An Update on Program Open Space Funding

The legislative session is well underway and things are moving quickly. There is significant support for Program Open Space from the administration and the legislature and we are optimistic that legislation will be passed this year requiring payback of previous year’s diversions and make it more difficult to divert in the future.

This is the week when vitally it’s important to contact your Senators to support HB 462 that enhances the funding for all the programs funded by the transfer tax. Your Partnership is essential to our success. While the steering committee can talk details with key legislators, we rely on you, our network of partner organizations, to demonstrate the broad support for this program by contacting your legislators. That is how we get it done!

Please take a few moments to reach out TODAY!

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Update on the “Trust Fund Bill”

There were 3 bills this session that specifically dealt with Program Open Space funding.

The Program Open Space Trust Fund Act sponsored by Delegate Gaines and Senator Middleton, and strongly supported by Partners for Open Space.

The Governor’s bill reducing the planned diversions of transfer tax revenues for FY 17 and FY 18.

The Baltimore City Delegation’s proposal to increase the amount of Program Open Space funding for Baltimore City.

These bills have been merged and are now all addressed in HB0462 (SB0383). The bill has passed the house unanimously and will be considered by the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee today – Thursday, March 24th.

The bill does not include all of the provisions of the Trust Fund legislation but is a good compromise. Specific provisions of HB0462 include:

  • As proposed by the Governor, FY 17 will have $21.5 million more available than diversions authorized in prior budgets would require.
  • Also as proposed by the Governor FY 18 will have approximately $40 million more available than diversions authorized in prior budgets would require.
  • The programs would return to full cash funding in FY 19 (we hoped for 2017).
  • Beginning in FY 19 if there are cuts the governor must include a plan to restore 1/3 of the cut over each of 3 successive years. (First time ever to require this.)
  • Direct grants to Baltimore City will increase by $1.5 million in FY 17, $3.5 million in FY 18, $5.5 million in FY 19, and from FY 20 on $6 million a year.
  • If all of the repayments are made that the bill outlines by FY 29 (you read this correctly) the programs directly will receive around $270 more than we would have with no bill. These repayments include the $90 million allocated as outlined in the trust fund bill and repayment of FY 16, 17, and 18.
  • $90 million repayment required from 2006 funded as follows:
  1. $5 million for next generation farmer program in FY18 (First time this program has received money to operate);
  2. $15 million each year in FY 19, 20, and 21 to be distributed in accordance with the current distribution formula;
  3. Each year from FY 19-24 will have an additional $6 million a year allocated for critical maintenance in State Parks; IN FY 25 $4 million will be available.
  • Funds diverted in FY2016, FY2017, and FY 2018 will be repaid 1/3 in 2021, 1/3 in 2025 and 1/3 in 2029.

As noted, this bill is a compromise. It’s not all we wanted. But it achieves the most important goal which is to get the program back to full funding and puts some measures in place to ensure that happens. It funds an important program for the next generation of farmers. But it will require continued vigilance and visible support to ensure that this plan is followed.

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Update on the budget

The Governor’s proposed land preservation budget seems to be moving toward passage with limited changes. The one proposed change was a recommendation by the Department of Legislative Services to reduce Rural Legacy funding by $5 million. The Senate rejected this change and we hope that the house will follow the Senate’s lead.

The Governor’s FY 17 Budget includes:

  • $13.8 million for State side Program Open Space (POS)
  • $21.7 million for Local side Program Open Space (POS)
  • $17.662 for Rural Legacy (if $5 million bond is funded)
  • $21.2 million for the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation (MALPF)
  • $3 million for Heritage Areas

Thanks for your continued help and support.


Earlier:

New Poll Cites Overwhelming Public Support for Program Open Space
February 16, 2016

Funding for Farmland Protection and Open Space in MD is under the gun, again!
February 2, 2016

Funding for Maryland’s parks, recreation and farmland preservation is in jeopardy
March 14, 2014

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Partners for Open Space on the web

Partners for Open Space on Facebook

Envision Frederick County is one of the many partner organizations of Partners for Open Space.