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Exec: 'Doomsday' budget better for Montgomery Co.

Thursday - 4/19/2012, 12:10pm  ET

(WTOP/Paul D. Shinkman)

WASHINGTON - Montgomery County would be better under the "Doomsday Budget" that would result from continued Maryland General Assembly gridlock, the county's chief executive told WTOP on Thursday, rather than the regular budget legislators are considering.

Proposed legislation would put part of the responsibility of paying teachers' pensions on the counties in which they work, which would add a $40 million-per-year burden to the county budget, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett told WTOP on Thursday's "Ask the Executive" program.

"That's how bad the regular session treated Montgomery County," he says. "We are better off with the 'Doomsday' versus the original budget."

Leggett spoke Wednesday night to Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who told the executive he will likely call a special legislative session. O'Malley told WTOP he would only call the special session to pass the budget, which takes effect on July 1, if both the state House and Senate reach an agreement.

A law has passed allowing the state comptroller to deduct monies from the Montgomery County state budget, called a "maintenance of effort."

Montgomery County would have to implement a $25 million reserve, Leggett says, "in the eventuality there is 'an intercept.'"

The Doomsday Budget, which cuts state spending by $512 million, would take effect if the legislature fails to reach an agreement on a balanced budget. Failure to pass this budget could downgrade the counties' bond rating.

The 5-cent county bag tax implemented earlier this year is "designed to help the environment," says Leggett, not for generating revenue.

Twenty percent of those revenue goes back to the stores implementing the tax because "you want compliance," he says. This incentive for clerks to enforce the tax would bring in roughly $22,000 per year for a Safeway.

"That helps in involvement in that behavior," he says. "You don't just want them to follow the law, you want them to follow the spirit of the law."

The county executive also followed up on the prediction he made on WTOP in October about the BRAC impact on Bethesda traffic: "It's going to get worse before it gets better."

"Unfortunately, I was right," he said Thursday. The county expects about 15 months of "off-and-on construction" for the first phase of projects designed to offset the additional traffic.

Check out more highlights from the show with this live tweet, and full live blog below:

10:58 a.m., speaking about cameras on school buses:

They should be installed by the fall semester.

10:57 a.m., speaking about the difference between panhandling and soliciting for charity:

I would like to see a registration process put in place, which would eliminate the panhandling problem.

10:54 a.m., speaking about illegal immigrants:

I disagree with the caller's premise that we're a "safe haven" for illegal immigrants.

We need the national government to enforce national immigration laws. "We're not about to go out and enforce national immigration laws."

10:52 a.m., speaking about nonprofits distributing literature on school grounds:

(A group seen as anti-gay has been banned from some campuses)

We need to find some medium that is pro-free speech, but not restrictive to groups.

10:51 a.m., speaking about overtime payments to county employees:

We are utilizing too few people for overtime in police or fire departments. There may be some question of safety or reliability.

It's probably more effective to do this.

10:46 a.m., speaking about getting new money into Montgomery County instead of taxing residents:

The tax burden in the county is lower than five years ago. The only tax that's been extended is the energy tax.

10:43 a.m., speaking about pedestrian safety (Montgomery Co. has more pedestrian fatalities than homicides):

We made progress, but not enough for my satisfaction. The first step is education.

10:42 a.m., speaking about speed cameras:

There are a number of places in our 500 square miles that could be placed, and it would save lives.

I agree with the police chief that we should have the ability to tack on additional penalties if you don't pay in a timely fashion.

10:37 a.m., speaking about proposed tax cuts for Lockheed Martin:

The problem is it isn't a tax cut. We have a law for a hotel/motel tax. Lockheed operates a training center. This law, to my dismay, applies that tax to their on-site conferences. We're trying to correct that flaw.

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