Testimony of Montgomery County Young Democrats to Montgomery County Delegation Priorities Hearing-November 15th, 2022

Good evening members of the Delegation: 

Thank you for receiving our testimony. My name is Michael DeLong and I am the President of the Montgomery County Young Democrats, an organization of young Democrats ages 14-34 who work to make Montgomery County and Maryland better places to live, and get young people more involved in politics. Since Maryland currently has a $2 billion budget surplus and incoming Governor Wes Moore has proposed an impressive agenda, we urge the Legislature to seize this moment and enact reforms that will truly leave no one behind.

First, we strongly support the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and urge you to fully fund early childhood and public school education over the next decade, which will result in incredible benefits for children, families, and society as a whole. We also urge the Delegation to work on making childcare more affordable by expanding the early childhood workforce and scholarship funds, and to prepare students for good-paying jobs by expanding access to programs, apprenticeships, and job training. Students with excessive student loan debt should also receive help–the student loan debt relief tax credit program should be expanded, and they should get free access to professional debt counseling. 

Maryland voters also approved a constitutional amendment legalizing cannabis starting next summer, and so legislators should write rules to set up the recreational cannabis marketplace. The Hogan administration has undermined the state government and workforce; rebuilding departments and attracting talented people should be a top priority. The Legislature should encourage this revitalization, and also promote other reforms, including allowing mail-in ballots to be counted before Election Day. 

Housing costs have become an increasingly big problem for Marylanders. This issue is large and has many aspects, and too many people are struggling to afford their rent or mortgages, or facing evictions. We strongly support Delegate Wilkins’s Stable Homes Act to give renters additional rights and protect them against unjust evictions, as well as the construction of more housing in order to lower prices. And people facing eviction should have the right to good legal representation. If people can’t afford to live in Maryland, all our improvements will be of little help. 

Transportation is another area where the Legislature can take action to improve quality of life, and to help reduce climate change and protect the environment. We ask the Legislature to dedicate additional resources to improving our bus system, complete the Purple Line and help the businesses around it, and improve the contracting process to stop cost overruns and delays; the Legislature should also revive the Red Line transit project that was canceled by Hogan.

Wes Moore and Aruna Miller have also promised to boost the economy for all Marylanders, and that includes supporting unions, higher wages, and better working conditions. The $15 per hour minimum wage was a step in the right direction but it is not enough. The Legislature’s top priorities should include: accelerated implementation of the $15 per hour minimum wage, linking this wage to inflation so it automatically goes up, and making it easier for Marylanders to join unions and engage in collective bargaining. 

Finally, we strongly urge the Legislature to support Wes Moore’s proposal for a statewide service year program, allowing all Maryland high school graduates to serve for a year in a public service role. In return, they would receive job training, mentorship, and compensatory tuition at Maryland public colleges and universities. One of our proudest initiatives is when we encourage young people to help their communities in some way or start projects to assist those around them. This can range from funding projects to reduce food waste, which were started by high schoolers, getting involved in local government, or coming up with new ideas to reduce discrimination. The service year program is an excellent idea that has potential to inspire a lot of young people, and the Legislature should do its part to get it off the ground.

Thank you very much. Please contact us at mocoyoungdems@gmail.com if you have any questions.