Montgomery County Councilmember Phil Andrews said the recommended Fiscal Year 2014 operating budget that County Executive Isiah Leggett presented to the Council today failed to meet a commitment he made three years ago to eliminate a very large “temporary” increase to the County energy tax. Andrews proposes reducing the 2010 energy tax increase by 10 percent, or $11.4 million, and reducing the very large employee pay increases proposed by Mr. Leggett accordingly. His statement follows:
Statement by Councilmember Andrews
Keeping promises and maintaining the public’s trust is crucial at all levels of government. The County needs to keep its promise to eliminate the very large increase in 2010 to the County energy tax – an increase of nearly 60 percent to businesses and 155 percent to residents. At the very least, the County needs to continue making progress in phasing out the increase by reducing the energy tax on a yearly basis until the 2010 increase is eliminated.
When County Executive Leggett proposed the increase during the fiscal crisis of 2010, he said: “Recognizing the significant impact that this increase will have on County residents and businesses, I am recommending that the FY11 total increase in the fuel energy tax sunset at the end of FY12.” Yet, last year, in the FY13 budget, he proposed continuing the $114 million increase rather than ending it. The Council reduced the increase by 10 percent, saving residents and businesses $11.4 million. This year, in the FY14 budget, Mr. Leggett has again failed to propose the reduction he promised three years ago.
At the same time, Mr. Leggett has proposed very large pay increases for County employees over the next two years, ranging from 13.5 percent for most general County employees to 14.7 percent for most police officers to 19.5 percent for most career fire and rescue personnel. These proposed pay increases are excessive, unsustainable and irresponsible, and reminiscent of pay increases proposed by Mr. Leggett before the Great Recession that proved to be unsustainable. For example, in 2008 Mr. Leggett proposed a 10.5 percent increase for most career firefighters in FY11 that had to be canceled because it was unaffordable. The cost of Mr. Leggett’s proposed pay increases for the coming year, FY14, is $31.6 million, and the cost over two years, FY14-15, is $73.7 million.
County employees do deserve pay increases that are reasonable after several years of going without an increase because of the Great Recession. The County should and can provide employees with reasonable and sustainable pay increases while keeping its commitment to residents and businesses to, at the least, reduce the very large increase in the energy tax that the County resorted to during extremely difficult fiscal times. I propose that the County Council reduce the 2010 energy tax increase by 10 percent, or $11.4 million, and reduce Mr. Leggett’s very large proposed pay increases accordingly. This would treat both County employees and taxpayers fairly.
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