[Another] Tough Budget Year Requires Creativity
For the past five years, all considerations in the General Assembly have been affected by the faltering economy and the resulting shortfall in tax revenues to fund State programs. In this environment, advocates have learned to be creative and to find ways to advance issues without requiring new State funds.
The 2012 bill on evidence-based home visiting is a good example of this approach. The bill will strengthen home visiting in Maryland by requiring that State-funded programs be on a list of home visiting programs that have a proven track record. Not only is this good public policy, but also it positions Maryland to compete aggressively for new federal funds that will be available for home visiting in 2012.
The new federal funding for evidence-based home visiting – $1.5 billion over 10 years – is included in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (federal health care reform legislation). Maryland might be able to significantly increase the number of families receiving home visiting services—with no additional expenditure of State funds – if Maryland is able to win the maximum amount possible from the federal program.
“That’s our approach in a nutshell,” says Clinton Macsherry. “We look for no-cost ways to improve programs for kids, and we work to ensure that Maryland gets every possible dollar from federal programs.” Other no-cost legislative initiatives to be spearheaded by MFN or its allies in 2012 may include bills on child care licensing and quality and on after-school child care.
On the budget side, MFN will be working to ensure that budgets for key programs are not slashed. Most programs of concern are included in the budget for the Maryland State Department of Education, which will be discussed and voted on during the General Assembly Session. Programs of concern include: