Q&A with Bill Ferguson, Candidate for District 46 Senator

| June 16, 2014 | 1 Comments

Bill Ferguson is a resident of Canton and the incumbent (one term) District 46 (map here) Senator running for reelection. The primary election will be held on June 24th and the general election will be held on November 4th.

Ferguson_familyTell us a little about yourself and why the areas of the 46th District are important to you?

I am a former Baltimore City Public High School teacher who lives in Canton with my wife and young son. I was inspired to get involved in politics while teaching at Southwestern High School in South Baltimore.

The 46th District includes some of the lowest income and highest income neighborhoods in the city. There are over 40 different neighborhood associations in the district, representing citizens with a wide array of economic, racial, and religious backgrounds. I love working with and fighting for high quality education, health, and well being of each and every resident to ensure a bright future for the city.

Why are you motivated to run for office and potentially serve this district?

My experience teaching and experiencing the opportunity and achievement gap first hand inspired me to run for office. Throughout my time in the legislature I’ve continued to draw from my classroom experiences to find ways to bring new resources and greater attention to the city’s educational achievement gap.

What are some ways the state can help the City of Baltimore continue to grow and move in the right direction?

In 2013 I was proud to be a part of the Baltimore City Schools Construction legislation that passed the Maryland General Assembly. This landmark legislation enables the investment of $20 million from Baltimore City government, $20 million of City Schools funds, and $20 million a year from State lottery proceeds for 30 years to fund the construction/reconstruction of up to 35 brand new public school facilities over the next 5-7 years. I believe that investments like this not only strengthen the City of Baltimore, but benefit the entire State of Maryland. There are many collaborative opportunities beyond school construction, where I have and will continue to fight for the state to be supportive and helpful of the city.

 Many polls have rated Baltimore as an extremely unfriendly business state. What can be done to improve the business climate for all Maryland businesses?

For the first time in recent history, this past legislative session leadership in the House and Senate came together to sponsor a package of bills to help improve Maryland’s business and economic development climate. This package included:

Investing in job creation: Maryland continues to make strong strides in recovering from the great recession. Over the last twelve months, Marylanders have created over 7,600 jobs – a vast majority of those from the private sector. In addition, we have recovered all of all jobs we lost during the recession and have our lowest unemployment rate in four years.

A Living Wage for all Marylanders: As a co-sponsor of the Maryland Minimum Wage Act, I fought to make sure that all of our State’s citizens are fairly compensated for their labor and that all Marylanders have the opportunity to prosper. With passage of Maryland’s new minimum wage law, the State’s minimum wage of $7.25 an hour will gradually rise to $10.10 by July 2018.

Expanding Tax Credits to take families out of poverty: This tax credit helps to bring thousands of families out of poverty and strengthens the middle class. Legislation passed this session will expand the refundable Earned Income Credit from 25% to 28% when fully implemented for FY2019.

Private Sector Commission to review State’s Economic Development Support and Business Climate that is focused on the State’s economic development structure and incentive programs, and  will make recommendations to the presiding officers by the end of this year.

Reduced Tax Zones to support investment around Anchor Institutions (RISE – SB602) –The legislation will utilize enhanced property and income tax credits and accelerated depreciation schedules to spur significant financial investments in designated “RISE districts”  (the Regional Institution Strategic Enterprise District Program).

New Cyber Seed Investment Fund – Modeled after TEDCO’s successful Technology Commercialization Fund, the cyber fund would make investment of up to $100,000 into seed/early-stage cyber security and privacy companies developing products for both government and commercial markets.

Leveraging public and private sector capital for higher-education research endowments (Maryland E-nnovation/SB601)– Under this program, the State will create globally recognized research and development programs that maximize Maryland’s state and federal assets and result in significant private sector industry investment, opportunities, and jobs, which will help attract the best and brightest talent to Maryland universities.

Efforts have been in place to lower property taxes in Baltimore City, but much work is needed to make the city competitive with the surrounding counties, as well as the neighboring cities of Washington, DC and Philadelphia. How can the city and state work together to solve this problem?

The property taxes are certainly a major issue when people consider where to buy a home. Many people choose to live outside of the City solely because of the high property taxes, which is a serious problem for attracting and retaining families. This year I sponsored SB 961: Baltimore City Residential Retention Act, which allows current City homeowners to keep their Homestead Property Tax Credit if they buy another home within the city. This could save individual families thousands of dollars while giving them an incentive to stay in the City instead of moving to the county. Ensuring families can thrive in Baltimore City is a huge priority for me, and I know that legislation like SB 961 makes a positive difference. I will continue to fight for similar legislation, and am also supportive of finding ways to lower property taxes in Baltimore City without hurting City services or schools.

 How should the city and state proceed with the proposed Red Line? What future transportation or infrastructure projects are important to this area?

I genuinely want the Red Line to be the holy grail stimulus that transforms Baltimore City’s future. In the line’s current iteration, I have serious doubts about the project’s ability to provide such a solution. However, we have a small window of opportunity over the next 8 months to create a project that all Baltimoreans can celebrate. We must not lose this opportunity for fear of having a tough conversation. For years, the MTA has argued that any change to the alignment or station location for the Red Line would kill or seriously jeopardize the project. Yet, just last month in May 2014, a unilateral decision was made by MTA without a shred of community input to totally relocate a station and make significant changes in underground tunnel alignment. This change

will likely yield real cost overruns, and more importantly, a 10-month delay in project construction. Formerly planned to open in 2022, the Red Line now will suffer yet another significant delay, pushing optimal operations to 2023 at the very

earliest. For a project of this nature to be successful, the consideration of reasonable alternatives cannot be merely at the whim of a state agency and denied at all other junctures. Baltimoreans deserve better than that, and we must have highe expectations about our City’s future.

Baltimore is on the cusp of a great revitalization. Tackling our failed public transit system is absolutely essential to achieving this objective. Should I be successful in this 2014 election cycle, I will be excited and honored to have the opportunity to continue working with all residents of the 46th District over the next four years to ensure that Baltimore’s Red Line actually serves as the stimulus to a better future for mass transit in our City.

How can Baltimore City schools and recreations facilities continue to improve?

Public school construction continues to be a top priority for me and for the General Assembly. I proudly co-sponsored SB 743: Baltimore City Public Schools Construction Authority, and I worked tirelessly to ensure its passage. This landmark legislation enables the investment of $20 million from Baltimore City government, $20 million of City Schools funds, and $20 million a year from State lottery proceeds for 30 years to fund the construction/reconstruction of up to 35 public school facilities over the next 5-7 years. This investment is a transformational opportunity for the City of Baltimore and will be the largest investment in City Schools infrastructure in the last 75 years.

 Why should people vote for you?

I am running for reelection to the Maryland Senate to ensure that all Baltimore families and residents have equitable access to opportunity and to protect the right of all Baltimore children to attain an education that prepares them for life in the 21st Century economy.  

About the Author:

Founder and Publisher of SouthBmore.com, longtime resident of South Baltimore, and a graduate of Towson University. Diehard Ravens and O's fan, beach volleyball enthusiast, dog lover, and "bar food" foodie. Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter at @SoBoKevin.
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