County Council President Andrew Friedson Remarks at Committee for Montgomery’s Annual Legislative Breakfast

From the Office of Council President Andrew Friedson: 
“Today Montgomery County Council President Andrew Friedson provided remarks at the Committee for Montgomery’s Legislative Breakfast. This event brings together leaders from across Maryland and is considered the unofficial kickoff of the 2024 Legislative Session.”

Council President Friedson’s complete remarks can be read below.

Good morning. Thank you, Shannon, for the kind introduction. And thanks to you, Marjorie Goldman, Steve Simon, and the rest of the Committee for Montgomery Board for everything you do to bring people from every corner of Montgomery County together.

I want to take a moment to recognize my Council colleagues Vice President Kate Stewart, and Councilmembers Gabe Albornoz, Marilyn Balcombe, Evan Glass, Natali Fani-González, Will Jawando, Sidney Katz, Dawn Luedtke, Kristin Mink and Laurie-Anne Sayles. Thank you for all you do for our diverse and vibrant community.

Seeing so many civic leaders gathered here today makes me so proud to call Montgomery County home. I’m deeply humbled to be part of a coalition of business, nonprofit, labor, and faith leaders committed to moving Montgomery County and Maryland forward.

I’m excited to be the Council’s newly elected president and share a little bit about what we’ve achieved during the last year, where we’re headed, and how we can work in partnership with each of you to get there.

We just completed our first year as an 11-member, female-majority Council, and I’m proud of the progress this historic 20th Council has made united around several key priorities.

We continued to tackle the housing crisis; implemented measures for a sustainable, greener future; bolstered support for local businesses; grew our biohealth sector; advanced safer roads; protected the healthcare commitments for our retirees; and maintained our long-running AAA bond rating.

In 2024 we will continue to build on these efforts and take them to the next level with bold action and with a greater focus on oversight to ensure the best use of your tax dollars. As we live by the County’s motto, Gardez Bien, to “Guard Well” – transparency and accountability will be our governing doctrine.

We will work to move our shared priorities forward – abandoning what doesn’t work, embracing opportunities to innovate, and collaborating with our nonprofit, state, and federal partners to leverage resources, so we can best support the common good together.

We will redouble our efforts to address our housing crisis to make sure our residents are healthy, housed, and have access to quality jobs, transit, and educational opportunities.

As we plan for a sustainable future for our youngest residents, we must also respond to the needs of our older residents.

That starts with delivering on our efforts to make universal early childcare a reality in Montgomery County. More than one year after creating an Early Care and Coordinating Entity, and nearly five years after the Early Care and Education Initiative was launched, quality early education and childcare is more important than ever before.

On the other end of the spectrum, we will uplift the fastest growing segment of our population –our older adults, so we can fulfill our capabilities as a County of vital aging and a Community for a Lifetime. We took a significant first step this week with the introduction of a targeted older adult property tax credit.

We also understand that none of these priorities are possible unless we can afford to fund them, and that requires a thriving private sector economy. With a diverse and purpose-driven talent pool, unrivaled public and private assets, and the best community partners anywhere, I know we have what’s needed to emerge as a regional and global economic powerhouse.

As we work to grow a thriving economy, we want to make certain that everyone can benefit from it. All of us in this room understand that educational opportunities and transportation access are the great equalizers. We will focus on maintaining a world-class public school system that has been the foundation of our strength and success over the years and building a modern transportation network that connects residents to jobs and services.

Half of the County’s $6.7 billion budget goes to schools, as it should. But with unprecedented needs and finite resources, we must make sure that every dollar is put to its best use to serve our greatest needs. The stakes have never been higher, and we are committed to meeting this critical moment in public education.

As we invest at record levels, we must also ensure accountability to achieve success. We will work collaboratively with state partners and the Board of Education to provide accountability for investments in educational outcomes for all our students.

Last year, we added two new inspector general positions dedicated exclusively to Montgomery County Public Schools.

Additionally, during my first week as Council president, we commissioned the Office of Legislative Oversight to review and analyze all existing reports, analyze gaps in reporting requirements, and determine best practices to improve financial management, budgeting, and performance metrics.

When it comes to transportation, we are all very concerned with the proposed $3.3 billion in wide-ranging cuts to Maryland’s six-year transportation plan. This poses a devastating blow to key transportation priorities including local bus service and threatens our progress on economic development, equity, and environmental sustainability.

Choking off transportation funding to counties will leave behind many of our most vulnerable transit users on the side of the road.

Montgomery County has made substantial gains in bus service, and our residents rely on public transportation to get to their jobs, classes, medical appointments, and community services. Access to affordable transportation is also part of our commitment to racial equity and social justice.

The initial proposal from the Moore-Miller Administration shows a $94 million hit to transportation in Montgomery County, including a $17.4 million cut to Ride On.

I fully recognize that these proposed cuts are not value judgements. Instead, they are part of a much larger budget challenge that has been compounding for years and has been inherited by the administration.

We greatly value our partnership, and it’s my sincere hope that we can work collaboratively with the governor, his administration, and the Montgomery County Delegation to develop ways to fully fund bus services and critical transportation priorities without balancing the budget on the backs of the counties or in new taxes being shifted to our residents.

Maryland stepping up first to maintain its multi-year investments in WMATA serves as a hopeful sign, as Metro is the backbone of our regional transportation network that fuels the economic engine of the national capital area. But Metro will never meet its ridership goals without reliable, high quality, local bus service to connect it to our communities.

Montgomery County creates 22 percent of Maryland’s tax revenues, so we need to receive a proportionate share of state resources to prime the pump of Montgomery County, which is the economic engine of the state.

I hope you will join me in calling on state leaders to avoid devastating cuts to Ride On bus service and highway user revenues and to fund our local transportation priorities without shifting the burden to the counties or our residents.

Thank you again for joining us this morning and for your contributions to our outstanding community. I know that by working together, we will continue to accomplish great things in the year ahead for Montgomery County and Maryland.

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