Advertisement

Hopes for share of 'disparity grant' lie with Senate measure

March 27, 2013|By KAUSTUV BASU | kaustuv.basu@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS — With less than two weeks remaining in the 2013 session of the Maryland General Assembly, Washington County legislators are banking on the passage of a measure cleared by a senate committee that would bring the county $1.55 million in fiscal year 2014 as part of a wealth-based grant known as the disparity grant.

However, the prospect for success is uncertain, and the amount is less than the county would have received if it had remained eligible for a share of the grant. Additionally, prospects for passage of a House bill seeking relief are grim.  

County lawmakers have been looking at various avenues in the General Assembly to get the county a share of the grant.

One of those avenues was a bill sponsored by Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington, in the House of Delegates that tried to provide the county a gradually increasing proportion of the grant.

Advertisement

But that bill remains in limbo, Serafini said Wednesday, and will likely die.

“Most probably, my version will not move forward,” he said.

The disparity grant is a wealth-based program started by the state in the early 1990s to help poorer jurisdictions.

According to a formula, counties with per capita income tax revenues of less than 75 per cent of the state average become eligible for the grant. But the program was frozen in 2010 and counties not eligible that year were barred from receiving the grant in later years even though their per capita income tax revenues were less than 75 percent of the state average.

Washington County was one jurisdiction that lost out, and local lawmakers have been working for two years to recover some of that grant money.

The county would have received $7.7 million in fiscal year 2014 if it were eligible for the grant money, which goes into a county’s general fund.

In mid-March, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee approved a formula based on the local piggy back income tax rate of counties that would get Washington County $1.55 million in the 2014 fiscal year.

Serafini said he had filed his bill as “protection” in case the proposal in the Senate stalled.

“Both groups (delegates and senators) are now pointing towards the Senate version in the BRFA (the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2013),” he said.

And although the senate committee has approved the measure, how much money counties eventually get will be decided by a conference committee made up of members from the Senate and the House of Delegates.

“We might not know till the last day of the session,” Serafini said.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|