Comptroller Franchot’s Statement on Compensation for Wrongfully Incarcerated

More than $9 million approved at today’s Board of Public Works

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (October 30, 2019) - Comptroller Peter Franchot today released this statement following Board of Public Works’ approval of payments to five wrongfully incarcerated men:

“I’m very pleased that today, the Board of Public Works is finally moving forward with approving compensation to five Marylanders who spent years behind bars for crimes that they did not commit … Years that they spent incarcerated, separated from their families, friends and loved ones … Years they could have spent pursuing their hopes and dreams while living their lives freely.

“Jerome Johnson, Lamar Johnson, Walter Lomax, Clarence Shipley and Hubert James Williams are victims of a broken criminal justice system. Although no dollar amount can restore what was taken from them, I hope that today’s action brings some solace and a sense of vindication for these five individuals.

“Each of these five petitioners will receive $78,000 for every year they spent incarcerated – an amount equal to our state’s annual median household income. We chose the median household income intentionally because through their erroneous conviction and incarceration, these five men were deprived of the opportunity to earn an income and contribute to their communities and to our state.

“I would like to thank the Board staff for their hard work behind the scenes that made today’s action possible. They have done a tremendous public service for the five petitioners and our state and we are grateful for their efforts.”

MEDIA CONTACTS:          Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)

                                        Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Comptroller Franchot Announces Task Force to Examine Effects of Electronic Smoking Devices

Vaping being investigated for outbreak of lung disease and deaths across nation

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (October 23, 2019) - Citing a growing number of reports about serious illnesses, lung disease and deaths that are attributable to vaping, Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that he is creating a task force to examine the public health and safety implications of electronic smoking devices (ESD).

“As Maryland’s chief tobacco regulator, my job is to safeguard public health, protect consumers and keep dangerous products out of the hands of children,” Comptroller Franchot said. “With each passing day, we are learning more about the severe health risks and the 33 confirmed deaths across the United States from vaping. Despite these reports, there is still so much that we do not know about the nature and characteristics of these products. It is imperative that those of us in government work closely with public health officials, advocates and retailers to develop a deeper understanding of these products and establish appropriate laws that govern how they are manufactured, distributed and sold.”

The Comptroller will ask the Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates and the President of the Maryland Senate to appoint two members from their respective chambers to serve on the task force. Other members will represent local governments, public health institutions, public health and safety experts, Maryland businesses, industry representatives, and the education community.

This new task force – titled “e-facts” – will convene later this fall and will continue into early 2020. The task force directives will be:

  • To achieve a better understanding of the nature and characteristics of ESDs, including the distinctions between various products within the marketplace;
  • To gain a comprehensive picture of the public health and safety of ESDs and commercial effects of product sales in Maryland; and,
  • To recommend new and stronger laws to ensure that consumers – particularly young people – are protected.

“Understanding these devices and their effects on people, especially teenagers and the impact to their health and development, is my top priority,” Comptroller Franchot said. “We can only begin to affect change by gathering the necessary data and information needed to save lives.”

MEDIA CONTACTS:  

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Comptroller Franchot Announces R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. Award

Nominations sought for past and present elected officials who have dedicated their careers to public service

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (October 21, 2019) - Comptroller Peter Franchot has announced the launch of a new award paying tribute to one of the most skilled and respected lawmakers in Maryland history.

The R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. Award for Distinguished Public Service will recognize past or present elected officials at all levels of government who exemplify the true spirit of public service, demonstrating strong leadership, humility and compassion for the communities they serve.

Joined by two of Speaker Mitchell’s sons, the Comptroller officially announced the new award last week at Twinny’s Place in Galena, a favorite restaurant of the late House Speaker who passed away in June.

One recipient will be selected and presented in each of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City. Nominees should have a lengthy record of public service and a demonstrated commitment to helping their constituents in large and small ways.

“Serving in public office is rarely the most glamorous job, but there are countless instances of elected officials throughout Maryland who have done it for the right reasons and lead by example, effectively representing their constituents and doing so with little or no fanfare,” said Franchot. “Speaker Mitchell embodied these ideals and it is my honor to pay tribute to his legacy.”

The deadline for submitting nominations is Monday, November 25. Print out and complete this form and either fax it to 410-974-2045 or attach it as a pdf and email abrody@comp.state.md.us. For more information or for questions about the award, call 410-260-6346.

MEDIA CONTACTS:  

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Statement On The Passing of a Congressman Elijah Cummings

A legendary public servant, and a profound loss to the nation

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (October 17,2019) - 

Today, the nation awoke to the news of the unexpected passing of Congressman Elijah Cummings. Mr. Cummings was a legendary son of Baltimore. An extraordinary Marylander. A great and historically consequential American and he will be missed.

“There are so many ways to describe this remarkable man who grew up in the most modest of circumstances, rose to once-unimaginable heights of political power, and never, ever stopped fighting to give others the very same opportunities he had. In the days to come, we will assemble our thoughts and do the best we can to do justice to the life and golden legacy of Elijah Cummings.

“Today, however, I’ll simply say that we’ve lost our friend at a time when our city, state and country needs his voice and his moral clarity more than ever before. There will never be another Elijah Cummings. For the good of our embattled nation, however, and for the countless children and families who would have long been forgotten if not for Elijah’s good fight, we must try so much harder to live up to the values that defined his life.” -Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot

MEDIA CONTACTS:  

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Comptroller Franchot Announces Beat the Bay Bridge Blues Policy for Agency Employees

Flexible and compressed schedules, telecommuting and incentive to carpool offered to Shore commuters

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (October 2, 2019) -Several days into a multi-year rehabilitation project on the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge that has already caused massive delays for Eastern Shore commuters, Comptroller Peter Franchot has announced a comprehensive new strategy – Beat the Bay Bridge Blues.

The voluntary program, effective October 7, offers Eastern Shore residents who work in Annapolis or Baltimore several options to more efficiently travel to and from their jobs. They include allowing affected employees, where applicable, to:

  • Flexible Scheduling. Employees can work five days a week, with staggered start times. This will allow some employees to start earlier or later in the workday, thereby avoiding most of the major rush hour delays in crossing the Bay Bridge;
  • Compressed Scheduling. Employees can work four, 10-hour days Monday through Thursday, with Friday off each week. The goal of this option is to reduce the number of vehicles on the Bay Bridge during the Friday commute;
  • Remote Work Location. Provide the opportunity, when available and appropriate, to allow some employees to work remotely at the agency’s Call Center or Branch office located in Salisbury; and,
  • Carpooling. Employees who carpool with at least four agency colleagues per vehicle for ten days will be awarded four hours of administrative leave.

“What happened last Friday within a 15-mile radius of the Bay Bridge is not acceptable and could have been avoided if there had been proper planning and communication in advance of this major multi-year project,” said Comptroller Franchot, following a discussion on the Bay Bridge project at the Board of Public Works meeting today. “For the sake of safety, health and workplace productivity, we are pleased to reduce the number of vehicles on the road while offering several attractive commuting options to our dedicated employees.”

These commuter relief options will continue throughout the duration of the bridge construction project.

“I hope other major employers follow our example to give their staff options to avoid what could be a long-term headache,” added Comptroller Franchot. “Furthermore, I hope MDOT immediately implements alternative options for those who rely upon the Bay Bridge. Our families, first responders and local businesses cannot afford the economic and human toll of catastrophic gridlock, nor should they.”

MEDIA CONTACTS:  

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

William Donald Schaefer Award Nominations Due Monday

Comptroller will honor individuals and organizations improving communities, helping others in every county and Baltimore City

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (September 27, 2019) — Comptroller Peter Franchot reminds Marylanders that the deadline to submit nominations for the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award is Monday, September 30, 2019.

Established in 2012, the award honors the unparalleled legacy of public service left by former Mayor, Governor and Comptroller Schaefer and is presented in each of Maryland’s 23 counties and Baltimore City to individuals and organizations with an unwavering commitment to helping people.

“Maryland is full of selfless individuals and remarkable groups that prioritize the lives of others, fulfilling unmet needs to improve vulnerable communities,” said Comptroller Franchot, who will personally present the award to each recipient, beginning later this year. “Every year, I hear so many inspiring stories of people around our state doing amazing work that it’s become to difficult to pick just one winner in each jurisdiction.”

Award recipients will be selected on their demonstration of:

  • Improving the community;
  • Promptly responding to a citizen problem through effective government intervention;
  • Directly aiding our most vulnerable populations; or,
  • Establishing a public/private partnership to improve the lives of fellow Marylanders.

Nominations submitted in previous years but not selected may be re-sent. To submit your nomination, print out and complete this form and either fax it to 410-974-2045 or attach it as a pdf and email abrody@comp.state.md.us. For more information or for questions about the award, call 410-260-6346.

 

MEDIA CONTACTS:  

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Board of Revenue Estimates Approves $130 Million Increase in Fiscal Year 2020 Projections

Panel cautions that small uptick is not indicative of long-term economic growth

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (September 19, 2019) - The Board of Revenue Estimates (BRE) unanimously voted today to increase the revenue projection for the State of Maryland for Fiscal Year 2020 by $130 million and to set the first projections for Fiscal Year 2021 at $19.1 billion.

Comptroller Peter Franchot, Treasurer Nancy Kopp and State Budget and Management Secretary David R. Brinkley, who comprise the BRE, noted that while overall revenues are up, that’s largely a reflection of a strong tax year in 2018 and not a harbinger of long-term economic growth.

Below are Comptroller Franchot’s remarks from the BRE meeting, as prepared for delivery:

“This write-up should not be taken as a stronger performance to come, as much of the increase is attributable to events that have already taken place, including a strong tax year in 2018.

“As we discussed with the release of last month’s closeout report, we saw stronger-than-expected capital gains – suggesting a continued reliance on the volatile income of nonwage earners. We also saw an increase in Sales and Use Tax revenues following the Wayfair decision that allowed states to collect sales tax from online remote sellers.

“But these numbers are belied by other, more concerning trends, such as the fact that we are again writing down our wage growth estimates.

“While we may be experiencing the longest-recorded period of economic growth at 122 consecutive months, the tight labor market is not generating the wage growth that it has in the past.

“Our top three industries – the federal government, information, and financial services – have contracted while lower-wage industries are growing. And there is a demographic shift in the workforce, as a generation of older employees retires and younger employees with lower salaries take their place.

“This bears weight not only on our income tax revenue, as you would imagine, but it also indirectly impacts sales tax revenue when people simply have less disposable income to spend.

“Of course, we’re also faced with more significant economic trends at the national level:

  • The inverted yield curve, which has preceded nearly every recession in modern U.S. history;
  • A ballooning federal deficit; and
  • Not the least of which, reckless and erratic trade policy from Washington.

“Each of these in their own right would demonstrate greater market volatility, but together it is impossible to deny that our economy is approaching a very tenuous inflection point, one that we would be foolish to ignore or not prepare for.

“That is why I have called on the Governor and the General Assembly to deposit the $216 million fund balance from Fiscal Year 2019 in our Rainy Day Fund.

“If we wish to invest in bold, new ideas, we must be just as creative and bold in how we fund them – without reaching deeper into the pockets of our taxpayers.

“In fact, today we released a new report from the Business Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) at Salisbury University that found starting school after Labor Day has a “clear, positive impact on both state and local economies” with a total net economic impact of up to $115 million.

“A Post-Labor Day start is good for our children, our small businesses and our state’s economy, and this is the kind of common-sense policy we should be considering. It increases revenue without adding another financial burden to Marylanders.

“The bottom line is when our future economic outlook is this uncertain, we must prioritize safeguarding taxpayers from these harder times by practicing fiscal restraint.

“I say this remembering, vividly, the tough choices Maryland and our hardworking families had to make as we weathered the Great Recession. As elected officials, we are entrusted to make the right decisions for our constituents, particularly when that means spending their hard-earned taxpayer dollars wisely. And we must show that we have learned our lesson from a decade ago.”

MEDIA CONTACTS:  

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

New Post-Labor Day School Start Study Shows Significant Economic Impact

$115 million impact mirrors Maryland Bureau of Revenue Estimates forecast in 2013 report

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (September 19, 2019) - Starting school after Labor Day has “a clear, positive impact on both state and local government economies” with a total net economic impact of up to $115 million, according to a new analysis from the Business Economic and Community Outreach Network (BEACON) at Salisbury University.

The report, entitled “The Economic, Employment and Fiscal Impacts Of Added Summer Vacation Days Attributable To Post-Labor Day Opening of Maryland’s Public K-12 Schools,” echoes an economic impact study conducted by the Maryland Bureau of Revenue Estimates in 2013, which forecast a significant increase in state and local tax revenues and wages resulting from a Post-Labor Day school start date.

“This independent analysis validates what we already know: starting school after Labor Day is good for Maryland families, good for our local businesses and good for the Maryland economy,” said Comptroller Peter Franchot. “At a time when the state is considering new sources of revenue for our public schools, this adds millions of dollars to our state’s coffers, all while supporting great family-owned, small businesses and sustaining summer employment.”

BEACON’s analysis found a total net economic impact — incorporating direct, indirect and induced benefits — of close to $58 million for six additional days of summer vacation and nearly $115 million for 12 extra days, depending upon when Labor Day falls on the calendar each year.

Additionally, the report estimates additional wages earned by workers to be between $2.875 million and $5.75 million during the final days of summer with local and state government revenues increasing between $8 million and $16 million, also depending upon the timing of Labor Day.

“Tourism is one of our state’s most important economic engines and is especially critical to areas like my hometown of Baltimore City, where the tourism industry is an even more significant employer and source of local revenue,” said Michael Haynie, a hotel management consultant, former chairman of the Maryland Tourism Coalition and a member of the Governor’s Task Force to Study a Post-Labor Day Start Date for Maryland Public Schools. “The extended summer also means more employment opportunities for our city’s youth before heading back to the classroom, providing much-needed family income and experience in a major job sector.”

The study’s findings are based on estimates that approximately 70 percent of all tourism-related expenditures statewide can be attributed to Maryland residents and data from tourism offices that show the majority of end-of-summer travel by Marylanders occurs within the state.

“I am thrilled to see the positive results and increased economic impact caused by a post-Labor Day school start in Maryland; however, I am not surprised,” said Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan. “Worcester County has accomplished a successful post-Labor Day start date for years and students in our schools have continued to thrive. In fact, our very own Ocean City Elementary School was named a Blue Ribbon School for a second time in 2018.”

“A post-Labor Day school start benefits all Marylanders. The hard work and dedication to this initiative displayed by Governor Hogan and Comptroller Franchot have not only allowed Maryland families to enjoy more summer vacation together, but has also increased our room tax revenue and allowed seasonal employees to work longer. It’s incredible to see how common sense and thoughtful planning can create such a positive change for us all,” added Meehan.

Tourism is the state’s 10th largest employment industry, supporting more than 200,000 jobs and producing over $15 billion, which represents four percent of the state’s total economy.

The nonpartisan task force, created by the Maryland General Assembly and appointed by then-Governor Martin O’Malley, recommended a post-Labor Day start by a vote of 12 to 3 in May 2014 after meeting for nearly a year to consider all aspects of the issue.

Public support for starting school after Labor Day has been strong and consistent throughout Maryland among teachers, parents and the business and agricultural community. More than 24,000 Marylanders signed the “Let Summer Be Summer” petition in 2016 — endorsing the initiative that has given families more time together, provided teachers and students with a longer break to recharge without impacting summer learning loss, and afforded rural Marylanders the opportunity to participate in the Maryland State Fair, which runs the 10 days prior to Labor Day each year.

“As a teacher, I know starting school after Labor Day not only is economically beneficial to our communities, it is crucial to the professional development and well-being of teachers and administrators,” said Baltimore County public school teacher Jeffrey Freedman. “Many teachers take coursework during the summer and need that time to complete that work while others value the time to unwind with their families and recharge. A post-Labor Day start helps us be the most successful, effective teachers we can be.”

An economic impact study conducted by the Bureau of Revenue Estimates in August 2013 projected a post-Labor Day school start would generate an additional $74.2 million in economic activity, including $3.7 million in new wages and a separate $7.7 million in state and local revenue. These findings mirror the study just concluded by BEACON, which will release its full analysis in October.

“This study confirms what teachers and parents have been saying for years: starting school after Labor Day is good for parents, students and Maryland’s economy,” said Denise Avara, a longtime public school mom and PTA leader. “I’ve listened to families, educators and owners of small businesses for a long time who called for a later start to school for very good reasons — mostly because it helps all of us.”

MEDIA CONTACTS:  

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-7305 (office); 443-875-8540 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
                                        410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)

Maryland State Fairgoers Find More Than $271K in Unclaimed Property

More than 250 people discovered money that was owed to them

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (September 5, 2019) - Comptroller Peter Franchot today announced that 259 people discovered more than $271,000 in unclaimed funds at this year’s Maryland State Fair. One attendee learned about an unexpected windfall of $71,517.

Throughout the summer and fall, agency staff set up booths at county fairs and festivals and the State Fair to reunite Marylanders with money they are owed. Approximately 1,360 people made inquiries at the unclaimed property booth at this year’s State Fair.

“Several hundred people had a great time at the State Fair and learned about money that is rightfully theirs; I call that a red-letter day,” Comptroller Franchot said. “Our agency staff fans out across the state to reach residents and reunite them with money or property that is just waiting to be claimed by their owner.”

Financial institutions, utilities, insurance companies and other corporations are required to report to the Comptroller any bank accounts, security deposits, wages, insurance benefits and contents of safe deposit boxes that have been unclaimed after three years. In addition to booths at fairs and festivals, the Comptroller’s Office looks for owners of unclaimed funds by searching tax records.

Taxpayers can visit https://www.marylandtaxes.gov/ and click on the Unclaimed property icon to see if their name is on the list. The Comptroller urges anyone who finds their name to contact his office at 410-767-1700 (Central Maryland) or toll-free at 1-800-782-7383 to find out how to reclaim their lost property.

MEDIA CONTACTS: 

Susan O’Brien -  sobrien@comp.state.md.us
410-260-7305 (office); 443-871-2244 (mobile)

Alan Brody -  abrody@comp.state.md.us
 410-260-6346 (office); 443-924-1473 (mobile)