Today was the first council session since the end of July. Its been so long since I sat at my seat on the dais that I have to confess I was a bit nervous all over again. We started the day though with an open-press discussion with the County Executive, Ike Leggett. I was a few minutes late as I was getting an interesting update from Marc Elrich about his BRT plans as well as economic development issues, where we have some common interests. The session with the County Executive turned into a bit of a fracas over the issue of whether we should pursue a municipal power authority that would take over for Pepco. I strongly support pursuing this idea — I think the residents will be very interested to see the option laid out before them (yes? no?). It appears to me there is enough support on the Council to go forward, regardless of the Executive’s objections.
Another focus today was on capital spending and the capital budget — where we borrow money to pay for long term investments such as schools, transit technology, roads, parks, libraries, etc. The County Executive is proposing a cut in the amount of money that we borrow. I am concerned about any proposal that would slow the pace of job creation in the county, and there is no question that building projects create jobs (good ones, too). We will be taking a closer look at this but my general philosophy is that we should spend every penny we can on job creation, within the bounds of affordability.
We also discussed a bill that I have introduced, along with six other co-sponsors (so far), that would change the timing of when impact taxes are paid to allow builders to use more of their seed capital to start projects. The timing would change so that builders do not have to pay taxes up front, but rather when they are ready to occupy and sell. This will mean more projects and more jobs, as well as more single and multi-family housing for our workforce, and more housing for companies looking to expand or locate here. It won’t cost the county or taxpayers a dime — in fact, as Council Vice President Roger Berliner noted, it will generate more tax revenue over time by improving the investment climate.
We are in a national employment crisis that demands an aggressive response from every level of government. I’m interested in any ideas you have for how we can spur job creation here in Montgomery County.