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Ken Ulman, Maryland Association of Counties Discuss Education in Montgomery County

Ulman and MaCo met with Montgomery County legislators to discuss priorities going into the 2012 General Assembly.

If education, transportation and land-use planning are the hot topics facing counties in the 2012 General Assembly, how does Montgomery County fall in line with the rest of the state?

One for three.

Montgomery and the other members of the Maryland Association of Counties are advocating state aid for school construction and general school funding. 

But the county disagrees with other jurisdictions on what to do about the gas tax and Plan Maryland, an initiative by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to give the state greater control on local land-use decisions.

"There's an entire spectrum of views about the state and local roles in land-use throughout each of the 23 jurisdictions in Maryland," said Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, who is serving as MACo president. "In some places there is a very strong visceral … response to Plan Maryland. In other places there is a different reaction.”

Ulman met with Montgomery County Council members Tuesday to discuss the 2012 legislative highlights.

MACo's official position says that land-use control makes the most sense when in the hands of local elected officials. "No statewide law, planning document, or set of goals can ever replace the value of locally accountable and citizen-informed planning and zoning," according to a handout given to council members.

Montgomery County, on the other hand, has a view more consistent with Plan Maryland.

"We sort of feel that we more or less invented [Plan Maryland]," Council Member Nancy Floreen (D-At large) said.

"It's more the rural counties that are unhappy with the governor's smart growth proposals that are pretty consistent with our view of how planning ought to work," Council Member George Leventhal (D-At large) said.

The subject of transportation is a little more touchy for Montgomery County and MACo, which doesn't have a great consensus to put before the state, yet.

The council supports a gas tax increase.

"If we took a vote among the board of MACo regarding gas tax increase, it would not go well for people who think it should be increased," Ulman said.  

Instead, the association is going to advocate for more protections for the transportation trust fund and for restoring the traditional 30 percent share of highway user revenue.

Leventhal said Montgomery has the most in common with other counties on the topic of education.

"The school establishment is launching an effort to change state law to impose more pressure on counties to put more money into the schools. We would love to put more money into the schools but the reality is that the money we put into the schools comes at the expense of police and fire and parks and libraries," he said.

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