Simmons: Montgomery should get back more tax dollars from the state -- Gazette.Net


This article was corrected at 4:25 p.m. March 4, 2014. An explanation follows the story.

Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons is looking to move to the state Senate, where he says he can have a greater impact on the state’s funding priorities.

Simmons, who represented District 17 in the House from 1979 to 1983 and again since 2003, said he believes he can be more effective in reordering priorities in the Senate. The House has 141 delegates, making it more difficult to pass legislation, such as bills that would eliminate horse racing subsidies and divert those funds to school construction, he said.

“Every year I get more votes on the floor,” he said. “I think I could be far more effective in the Senate to divert money [from] what I consider nonessential spending, from horse racing, to school construction.”

Simmons said Maryland also needs to spend more on employee pensions, which the state needs to attract and retain good teachers. On the education front, he wants the state to have an apprenticeship program for high school students to receive career training if they don’t want to go to college.

He also said Montgomery County should be getting back more of the tax dollars it sends to Annapolis.

“I do think that there is a progressive case to be made for increased state funding for Montgomery County,” he said.

Because the county is wealthy, Simmons said, a large proportion of its state taxes have typically gone to obligations in other parts of the state, but its own demographics are changing. Most of the people now living in Montgomery are minorities, and many of them are immigrants, Simmons said. The poverty rate and number of single-parent homes have also increased, he said.

“The demands on our educational system and on our social services are growing exponentially, and Montgomery County needs to retain more of the money [it sends],” Simmons said.

He said the county does not need to take money from other jurisdictions, but should get back more of what it sends. A number of his colleagues in the Montgomery delegation are embarrassed to say that the county needs more money, Simmons said, because it used to have many more advantages than other parts of the state.

“That time is long past,” he said. “It has come and gone.”

Simmons said Maryland needs a state policy for how it supports single-parent households that are struggling financially. He wants a task force to examine how to integrate existing social services into a package that could be given to a parent on the first day of school.

“We do have many services at the state and county level, but they’re fragmented, they’re not consolidated,” he said.

Simmons, a Rockville Democrat, said he considered running for Senate four years ago, but decided against it after Sen. Jennie Forehand said she would run for re-election. Simmons announced in November that he would seek a seat in the Senate, and Forehand announced in January that she would not seek another term.

Former Del. Cheryl C. Kagan, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2010, is also running. The primary election is set for June 24.

This article originally misstated when Simmons announced he would run for Senate.