MARYLAND (WDVM) — In this year’s general election, there are two statewide questions that will be on every Maryland ballot.
Question 1 discusses the implementation of a constitutional amendment that would give the general assembly the power to alter the governor’s proposed budget as long as the changes do not exceed the original proposed budget amount.
Jim Rosapepe is a Maryland State Senator from College Park and represents the 21st District. He sponsored the referendum alongside Senators Sarah Elfreth, Melony Griffith, Guy Guzzone, Nancy King, Douglas Peters, and Craig Zucker as it traveled through the state legislature.
Senator Rosapepe explained that the constitutional amendment will allow for more public opinion, in the form of their representatives, in the governor’s proposed budget.
“It says that the legislature which represents people from across the state, different interests, different constituencies, different perspectives, have a voice in how the taxpayer’s money is spent. Under the current state constitution, every year, the governor proposes a budget and all the legislature can do is cut the budget. So the people’s representatives don’t have the power to be able to set priorities, education or health care or transportation or public safety. Question 1 fixes that.”
Maryland is the only state in the nation that does not give their state legislature the power to change how tax dollars are used in the governor’s proposed budget. The general assembly has already passed this referendum but the public must vote on the matter in order for it to become a constitutional amendment.
Governor Larry Hogan is against this referendum but will not be in office to see its results. He released a statement regarding the matter reading:
"Question 1 is a blatant cash and power grab of multi-billion dollar proportions. With our state facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis, the last thing we should do is make it easier to recklessly spend more of your tax dollars.”
The other question before Maryland voters focuses on the potential to expand commercial gaming and legalize sports betting throughout the state with the revenue automatically benefitting the state’s education trust fund.
Craig Zucker is a Maryland State Senator from Montgomery County and represents the 14th District. He sponsored the bill to legalize sports betting alongside Senators Guy Guzzone, Thomas Miller, Nancy King, Pamela Beidle, and Chris West. It passed unanimously through the State Senate and passed 21-1 by the House Ways and Means Committee.
Senator Zucker explained that Question 2 focuses on the legalization of sports betting.
“Maryland voters will have the opportunity to vote on whether sports betting will become law. And if so, all of the money generated from revenue from sports betting goes to fund education.”
Maryland already has the Lockbox Legislation, which passed in 2008, and mandates that revenue generated from gambling goes towards improving the state’s education system.
Sen. Zucker also explained that the state is losing money not only from the pandemic but from residents leaving the state to carry out their sports betting elsewhere.
“Marylanders are going to other states and sports betting through their online platforms, sometimes they’re just walking across state lines and sometimes they’re driving. And what we saw coming out of this global pandemic is education revenue that we would get from casinos was down $150 million dollars cause the casinos were closed.”
Sen. Zucker predicts that if the expansion of the bill is approved, the state’s education trust fund could see an increase of $20 to $40 million dollars per year.
If the referendum on the governor’s budget is approved, it will into effect for the fiscal year 2024 and continue into the future. If voters approve the expansion of sports betting, Sen. Zucker said that he and his colleagues will begin work as soon as the general assembly is called back into session this coming January. He emphasized that he expects the legislation to pass before the end of 2021.
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