Maryland Meals for Achievement program allows 367 kids (like some of these Monocacy Elementary School students) to get free, healthy breakfasts -- up from just 108 before the program. Photo: Share our Strength, Brian Alexander
On July 1, the State of Maryland starts a new fiscal year, with a new balanced budget. The deliberations leading up to this budget were contentious, and the legislature had to come back to Annapolis for a special session to wrap up its work.
But they did what they needed to do. Maryland starts a new fiscal year with a balanced budget plan that protects local schools, college affordability, access to healthcare, and other important services. This budget will help keep Maryland's economy on track this year and keep Maryland well prepared for the future. We are doing well to buck a national trend of public disinvestment in education, healthcare, and services for children, elders, and families in need.
If your household's taxable income is more than $150,000 (or $100,000 for an individual), you'll be paying a bit more in income tax. Most likely a few dollars a week -- in any event, not more than 1/3 of 1 percent of your total income.
There were Mellisa and her 14-month-old son Noah in Frederick. Robin Mack from the Family Partnership there, comes to the house to work with Mellisa and Noah. During the home visits, Robin helps Mellisa feel confident about her parenting, identify family strengths, and create a plan to address their challenges. Maryland's home visiting programs bring trained professionals into the homes of new or pregnant moms to provide information and support. These voluntary, evidence-based practices provide parents with the tools and information they need to improve outcomes for their children and themselves. Home visiting services reduce the number of pre-term and low birth weight infants, and the infant mortality rate. They decrease preventable injuries to young children, and generate many other benefits. Because of your advocacy and the legislature's willingness to adopt a balanced approach to balancing the budget, Governor O'Malley reversed a proposed cut that would have eliminated the program in Frederick and eight other counties .
Tracey.jpgThere was Tracey. "I know I've come a long way," says Tracey Rice. She grew up in Walbrook Junction surrounded by poverty, gangs and violence. She soon fell under the influence of drug addiction and criminal activity. Eventually, a judge in drug court offered her treatment instead of incarceration. Tracey has now been in recovery for close to two years. "There were a lot of problems I had to learn how to manage, including my mental issues. I have access to my psychiatrist whenever I need it," she says. Tracey has landed a part time job at Sheppard Pratt. The new budget preserves funding for addiction treatment and mental health services, so that people like Tracey can get their lives back, and become independent and useful.
And there were the kids at Monocacy Elementary School (see picture above), where the Maryland Meals for Achievement program allows 367 students to get free, healthy breakfasts -- up from just 108 before the program. Hungry students don't learn as well as students who eat a good breakfast. Monocacy Assistant Principal Susan Gullo said, "It's been great being able to offer breakfast to our students every morning. Kids come in, get a meal, and then they're ready to learn for the day." The budget includes 20 percent increase in funding for Meals for Achievement (an additional $560,000). That means 46 more schools can participate, providing in-classroom breakfasts to 20,000 more vulnerable children. As more families are struggling to make ends meet, it's important for more schools to be able to provide free school breakfasts.
And there are many more examples of how items in our budget help people and make Maryland stronger. Are all of Maryland's problems solved? No way. Will there be more revenue shortfalls in upcoming budgets? ‘Afraid so. There's lots more work to do.
Today, though, let's remember that with your tax dollars and your advocacy, Maryland's budget will be doing some good stuff in the next 12 months.
(Photo credits: Maryland Family Network, Jennifer Williams; Medicaid Matters! Maryland, Gwendolyn Richardson; Share our Strength, Brian Alexander.)