still, Starks says police are not willing to jeopardize any lives or potential prosecutions by rushing to arrest suspects.

"While we're sensitive to these markers in time and significant dates, we want to close this successfully."

A public memorial service for Betts will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday, May 1, at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda. SOURCE: WTOP

April 30, 2010

Montgomery County news

Get a Taste for What's Great in Wheaton; 15th Annual Taste of Wheaton Set for May 16 - Downtown Wheaton will showcase some of the area‚s best restaurants and businesses at the 15th annual Taste of Wheaton. The signature event will take place on Sunday, May 16, from 11 am to 5 pm in downtown Wheaton at Grandview Avenue and Reedie Drive. For more information go to:

Coffee & Conversation - Stop by and chat with Ken Hartman, Director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center. Find out about programs and services in Montgomery County, learn more about the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board and their role in the community, or just bring your concerns for your community to discuss. Any time between 9:00 am and 12:00 noon ˆ Friday, May 7, 2010.

Three Arrested in Gaithersburg for Citizenship Scam - Officers from the Montgomery County Police 6th District have made three arrests in a criminal scheme where the victims were offered fraudulent U.S. citizenships. Additionally, one of the suspects has been charged with operating a medical practice without a license. For more information go to:

MCFRS Wishes a Happy Friday to Everyone! - Hopefully everyone out there has had a great, and SAFE, week that will continue into the weekend! Sadly, this was the last week at MCFRS for two outstanding people with over 33 years of service to the County. Happy retirement wishes to Division Chief Mike Love and Battalion Chief Wayne Courtney! Our loss is your families gain! For more information go to:

Richard Montgomery HS Sophomore Elected Student Board Member - Alan Xie, sophomore at Richard Montgomery High School, was elected the 2010-2011 student member of the Montgomery County Board of Education on April 28. Xie was chosen by 73.64 percent of the secondary students who cast ballots in the election, conducted by the Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of Student Councils (MCR). The overall voter turnout was 86.67 percent (64,878 of 74,854 students). All high schools and middle schools submitted election results, along with the Randolph Academy alternative program and Rock Terrace School. For more information go to:

Fitness Instructors Needed - The Rockville Swim and Fitness Center is seeking qualified water fitness instructors to teach classes this summer. Contact the center at 240-314-8750 or apply online

Montgomery College Student Wins One of 40 Prestigious National Scholarships from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation - Montgomery College student Lawrence E. Caldwell II has won the highly competitive Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF) Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship, which will provide up to $30,000 each year for tuition, books and living expenses to use at the four-year transfer institution of his choice. For more information go to:

River Center Opening Day Celebration ˆ Celebrate the opening of a season full of outdoor activities, concerts, nature walks, cleanups and bird watching at Lockhouse 8 with Potomac Conservancy. The season will commence with a welcome address from the Conservancy's President, and the blowing of the horn by a Potomac Conservancy board member. The River Center at Lockhouse 8 will officially open May 1 for the season. For more information go to:

County Hosts Resource Fair on Accessing Mental Health Services - Learn about the many wellness and recovery programs and resources for mental health services at the Wellness and Recovery Resource Fair on Tuesday, May 25. The fair will be held from 6 to 9 pm at the Executive Office Building Cafeteria, located at 101 Monroe Street in Rockville. For more information go to:

REMINDER - 19th Annual Affordable Housing Conference ˆ On Monday, May 3, 2010; from 8am ˆ 2:30 pm at the Bethesda North Marriott Conference Center, 5701 Marinelli Road, North Bethesda. Current HUD Deputy Secretary Ron Sims is the keynote speaker at the conference and County Executive Isiah Leggett will receive the first Robert Weaver Housing Champion Award. For more information go to:

Community Meeting on Proposed New Trail: Lake Frank Trail Connector - Montgomry Parks (M-NCPPC) and the Maryland State Highway Administration invite you to participate in a meeting to discuss the Lake Frank Trail Connector. The connector is located in Rock Creek Regional Park. This trail is part of the Intercounty Connector (ICC) mitigation program. To submit written comments or for more information, conact: Marian Elsasser, Landscape Architect/Project Manager, Montgomery County Department of Parks, 9500 Brunett Avenue , Silver Spring, MD 20901 or Tuesday, May 11, 2010. 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm. Shady Grove Maintenance Yard Training Room. 16641 Crabbs Branch Way, Rockville, MD.

2010 Yard Sale to Benefit MCPD Victim Assistance Fund - Members of the Montgomery County Police Victim Assistance Unit are holding a yard sale to include: household goods, books, clothing (for children and for adults), toys, and more. All of the proceeds from the sale will be used to provide emergency and holiday assistance to needy crime victims and their families. On Saturday, May 15, 2010 from 9:00 am ˆ 2:00 pm (No early birds please) at the Rockville Elks Lodge #15, 5 Taft Court, Rockville (off E. Gude Drive).

Mental Health First Aid Training Opportunity -Are you interested in learning more about ways to help your community? Or are you a working professional who is in need of Continuing Education Credits for a great price? The Mental Health Association of Montgomery County is offering a 12 hour Mental Health First Aid course. The training is an evidence-based practice that educates both the general public and professionals on what to do in the event of a mental health crisis. Think of it as CPR for mental health! For interested professionals, we are able to offer 12 pre-approved CEUs for Social Workers and Child Care Providers and 12 recertification credits for Human Resource Representatives at cost! For the non-professionals, the cost is only $25.00 for the 12 hour training. We are taking registrations for our May and June trainings! Please contact Rachel Larkin at for registration forms!

Murphy Murphy for Maryland Governor?! Or Ehrlich Ehrlich?!

After reading a post from The Prince of Darkness and the exit of Carmen Amedori, I was thinking about a Murphy Murphy ticket for Republicans for the 2010 Governor contest. That's Brian Murphy and Don Murphy, by the way. It would get a great media kick and would look better than a Ehrlich Kane ticket (with Bob Ehrlich and Mary Kane). Then again, Bob is a nice guy and has many contacts. He could trump Brian Murphy if Bob asks his wife to join the ticket (if it's legal). Then it would be Ehrlich Ehrlich v. Murphy Murphy.

Trachtenberg: School system must furlough workers or face cuts

Montgomery County Public Schools officials must furlough employees or risk having their budget cut by the County Council, Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg said Thursday. Currently, the school system is the only county agency to spurn furloughs for its employees; however, its employees make up about two-thirds of all county workers. If MCPS furloughed all its employees for five days, it would save $33.7 million, according to data from council Staff Director Stephen B. Farber.

The school system's budget is $2.2 billion in fiscal 2010. "MCPS doesn't really want to play," said Trachtenberg (D-At-large) of North Bethesda. "We can't force the school system to apply a furlough plan. Obviously, we can reduce what we give to them in the way of funding, hoping they'll use furloughs as a way to realize savings."

The furlough issue was discussed Thursday at a meeting of the council's Management and Fiscal Policy Committee, which Trachtenberg chairs. Under Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett's proposed $4.3 billion budget, most county employees face 10 days of furloughs — saving $15 million. If all county employees were included, the same amount could be saved in 1.5 days. Montgomery County Public Schools officials must furlough employees or risk having their budget cut by the County Council, Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg said Thursday. Currently, the school system is the only county agency to spurn furloughs for its employees; however, its employees make up about two-thirds of all county workers.

If MCPS furloughed all its employees for five days, it would save $33.7 million, according to data from council Staff Director Stephen B. Farber.

The school system's budget is $2.2 billion in fiscal 2010.

"MCPS doesn't really want to play," said Trachtenberg (D-At-large) of North Bethesda. "We can't force the school system to apply a furlough plan. Obviously, we can reduce what we give to them in the way of funding, hoping they'll use furloughs as a way to realize savings."

The furlough issue was discussed Thursday at a meeting of the council's Management and Fiscal Policy Committee, which Trachtenberg chairs. Under Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett's proposed $4.3 billion budget, most county employees face 10 days of furloughs — saving $15 million.If all county employees were included, the same amount could be saved in 1.5 days.

Both Montgomery College and the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission are developing furlough plans, Trachtenberg said. The council is considering alternative furlough plans, including those that would require unpaid leave for school system employees. However, the decision to furlough MCPS employees is up to the county school board, which has resisted the idea. SOURCE: Gazette

Sad news at Univ. of Maryland

Amy Polk, Wife of John Robinette, (new Software Engineer Director) was killed after being struck by a vehicle while crossing the street in Washington, D.C. yesterday morning. Salisbury News came to learn that Amy was in her mid to late 30's and had 2 small children. The accident happened at 1st & M Street S.E. near the Navy Yard. Police said she had passed before an Ambulance could arrive, according to D.C. Fire/EMS officials. The University is in shock. Mr. Robinette has been with University of Maryland for the last 6 months. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Polk & Robinette Families.

Md. Racing Commission approves transfer of Laurel and Pimlico

The Maryland Racing Commission Thursday approved the transfer of Laurel and Pimlico race tracks to MI Developments Inc., whose CEO committed to bringing the businesses to a break-even status within two years. The approval was issued three days after a bankruptcy judge gave approval of Ontario-based Magna Entertainment Corp.’s reorganization plan that includes the transfer of five of its tracks and other assets to MID, its parent company, in exchange for the payment of debts and settlements.

CEO Dennis Mills said after the commission meeting, which was held at the Pimlico Race Course clubhouse and overlooked preparations being made for the 135th Preakness Stakes, he hoped to bring the properties to financial solvency quickly.

“Two years is the max, but we want to get [them] to break-even within months,” he said.

He said MID’s first order of business after the May 15 Preakness would be to meet with all the industry stakeholders, including horsemen and customers. The goal of those meetings would be to get feedback on how to make racing a financially viable proposition once again. During the bankruptcy proceedings in Delaware, testimony revealed that while the property value of many of Magna’s assets were high, the businesses themselves were generally losing propositions. Mills added MID would take suggestions sent through its website and could consider having meetings open to the public.

“The second thing is, after we get those ideas, we execute them,” he said.

But MID’s executives held back when asked by commission members about their plans for Laurel Park and Pimlico. They said MID had about $130 million in cash and capital from its real estate ventures, and noted their investment in improving Laurel’s turf track, now considered one of the best in the country. SOURCE: Maryland Daily Record

OPINION: Obama can't predict an oil spill will hit the Gulf Coast??

How can President Obama, who can predict global warming a million years into the future, not predict an oil spill would hit the Gulf Coast in ten days?

Leggett's proposed police merger draws opposition

County Executive Ike Leggett is recommending merging the county's park police force, which has about 90 officers, its own dispatch unit, and is responsible for policing 10 percent of county land, into the larger county police department. Leggett said the move would save the county $2 million for the next fiscal year, which starts in July. But the move is facing stiff opposition from the Montgomery side of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, which oversees the police force.

"This proposal is not about saving money," said Royce Hanson, county planning board chairman, in a letter to the County Council. "This is another attempt by [Leggett] to wrest power over the park system and park land."

Park officials stressed that the park police is a specialized unit best equipped to handle park-specific issues, like controlling the deer population, backwoods patrolling, and deterring gang activity in parks. Without those officers, park officials said, the county's well-used parks will suffer.

"Safety in parks will suffer, I can guarantee you that," said Montgomery Park Police Chief Darien Manley. He said a similar consolidation in Baltimore had led to a drop in safety in the city's parks. SOURCE: Washington Examiner

Montgomery committee pushes for end to "phantom" COLAs, takes action on furloughs and salaries

Montgomery County's management and fiscal policy committee unanimously endorsed a bill Thursday that would end unusual employee benefits known as "phantom" cost of living increases. In the arrangement, which was put in place last year, the county pays retirement benefits for thousands of employees based on raises they did not receive. Ending the practice would save the county more than $7 million in the next fiscal year, and county officials said they believe Thursday's committee vote was another sign that the full council is moving toward passage of the bill next month. It was proposed by council member Phil Andrews (D).

Committee members Valerie Ervin (D), Nancy Navarro (D) and Duchy Trachtenberg (D) also endorsed a series of other budget steps that reflect the county's worsening fiscal picture. The committee supported a proposal in County Executive Isiah Leggett's budget not to fund a series of pay increases that are in contracts for public employees. The council has the power to decide whether to fund such contracts.

It also endorsed the principle of "equitable treatment" for county agencies, including the public schools, on the issue of furloughs. Schools officials oppose furloughs, but other officials say without the schools' participation, too much pain would be felt elsewhere. The full council is set to make many of its key decisions on the $4.3 billion budget proposal in three weeks, with a final vote May 27. SOURCE: Washington Post

April 29, 2010

Vovak campaigns for Montgomery County to legalize marijuana

According to The Daily Caller, Montgomery County, Maryland is ranked as the second most liberal county in America; however, if a 38-year-old Republican is elected as County Executive, it will probably surpass San Francisco for the top notch. Daniel "The Whig Man" Vovak, of Bethesda, will run for Montgomery County Executive against Isaiah Leggett, 66, a Democrat in his first controversial term. Vovak, a ghostwriter and screenplay writer, says he wants to legalize marijuana and grow it on county farms and gardens. It's the latest idea proposed to help the county close a $1 billion budget gap in one of America's richest counties, where not a single elected Republican lives.

Public officials are promoting many options to raise revenue, most which involve tax increases and worker furloughs. Leggett (D) has proposed an alcohol tax, more than doubling the energy tax, raising cell phone rates by another dollar a month, an EMS fee, and increasing the gas tax. Confronting that logic, MCGEO President Gino Renne has said Leggett has an "obvious lack of vision." Meanwhile, Montgomery County Planning Chairman Royce Hanson believes Leggett is proposing "bad public policy and management" when trying to consolidate the county's police department with park police, under the bogus claim of saving $2 million a year. Additionally, Councilman Roger Berliner has proposed a carbon tax that will raise millions from only one factory: Mirant. Ironically, Council President Nancy Floreen has not recommended any major tax increases or cuts.

Vovak says, "If Councilman Knapp (D-Germantown) believes Montgomery County will make $2 million a year by opening liquor stores on Sundays, imagine what can be charged for user fees for growing marijuana and reselling it. I am approaching this idea purely because it is a county money-maker, though, as I have no intention of using marijuana after it becomes legal. For the record, I've never used marijuana or any illegal drug and only have used prescription drugs for brief illnesses. In fact, I've never even smoked a cigarette, though I do smoke an occasional cigar or tobacco pipe."

The marijuana topic is currently on the minds of elected officials throughout the country. In April, Maryland Senate Bill 627 to legalize medical marijuana passed in committee, making it the fifteenth State to do so. In Washington, D.C., medical marijuana use was supported with a unanimous vote by the city council just a week ago. In Philadelphia this month, officials made major steps to decriminalize marijuana, believing prosecuting it is a waste of time for policemen and courts. In November, California state-wide voters will decide if recreational marijuana should be legal. Moreover, on April 20, tens of thousands of Americans openly smoked marijuana in public parks.

Vovak says, "It is inevitable that many jurisdictions within the United States will legalize marijuana. If our county is ahead of the curve on legalization, then we will also be ahead of the financial curve on making a profit for our county government. I want the headquarters of America's largest marijuana businesses to be in Montgomery County, Maryland, like the equivalent of Phillip Morris and R. J. Reynolds. New county funding sources will come from selling permits to marijuana farmers then taxing county-authorized resellers and establishing a national distribution chain."

Vovak added, "In 1992, when then-Governor Bill Clinton declared he experimented with marijuana, it ended a taboo for candidates. Nearly two decades later, I'm proposing this idea because Montgomery County's Republicans and Democrats are educated enough to know legalizing marijuana is smart fiscal politics, especially when our county is a billion in debt and furloughing 6,000 county workers for two-week intervals."

Vovak is open to voter commentary, believing marijuana should be regulated under the Department of Liquor Control and parents should self-impose marijuana rules for their children. An avid gardener, Vovak says he will require a permit for growing marijuana for household use and an expensive permit for resale use. To build state-wide agricultural support, Vovak says he will contact the highest ranking elected official in each county and begin a task force to grow marijuana as a legal herb in Maryland.

Maryland's nickname, the "Free State," was created by Hamilton Owens, editor of the Baltimore Sun. In 1923, Congressman William Upshaw, a Prohibition supporter, denounced Maryland as a traitor to the Union for its defiant -- and continued -- support of alcohol. Owens wrote an editorial entitled "The Maryland Free State," arguing it was worthy of Maryland to secede from the Union rather than prohibit the sale of liquor. Vovak believes Maryland's historic national leadership for encouraging alcohol sales proves the State's population is full of national leaders -- rather than followers -- on new ideas.

"What are Leggett and Council's stances on marijuana?" asks Vovak.

Contact Vovak at 202-367-4835, or campaign website:

April 28, 2010

Understanding Maryland's stimulus money: 3.8B of $789B

Late last month, the Congress approved, and President Obama signed into law, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, better known on newscasts and in office chatter as the "stimulus package." The stimulus package injects $789 billion into a sagging economy with the hopes of reviving our nation's fiscal health and creating or protecting 3.5 million American jobs. The number staggers the imagination: $789 billion. Almost a trillion dollars. Surely, our problems are solved, right? Let's do the math.

Of the $789 billion provided by the stimulus package, $3.8 billion worth will make it to the state of Maryland. Thatís only a little more than ten percent of Marylandís total state budget for last year. To put it another way, thatís less money than we spend in Montgomery County alone each year. And that $3.8 billion doesn't arrive here in one tidy sum. Instead, itís spread out over the next three years, arriving in installments of about $1.8 billion in FY 2009, $1.85 billion in FY 2010, and $156 million in FY 2011. Of the $1.8 billion the State will receive this year, $560 million: about 30% -- will be allocated to paying the State's share of Medicaid.

Another $360 million -- goes toward education, and the Governor almost immediately announced that for FY2009-2011, the legislature will fully fund all ìmajorî State K-12 education formulas, including Thornton funding and Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI), which is critical to jurisdictions like Montgomery County, with a generally higher cost of living. The State will also provide dedicated funding of $180 million to Title I and $208 million for special education.

If you're still doing the math, you'll see that of that initial $1.8 billion Maryland will receive for the current year, we're left with about $800 million statewide -- for projects like highway repair and maintenance, homelessness prevention, workforce development initiatives, and energy assistance programs. While the $1.8 billion the state will receive this year in stimulus funding will definitely help, it's really only a paper cup trying to bail out a swamped ocean liner. These can all be worthwhile expenditures, but it adds up quicker than you might think. It's also important to remember that even before the financial downturn, the State of Maryland was staring at its own brand of economic crisis, with an estimated budget shortfall of close to a billion dollars. Now, with real estate markets sagging or flat, and every form of tax revenue down, Maryland is looking a projected FY 2010 deficit of nearly $2 billion.

So, while the $1.8 billion the state will receive this year in stimulus funding will definitely help, it's really only a paper cup trying to bail out a swamped ocean liner -- and at the end of two years, once stimulus funds run out, Maryland will still be a billion dollars short. Even though it would have appeared from press accounts that stimulus funds would somehow provide the state with the hefty check it needed to fill its coffers and balance the budget, it really only addresses the issues that everyone is facing as a result of the recession. The underlying problems still remain. The reality check is in the mail.

We're starting to get an idea for what the stimulus money means here in Montgomery County ñ and while thereís some good news, we're also filling a pretty deep hole here in the county. True, the county will receive $21.4 million in education funding -- from which MCPS Superintendent Weast has targeted $15.3 million to special education and $6.1 million to Title I schools. However, despite critical needs and plenty of so-called "shovel ready" transportation projects, Montgomery County will receive no funding at all from the $365 million Maryland has earmarked for Transit and Highway projects. Instead, the county will have to settle for a share of the $146 million set aside for road resurfacing projects across the state.

Still, it's not all gloom and doom. Any funding provided by the stimulus package is appreciated and will be helpful. The real trick is to manage our expectations of what stimulus funds will and won't do. It will give us the opportunity to keep some of our most critical services and programs at current levels or better. Itíll also give us an opportunity to compete for a sliver of discretionary funds that we can use for workforce development and other initiatives that invest in our residents and our workforce. But it won't balance our budget. Weíve got some work to do.

Make that a lot of work. Like every other jurisdiction across the country, our county is seeing revenues fall. And as we are seeing in our daily lives, we're just hoping to keep our jobs,our salaries, and what remains of our retirement accounts, but as a result, Montgomery County finds some of our sources of revenue income tax, particularly capital gains, recordation, and transfer taxes have all but dried up. Consequently, Montgomery County is looking at a projected budget shortfall of nearly $520 million. Thatís more than half a billion dollars.

Now, I know that when you hear that our county budget is somewhere in the vicinity of $4 billion a year, it seems like a $520 million gap should be easy to close after all, that's only about an eighth of our total budget. And after all, $4 billion is a lot of money -- so surely, reducing the budget by an eighth should be relatively painless, right? We can freeze the pay and eliminate mandatory service-related increases for every county government employee... but that still leaves us a gap of $345 million to overcome.

There are lots of things we can do to close the gap. We could, for example, reduce services, lay off employees, or freeze salaries and hirings. That makes it difficult to maintain, even at current levels, a lot of the things that make our county such a great place to live. But again, letís do the math, using some real examples. One proposal that I was working on with our employee organizations, and has been adopted by Montgomery County Public Schools, is to freeze the pay for every county government employeeóevery teacher, firefighter, librarian, policeman, and so on. If we provide our employees with no cost of living adjustmentsóand even were to take it a step further (something that was not done during the recession in the 1990's) and also provide no mandatory service-related increases as well -- we'll save $155 million.

That still leaves us a gap of $345 million to overcome. To put his in perspective, thatís about the amount of money the county spends each year for police and the Department of Corrections combined. Or it's also equivalent to what we spend annually for fire and rescue services and the 60,000 students and teachers at Montgomery College. These are four of our largest county expenditures ñ but theyíre also programs youíve indicated are among the most critical. This year, it's likely we'll be able to do everythingwe would like in these areas. This year, these really are the options before us.

What else? We've already vowed not to increase taxes, and the Councilís commitment to staying within the confines of the charter limit is a matter of record. That means that if we want to continue to maintain the services that you've indicated are the most important to you ñ education, public safety, transportation, and caring for vulnerable populations -- then weíve got to look hard at both our revenues and our expenditures and determine where we can make your money work better for you.

That's going to involve some tough questions. Are there places where we can spend less and still maintain a high quality of services? Are there things we can do better to get more bang for the buck? Are there some things we're doing that we frankly shouldn't be doing? Are there things weíre not doing that we should be doing, regardless? I donít know all the answers yet -- but I know we can navigate through this successfully and I'm willing to have the discussion with my colleagues and all of you. Iím hoping the Council shares my commitment to having such a frank conversation. SOURCE: Mike Knapp

Nancy Floreen wants to increase residents' share of new energy tax

Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett is banking on an energy tax hike to help compensate for a $168 million decrease in income tax revenues, part of a much larger $1 billion budget gap. Leggett wants to double the energy taxes, a plan that would cost some of the area’s larger businesses — think coveted biotechnology firms — hundreds of thousands of dollars more a year. (The move is not unprecedented in trying budget times. Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake also wants to increase energy taxes, but her proposal would cost residential customers an additional 60 cents a month).

Under Leggett’s plan, the county would bring in about $192 million in fiscal 2011 from the energy tax to businesses, a lot more than the $88.6 million Washington said Pepco collects in distribution rates from Montgomery County businesses each year. The rate is far from set. Now Council President Nancy Floreen is saying that the council could tinker with the formula, spreading more cost from businesses to residents.

The way it sits now, Montgomery’s energy tax falls mostly on the shoulders of businesses, which pay about 2.65 percent more than residential customers. Business customers pay 1.3843 cents per kilowatt of electricity and 11.9214 cents per therm of heating fuel a year, compared to residential customers, who pay a little more than half a cent per kilowatt of electricity and a little less than half a cent per therm of heating fuel.

Leggett had initially planned on seeking a 40 percent energy tax increase, and then bumped it up to 63.7 percent before deciding to ask the County Council to approve doubling the tax. Residents, businesses and the county’s largest power distributor, Pepco, testified against the requested 63.7 percent increase in a hearing last week. Under that plan, the average residential customer would see an increase in energy tax payments to $161, up from $99 a year; businesses would on average pay $4,157 a year, compared to the $2,618 they pay now. If Leggett gets to double rates, residents would pay $198 a year and businesses would pay $5,236.

According to Maryland Politics Watch, Pepco representative Charles Washington testified applying the 63.7 percent rate hike to the bills of some customers: As demonstrated below using actual randomly selected commercial accounts, this increase will have a real impact on County businesses. One restaurant in Silver Spring will see an increase of over $3,000 a year. A hotel in Bethesda will see a tax increase of approximately $41,000 a year. The County’s successful Biotech companies will see increases of hundreds of thousands of dollars of year, with at least one projected to see an increase of over half a million dollars. SOURCE: Maryland Daily Record

RedGate: Like a "House that is falling apart"

If you’re a duffer in Rockville, you’re probably not going to be happy. The Red Gate golf course may not survive without funding from the city of Rockville as is proposed in the budget for fiscal year 2011, and the revenue from the city’s speed camera project falling short of the budget’s prediction may be to blame. “We are facing a fiscal crisis with Red Gate and it’s like a house that is falling apart,” Rockville Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio said. “I would hate to think we are neglecting the course just because we don’t have the money to operate it right this moment.”

“Some of these losses are from the significant lower spending in the speed cam project,” said Burt Hall, director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department at Monday’s city council meeting. The department has funded the golf course in the past, giving Red Gate $372,000 in 2005 as part of a five-year business plan meant to rehabilitate the course. Red Gate representatives say their fiscally precarious situation could mean its closing in the near future without continued support from an “enterprise fund.”

“The course has been highlighted as one of the recreational centers in financial straits right now,” said Joe Jordan, the chairman of the Red Gate Advisory Board. Jordan, who calls himself the “one man band” for Red Gate. Parks and Recreation’s fiscal 2012 budget could see a bump of $700,000, some of which could go towards the course, but Jordan fears the course may not survive in the meantime.

“At the end of five years, the course wasn’t supposed to need this money any more,” Hall said. Parks and Recreation’s proposed $11.8 million budget is already $4.5 million less than they had hoped for. The fiscal 2011 budget proposes using the money for asphalt improvements, street landscaping, park enhancements for disabled children, and maintenance.

“Even with these necessary spending decreases, we are looking at a lot less than we are used to,” Hall said. “We just don’t have room in our budget for Red Gate.”

Grand Makeover Is Set for Rockville's Strip

ROCKVILLE, Md. — Over the last century, Rockville Pike in Montgomery County, Md., has grown, unfettered and unplanned, into a sprawling strip city — a hodge-podge of shopping centers, parking lots and gridlocked traffic that frustrates motorists and discourages pedestrians. But now, a grand makeover is planned for one section of the pike, which begins as Wisconsin Avenue in Washington and is officially State Route 355, that would create a pedestrian boulevard using the principles of the “smart growth” movement. Planners say it could be a model for transforming clogged suburban arteries into livable, walkable communities with denser development and less sprawl, an improved quality of life and a healthier tax base.

The project, called the White Flint Sector Plan, is a collaboration of major developers, planners, politicians and community groups whose interests are not often in sync. A partnership of six developers, normally competitors, got it off the ground. “Developers got together three years ago and said ‘We can’t move forward unless we solve this traffic problem,’ ” said Rodney A. Lawrence, a principal of the JBG Companies. JBG, based in Chevy Chase, Md., is completing a 24-story apartment tower and retail complex known as North Bethesda Market, which was begun under a previous plan but is in line with the new one.

The White Flint plan, which is expected to take 20 to 25 years to complete, aims to create a new destination where residents live, dine, work and shop, all within walking distance. All together, there would be 9,800 new residential units and 5.69 million square feet of commercial space. Developers will be allowed higher densities than current zoning permits, in return for providing more amenities and also by paying farmers in the county’s 93,000-acre rural preserve to keep their land in agriculture. They would be required to finance infrastructure improvements through the creation of a tax district.

The county would seem to have the potential to support such a large-scale undertaking, with a population of nearly one million, up from 757,027 in the 1990 census. “Montgomery County has really been a bedroom community until recently,” said Stephen Z. Kaufman, senior partner in Linowes & Blocher, a real estate law firm in Bethesda, Md. “Now it’s really a linear city, and White Flint is one of those neighborhoods in the linear city.”

The county council approved the White Flint plan March 23, but only after gaining the support of adjoining suburban neighborhoods worried about losing their leafy appeal among the new adjoining high-rises, which they feared would generate more traffic on their streets along with other urban problems. SOURCE: New York Times

Area incomes among nation's highest

Maryland's Montgomery County is among the nation’s 20 counties with the highest incomes, according to county-by-county data released this week by the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. Montgomery County ranked 18th at $67,531. Baltimore County ranked fifth in Maryland, at $50,035; Anne Arundel County ranked fourth, at $54,608. The lowest per-capita income in Maryland was in Somerset County, at $26,347. The highest per-capita income in the nation in 2008 — the most recent year that such data is available — was Loving County, Texas, where per-capita income was $140,275. Loving County is also the least populous county in the entire U.S., according to the 2000 Census, which counted 67 people there. Teton County in Wyoming ranked second, with its per-capita income of $129,956. New York County, N.Y., ranked third with a per-capita income of $120,776. The lowest per-capita income in the nation in 2008 was in Buffalo County, S.D., at $12,558. SOURCE: Baltimore Business Journal

Big Jump in Hiring as Local Staffing Company Hits Milestone

Washington DC - 10 til 2 – The Part-Time Placement Service of Montgomery County is marking its one-year anniversary with a marked upswing in employment. 10 til 2 provides employers with college educated, highly skilled employees who are looking for long-term, part-time work.

“2010 has already shown remarkable growth for us with numbers up 82 percent from just four months ago,” said Cathy Nestoriak, owner of the 10 til 2 Montgomery County franchise. “I am thrilled with the recognition we are receiving in DC and Maryland as a savvy business solution. We have a lot to be excited about.”

“10 til 2 really holds a unique position in the industry,” said Nestoriak. “We take care of the expensive, time-consuming human resource duties so our clients can focus on running their business. And the experienced professionals we place work on a part-time basis. It really gives businesses the opportunity to both seize control of costly payroll and move forward in a fluctuating economy.”
About 10 til 2

10 til 2 – The Part-Time Placement Service specializes in providing companies with quality, college-educated employees on a long-term, part-time basis; and can staff virtually any professional position. 10 til 2 has a proprietary database of experienced professionals, giving businesses a shortcut to the best talent available. For more information about 10 til 2 please go to

April 27, 2010

Rock Creek Property Group Closes Opportunity Fund

April 26, 2010 (Washington, D.C., and Bethesda, MD) – Principals of Rock Creek Property Group announced today that they have successfully raised their first investment fund to acquire and provide investment capital primarily for retail, office, multi-family and industrial properties throughout the Greater Washington, D.C., metropolitan region, as well as Richmond, Va., and Baltimore, Md. The $21 million fund will target Class B and Class C properties. “We’re out there proactively hunting for deals every day,” says Rock Creek’s Gary Schlager, one of the fund’s six principals along with

Andrew Glick, Bruce Levin, Alan Zuckerman, Eric West and Richard


“We’ve developed a profitable niche over the past 10 years that does not compete with institutional investors,” Schlager says. “Instead, our fund will target acquisitions or joint ventures in the $5 million to $20 million range. Our position allows us to capitalize on profitable opportunities that are out-of-reach for smaller investors but not big enough for larger institutional investors to consider.”

Formed in 2002, Rock Creek has worked with more than 100 private investors and pension plans on individual investments in the $5 million to $20 million range. In total, Rock Creek’s principals have acquired several hundred million dollars of commercial properties, including office, industrial, medical office, multi-family, retail and urban-infill sites in and around D.C. With the equity capital already lined-up in the fund, Rock Creek can more nimbly react to opportunities. “We don’t have to go through the process of finding the equity after identifying an opportunity,” Glick says. “That’s a huge advantage in today’s economic environment, where equity and financing in many cases remain

difficult to obtain.”

Levin adds: “We can digest assets – and then manage them – extremely efficiently. We’re looking to help local entrepreneurs who may have run into problems with their developments or properties given that the capital markets are still soft.” The fund will typically commit up to $5 million per deal on transactions ranging from an outright acquisition to purchasing notes from lenders, participating in mezzanine loans and/or joint ventures, or purchasing partnerships.

“This is a total return-driven fund,” Schlager says. “The goal is not to hold on to assets forever but rather to buy properties, create value, and then exit in no more than five to seven years.”

The fund completed its first purchase in November – the 31,594-square-foot Pear Tree Village Center on Route 1 in Alexandria. Along with this existing property is a 20,000-square-foot pad site, which sits directly on the highway, that Rock Creek will either develop and lease, or sell outright. The disposition strategy for this property may include a traditional value-add leasing project or a for-sale office/retail condo-conversion. One advantage for fund investors is that Rock Creek has a deep bench. The firm employs a host of construction, administrative, marketing and research personnel, which Rock Creek shares with its related brokerage firm. The staff of each company works together in a vertically integrated manner. This gives Rock Creek significant capabilities not only in financing and investing, but also in asset management, construction, leasing, marketing, research and sales.

“We can afford these resources since we are working in unison with common interests and ownership,” Schlager says. “This provides our investors and the fund with a huge leg up versus our competition in the market.”

About Rock Creek Property Group: Rock Creek Property Group, founded in 2002, is a commercial real estate investment company based in Washington, D.C., and Bethesda, Md. Its principals own a diverse portfolio of office, industrial, multi-family and retail properties in the mid-Atlantic region. Over the years, Rock Creek’s principals have acquired several hundred million dollars worth of commercial properties. For more information, please visit us online at Media Contact: Neil Adler of D*MNGOOD®. 202-683-8975 office. 410-499-5004 cell. PICTURES: Andrew Glick and Bruce Levin.

40 Day Earth Day Video Contest Extends Earth Day Celebrations

Jessup, Md. (April 22, 2010)—A new video contest kicks off today that will encourage children of all ages to promote environmental awareness while celebrating the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, promising a big payoff for the school, civic or religious organization, or environmental nonprofit of the winners’ choice.

The 40 Day Earth Day Video Contest celebrates the 40th anniversary of Earth Day by asking participants to create videos that address either “What Earth Day means to you, your family or your organization/classroom,” or “What you are doing to celebrate and share your knowledge with others.” Sponsored by Solar Energy World, the region’s leading residential solar panel installer, contestants can enter the contest by uploading their videos to the 40 Day Earth Day YouTube group ( ) before May 23rd.

The top five videos with the most views on YouTube will then compete for a grand prize of $2,500 donation to the winner’s school, civic or religious organization, or environmental nonprofit of choice. Solar Energy World will open a public voting period at between May 24th and May 31st, and two videos will be named grand prize winners at a live event on June 1st.

“We want to extend the Earth Day celebration beyond a single day, to remind people that we need to pay attention to the environment every single day,” says Solar Energy World managing partner Tope Lala. “We think that seeing these videos through the lens of the children and teens that create and post the videos will be a real eye-opener. After-all, it’s their future, and we need to listen to what they have to say.”

Official rules and entry information is available online at About Solar Energy World: Solar Energy World is the Washington DC/Baltimore area’s leading provider and installer of solar panel systems and solar hot water systems. Offering homeowners a complete turnkey solution to solar, our installation teams have more than 74 years of combined experiencing in roofing and electric. Solar Energy World is dedicated to saving our environment and improving the quality of all our lives, and believes that Solar Power truly lights our way to a better future!

Softball comes up short

The girls' varsity softball team (10-2) suffered its second loss of the season in a hard-fought struggle with a skilled, Poolesville Falcons team. Though the Blazers were very successful offensively, an inability to defensively hold their two run lead in the top of the seventh inning caused the defeat. Blair Coach Louis Hoelman was not happy with his teamís defensive play in the last inning. "We didn't put them away. We were up by two runs, but then we fell apart," he said.

Blair was first to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the third inning. Sophomore outfielder Molly Nicholson hit a single, stole second base, moved to third on a bunt from sophomore outfielder Becca Arbacher, and was batted into home off a single by junior shortstop Blake Morgan-Gamber. Arbacher and Morgan-Gamber then moved to second and third on a hit by junior outfielder Katlyn Harmison, who was out at first. They both then stole home on a Poolesville error, making the score 3-0 with Blair maintaining the lead.

Unfortunately, the Falcons retaliated by scoring three runs in the top of the fifth inning and one more in the top of the sixth to take a one-run lead. This didnít last for long though, as Blair pushed ahead in the bottom of the sixth inning. Harmison walked, junior catcher Emily Haislip hit a single, and they both scored off a long triple by sophomore pitcher Samantha Schweickhardt, who later stole home to score the third run of the inning. Going into the seventh inning, Blairís 6-4 lead made the game look promising. SOURCE: Silver Chips

Montgomery County news

19th Affordable Housing Conference - The Affordable Housing Conferences Annual Summit is highly recognized in this region as a day of information, inspiration, education and determination. Please join us for stimulating dialogue, award presentations, panel discussions and much more! The conference will be held on May 3, 2010, 8:00 am to 2:30 pm, at the Bethesda North Marriott Conference Center. For more information go to:

School and Office Web Sites Win Best of MCPS Web Awards for 2010 - Clarksburg High School, Silver Spring International Middle School and Great Seneca Creek Elementary were winners in the 6th annual „Best of MCPS Web‰ awards this week. The winners were announced during a ceremony on Monday, April 19. For more information go to:

Montgomery County Planning Board Chairman Says Proposed Elimination of the Montgomery County Park Police is a Bad Idea; Excerpts from Hanson April 23 Letter to Council - In his latest correspondence describing the county‚s fiscal situation, the County Executive recommended the elimination of the Montgomery County Division of the Park Police of the Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission, suggesting that Park Police functions could and should be performed by the Montgomery County Police Department. For more information go to:

Unsolicited Public/Private Partnership Proposals - Due to the significant reduction in the Department of Parks current FY10 and projected FY11- FY12 Budgets, effective immediately, all unsolicited Public/Private Partnership Proposal applications have been suspended until further notice. The Department can no longer expend its limited funding resources in support of receiving, evaluating, and managing unsolicited partnership proposals that are not part of the current annual work plan for the Department of Parks. The Department will consider exceptions to this position if an unsolicited public/private partnership proposal:

 Is financially and managerially self-sustaining;
 Has the capacity to generate significant revenue to the Department;
 Is in fulfillment of an approved work project or program; and
 Submits a minimum application fee of $5K to cover staff time to review, evaluate, and process the proposal for Montgomery County Planning Board review and consideration.

Construction Work to Begin on Parking Garage in Rockville Town Square - The City of Rockville's contractor, RD Rockville, will begin work to repair the street-level parking deck for the garage located at 215 North Washington St. RD Rockville, which built the Town Square garages, will repair hairline cracks in a portion of the non-structural concrete surface of the garage parking deck. For more information go to:

Master Plan of Highways Public Meeting - Planners updating the Master Plan of Highways seek your input at four community meetings scheduled in April. This comprehensive update of the plan, the first since 1955, will compile all the roadway changes approved in area Master Plans since then in one document. Staff also will recommend changes to the classifications of some roadways based on the definitions that were revised in the 2007 Road Code. The final plan will list each roadway segment with its classification, segment limits, right-of-way width, and the recommended number of lanes. For more information go to:

Thursday, April 29, 6:30 pm Potomac Community Recreation Center, 11315 Falls Road Potomac, MD 20854

Think Green Cable TV Episode 12 Features Fields of Green Internship Fair - Episode 12 of THINK GREEN on Montgomery County Access cable TV features a segment about Bethesda Green‚s „Field of Green‰ Internship Fair. The 30-minute show includes items about Butler's Farm, DEP's free programmable thermostat program (featuring Susan Kirby Marinelli), and Governor O‚Malley‚s „Marylanders Plant Trees‰ program.

Go to . Click on the View it Now button (top, right box). Type THINK GREEN in the search box, queue episode 12. The Fields of Green segment starts around 6:30 minutes into the program.

Fostering an Animal Makes You a Hero - When you visit the Montgomery County Humane Society, do you wish you could take home all the animals you see? There‚s a way you can come close -ˆ by becoming a foster caregiver. Fostering allows you to provide temporary care for a homeless animal before it gets adopted permanently. A typical experience often lasts only a few weeks at a time with any one animal, and MCHS asks fosters to participate for six months or longer. For more information go to:

Rockville City Police Department Issues Pedestrian Safety Reminders Clarification - The Rockville City Police Department is embarking on a pedestrian safety campaign just as the spring and summer seasons are beginning. Rockville Police will kick off the campaign with concentrated efforts to remind both pedestrians and motorists of the rules governing street crossings. For more information go to:

Montgomery County YR's launch baby bottle campaign

The Montgomery County Young Republicans are teaming-up with the Rockville Pregnancy Crisis Center to do something life changing! The whole family can participate! The Rockville Pregnancy Crisis center is a non-profit medical clinic and pregnancy counseling organization providing FREE, life giving alternatives to women facing a possible unplanned pregnancy or who need healing from a previous abortion. They come from all walks of life—the teenager who finds she is pregnant after prom night, the college woman who was date-raped, the married woman who had a one night affair, the career woman who has no time for an unplanned pregnancy, and the woman whose husband just lost his job. More than 2,500 of these women come through our doors each year.

And… now you can help change their lives! What is the Baby Bottle Campaign? It’s Super Easy…. Fill up your baby bottle with any spare change you might have, and be sure to turn in your filled baby bottle or bottles, at our next MCYR meeting on May 18th.

Questions: contact Allie Warren at or 571.264.9868.

Are Sunday booze sales coming to Montgomery County?

Montgomery County residents looking to get their hands on the hard stuff no longer would have to head for the county line on Sundays under a proposal from one County Councilmember. Councilman Mike Knapp, D-Germantown, said the county can make an additional $1.5 million to $2 million a year by opening its liquor stores on Sundays. That is extra money the cash-strapped county, which has a budget hole of nearly $1 billion, can't afford to overlook, Knapp said.

"That's not taxing anybody ... it's just providing access to a product people already want to purchase on Sundays as opposed to not having it available on Sundays," Knapp said. "That seems to be pretty much a no-brainer."

Proponents said the money raised may be small compared with the county's budget hole, but it's an easy way to raise revenue that shouldn't be overlooked -- especially in light of County Executive Ike Leggett's proposal to double the county's energy tax to raise $100 million.

"Every little bit helps," said Council President Nancy Floreen, D-At Large. Alcohol sales are tightly controlled in the county. Spirits such as tequila, whiskey and vodka can be bought only at county-owned liquor stores. The county also acts as a wholesaler and distributor to restaurants and private stores that sell beer and wine. The Department of Liquor Control has made more than $200 million for the county in the last 10 years. Leggett said he's open to the idea of opening liquor stores on Sundays, but showed little enthusiasm for a similar proposal two years ago. The problem, said Leggett's spokesman Patrick Lacefield, is that it's not clear whether the "juice is worth the squeeze."

Lacefield said the profits could turn out to be lower than $1 million a year through Sunday sales because customers may be accustomed to buying spirits on other days of the week. And the increased competition might hurt privately owned beer and wine stores and restaurants, Lacefield said. The Rev. Wade Martin, senior pastor at Montgomery United Methodist Church, said Sundays are meant to be days focused on one's faith and families, not for drinking.

"Alcohol can take us away from the intent of what Sundays are all about," Wade said. Wade's church is in Damascus, a dry jurisdiction in Montgomery County where the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited -- a prohibition that has survived numerous referendums. SOURCE: Washington Examiner

Maryland loses Northrop Grumman; heading to Virginia

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. will move its headquarters cross country to the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., to be closer to its key customers in the U.S. government, officials said Monday. Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley congratulated northern Virginia for winning an intense sweepstakes between the two states for the corporate control center. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell planned to announce the relocation on Tuesday in Arlington. The company announced in January that it wanted to move from Los Angeles to the Washington area by 2011. A spokesman did not immediately return calls and an e-mail Monday seeking comment on the company's choice.

Northrop Grumman CEO Wesley G. Bush told O'Malley on Monday that the company decided to move to one of two sites in Virginia, O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said. The site will be either in western Fairfax County, near Washington Dulles International Airport, or in the Crystal City area of Arlington, which is almost within walking distance of the Pentagon, a company official said on condition of anonymity because the person didn't want to upstage McDonnell's announcement.

The move will send about 300 of Northrop Grumman's senior employees to the Washington metropolitan region. The company, which provides aerospace, electronics, information systems, shipbuilding and technical services, has about 120,000 employees worldwide. SOURCE: ABC

April 26, 2010

Montgomery County is seeking pet rescuers

Montgomery County is seeking pet rescuers, volunteers to help with animal sheltering during emergency evacuations. The County Animal Response Team -- CART -- will hold an informational session for those interested in assisting with emergency animal rescues on Thursday, May 6 at 7 p.m., in the Council Office Building, First Floor Auditorium, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville. CART is working to make sure that pet owners have a plan in place to address the needs of animals in the event of an emergency that requires an evacuation. For more information, or to RSVP for the May 6 meeting, send an email to SOURCE: Washington Post

Hundreds of MontCo workers bring in six figures

Montgomery's top managers make more than those in Fairfax. The top brass in Montgomery and Fairfax counties are raking in big bucks.

In Montgomery, nearly 1,200 employees make more than $100,000 when overtime is included in their pay, according to fiscal 2009 data obtained by the Washington Examiner. Fairfax would not release its overtime pay, but still has nearly 800 employees bringing in salaries of more than $100k a year. The high salaries for so many public workers is "out of balance" with what private companies pay, said Dee Hodges, chairwoman of the Maryland Taxpayers Association. Hodges said the traditional trade-off of public-sector employees forgoing higher wages for more job security is long gone.

"Now they have both the job security and more money," Hodges said.

Still, leaders in Montgomery are making bank compared with their counterparts in Fairfax. Department heads in Montgomery are paid upward of $40,000 a year more than their colleagues across the Potomac, raising questions from taxpayer advocates and union officials about whether the high pay is appropriate given Montgomery's dire fiscal situation. Montgomery is facing nearly a $1 billion gap, and has been warned that it may lose its AAA bond rating. In response, County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed doubling the county's energy tax, raising taxes on cell phones and slashing county services. SOURCE: Washington Examiner

Health care bill requires businesses to list every expense over $600

Most people understand that the IRS is likely to need thousands of new agents to enforce the Obama Administration’s new health insurance mandate – starting in 2014, you can either buy health insurance or the government will confiscate your tax refund, at least. But hidden deep within the 2,000 plus page law is a vast new authority for the IRS that proponents admit has nothing at all to do with health care.

Instead, its purpose is to squeeze more and more tax dollars from businesses to eliminate the so-called “tax gap” – bureaucratese for every red cent Americans owe the IRS but don’t pay up come April 15. In section 9006 of the health care law, many businesses will be required for the first time to report every expense they incur over $600. Right now, businesses must report the wages they pay employees. But they are exempt from reporting payments to other businesses and for merchandise. Even small businesses can easily incur thousands of business expenses over $600 each year. Critics say the requirement will inundate businesses with new red tape and cost them huge sums preparing paperwork.

“This is an enormous and costly new paperwork burden that likely hit about every business, regardless of how small,” Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) said in a December floor statement about the section.

A Democratic aide who spoke on the condition of anonymity said Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the pivotal finance committee, was a key backer of including the section in the health care law. The aide defended the provision as a “voluntary” way of increasing tax revenues without raising tax rates, adding that then President George W. Bush’s administration supported the requirement.

“Voluntary information reporting improves tax compliance without raising taxes on small businesses, which is why Presidents . . . Bush and Obama both proposed similar policies to this one,” the aide said.

The information will give the IRS new ammo against businesses that under-report their income or overstate their expenses. If the IRS wants to audit that business, it can roughly calculate its income by analyzing reported payments to that business and its expenses by the payments the business reported. The Democratic aide said the requirement merely extends the reporting requirement beyond corporations to other types of businesses like limited liability companies (LLC). But the language of the statute makes no apparent distinction between the different types of businesses. Instead it says the requirement applies to “any corporation.” Either way, many small businesses are going to need to file thousands more 1099 forms to the IRS – on top of the new requirements and fees they already face in the health care law.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses has been leading the charge against the language and calls the new requirement “a tremendous new paperwork burden for small business.” House Republicans are already scrutinizing the language and considering legislation that would repeal it. SOURCE: Daily Caller

April 25, 2010

In Montgomery, nearly 1,200 county employees earn over $100,000, including overtime

Montgomery's top managers make more than those in Fairfax. The top brass in Montgomery and Fairfax counties are raking in big bucks. In Montgomery, nearly 1,200 employees make more than $100,000 when overtime is included in their pay, according to fiscal 2009 data obtained by the Washington Examiner. Fairfax would not release its overtime pay, but still has nearly 800 employees bringing in salaries of more than $100k a year.

The high salaries for so many public workers is "out of balance" with what private companies pay, said Dee Hodges, chairwoman of the Maryland Taxpayers Association. Hodges said the traditional trade-off of public-sector employees forgoing higher wages for more job security is long gone.

"Now they have both the job security and more money," Hodges said.

Still, leaders in Montgomery are making bank compared with their counterparts in Fairfax. Department heads in Montgomery are paid upward of $40,000 a year more than their colleagues across the Potomac, raising questions from taxpayer advocates and union officials about whether the high pay is appropriate given Montgomery's dire fiscal situation. Montgomery is facing nearly a $1 billion gap, and has been warned that it may lose its AAA bond rating. In response, County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed doubling the county's energy tax, raising taxes on cell phones and slashing county services.

Fairfax, which doesn't rely on volatile income tax revenues, is expected to adopt a budget Tuesday that closes only a $250 million gap. Supervisors plan to raise property taxes and bring back a vehicle registration fee to close the hole. Fairfax and Montgomery often are considered rival counties and are virtually identical in many areas, including having about 1 million residents of similar financial and demographic backgrounds.

Montgomery's top earner in fiscal 2009 was Chief Administrative Officer Tim Firestine, who made $266,000. Appointed Fairfax County Executive Anthony Griffin, Firestine's counterpart, made $240,000. Montgomery County Police Chief Tom Manger makes $216,000 a year, 20 percent more than the Fairfax County Police Chief David Rohrer's $176,000. The $195,000 salary of Montgomery's human resources director, Joe Adler, is 28 percent -- or $43,000 -- more than that of Fairfax HR Director Susan Woodruff.

Not all of the pay comparisons tilt in Montgomery's favor. Fairfax pays some of its higher-level employees, such as deputy county executives and assistant county attorneys, at much higher rates than Montgomery. Montgomery County Executive Leggett's spokesman, Patrick Lacefield, said the county intentionally pays more to attract top talent, whose value to the county far exceeds their higher pay. He noted that comparisons between counties aren't always straightforward and added that Montgomery has lured top Fairfax employees with better pay.

"We have had in the past a long-standing tradition of paying people better ... which is why we've gotten the best people," Lacefield said.

"Oh, come on, does anybody really believe that?" said Gino Renne, president of the Montgomery Municipal and County Government Employees Organization.

Renne said his members are bearing the brunt of the county's budget cuts while management refuses to look at their own compensation.

"There's never been a serious discussion about the excesses in management," he said. SOURCE: Washington Examiner