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Md. Gubernatorial Hopeful Madaleno Talks Budget, Transportation

Maryland state Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. may not have high poll numbers in the gubernatorial Democratic primary so far, but he touts his nearly 16 years as a lawmaker in his bid to defeat Republican Gov. Larry Hogan.

Madaleno helped lead the effort for same-sex marriage in Maryland when voters approved it in 2012.

Last year, the 52-year-old lawmaker from Montgomery County sponsored legislation to eliminate the farebox recovery rule that allowed the state’s transportation administration to recover at least 35 percent of operating costs from fares and other revenues. The law now focuses on service efficiency and the administration must submit annual reports on mass transit services in the Baltimore region and comparison of others regionally and nationwide.

If Madaleno is elected, he would become the state’s first openly gay governor. He and his husband, Mark Hodge, have two adopted children, Katie, 14, and Jackson, 10.

Poll numbers show Madaleno posting single digits in the race for the Democratic nomination in the June 26 primary, trailing Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III; Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz; and former NAACP President Ben Jealous. However, Madaleno stood ahead of Krish Vignarajah, former policy adviser for first lady Michelle Obama; tech entrepreneur Alec Ross; and Baltimore attorney Jim Shea.

Mileah Kromer, director of the Sarah T. Hughes Field Politics Center at Goucher College in Towson, said Madaleno’s biggest asset comes from his progressive record such as his support of $15 minimum wage and experience in state politics, especially as vice chair of the Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee. She describes him “as a progressive policy wonk.”

“He has an established track record. Rich has been there,” Kromer said. “Of all the candidates running, he has the deepest understanding of the state legislative budget. This legislative session will allow him to be able to highlight some of his direct accomplishments.”

Madaleno talked about the state budget, housing and transportation during an interview Thursday, Jan. 25 in his office in Annapolis. Here’s some of his thoughts, in his own words:

STATE BUDGET

Hogan funds a variety of formulas in education as mandated by law, but he takes out planned increases for some of the organizations that provide services to people living with developmental disabilities and mental illness [such as] the Arc of Maryland [and] the Maryland Association of Community Services. We created a mechanism to try and make sure there was a pay differential between the minimum wage and what they were paying. If you are hiring someone to do direct care of a person with a disability, you should pay more than the minimum wage because you want them to try and stay around. Years ago, we had set up formula to make sure their reimbursement rate increased with the minimum wage. They were due a 3.5 percent increase this year, but the governor only put 1 percent. The governor has been playing games with Prince George’s Hospital Center. Last year, we all agreed to set aside a commitment of dollars for construction. The University of Maryland Medical System that’s going to be operating the hospital was anticipating this chunk of money. [Hogan] is delaying it by two years. I know people say it is not fair to compare him to Donald Trump. They’re both real estate developers. That was their profession immediately preceding their elections to office. Everything is always in negotiation. Haven’t we heard the exact same description of Donald Trump? When do you ever have a deal with Larry Hogan? Everyone thought they were at the table and made a deal on this and how much was going to come in for the hospital. Maybe the state doesn’t have to put up its full amount right now. Wouldn’t you sit down with them first, and talk about it? I find it hard to deal with him and his administration because everything is in negotiation. Could we ever just be straight and transparent about these things and talk?

HOUSING

Without a doubt, the lack of affordable housing is our biggest barrier to growth in this region. I grew up in Silver Spring. I bought my first house 20 years after my parents bought their first house in Montgomery County. I paid double the price for a house half the size. Now, that house is worth three times more. For a simple, suburban 1950s Cape Cod. Not to pick on a college student, but how are you going to afford to buy a house? How do you afford rent in this area? Lack of affordable housing is a huge problem for economic growth, certainly throughout the metropolitan areas throughout the state. It is a problem that is shared by all of the dynamic metropolitan areas of the country. Montgomery County has something called a moderately-priced dwelling unit provision in its zoning, which allows for a developer to have a greater number of units if [developer] dedicate a portion of those units to being moderately priced. You can build a 24-story building if you dedicated two of those floors to affordable housing. There is a requirement in the law if you don’t do it for certain projects, you either do it, or you pay into a fund that will produce affordable housing. For foreclosures, I would work very aggressively with our attorney general to see what we need to do now. We did a bunch of policy changes when the market collapsed in 2008. A decade on, are they still where we need and how do we make sure we don’t get back into that same environment? It seems like the federal government is rolling back some of the restrictions they put on financial institutions. Many of these financial institutions are chartered and regulated at the national level. There are so many things we could do on the state level. We regulate some state banks and I think we have been aggressive.

TRANSPORTATION

The biggest issue about transportation is we already have a robust dedicated funding source for transportation in the state of Maryland. What we don’t have is leadership that is willing to prioritize that money should go where it’s going to have the most impact on congestion. Investments in public transit and into the multi-mobile network that serves the two metropolitan areas. What we need to do in the Washington region and Baltimore region is to create a regional revenue collection and decision-making body that gets to prioritize projects and support all of the projects that are occurring in the region. The more complicated thing in the Washington area is you have to do it with D.C. and Northern Virginia. The nice part in the Baltimore region, every jurisdiction is in the state of Maryland. D.C. maintains everything. In Virginia, the state maintains all roads. Transit is on the local governments [in Virginia]. In Maryland, transit is almost exclusively by the state government. The state maintains the major roads and local governments do all the local roads. There needs to be some harmonizing between the three jurisdictions, but we have to find a way to pull our revenues and keep them in the metropolitan areas. A lot of people are talking about a regional sales tax [to fund Metro]. All we would wind up doing is raising money from our area that would just supplant the money that we are already giving the state to pay for these projects. We raise more than enough money for our current transportation structure. We don’t need a new tax source. We need a mechanism that ensures our tax revenues are going to pay for Metro. The problem right now is our governor gets to decide every transportation project. That’s just our system. Having more local decision-making will make it easier for communities to buy into their future. This whole new structure would have to be created by the legislature.

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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