By Mike McClure

Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot was the keynote speaker for the Fruitland Chamber of Commerce’s online meeting on Feb. 17.

Franchot started out by reporting that one third of the state of Maryland is in a deep recession. He said hundreds of low wage earning families, many with children, have no money for food, rent, etc.

Franchot said he is concerned that the recession may spread to the other two thirds over the next six months.

“We need another stimulus plan,” Franchot said. “I was skeptical of this money that was poured into the state. I’m not skeptical anymore. We really need this money.”

While Governor Larry Hogan recently signed the relief act, providing $300 to qualifying individuals and $500 for families via checks and electronic payments, the comptroller believes the relief plan is limited and more needs to be done.

He said he set up a system to answer phones calls in anticipation of thousands of people calling to see where their checks are. Franchot added that his staff will deal with those people with respect and sympathy as not everyone will be receiving a check.

“We’re prepared to answer the phone,” said Franchot. “I salute my employees.”

Franchot said Hogan used funds from the rainy day fund and from tax forgiveness to pay for the relief act. Franchot said his proposal was to provide $2,000 checks, but the money would not come from the general fund. The rainy day and tax forgiveness money comes out of the general fund, he said.

 “We’re going to be robbing Peter to pay Paul later on this year,” Franchot said.

Franchot was asked about sales tax credits for qualifying businesses. He said all businesses will receive a deferral for January, February, and March, until April. He compared it to a loan. 

Franchot said he’d like to know the results of the money being spent to save businesses and stop the suffering.

“Hopefully it will be there when you need it,” he said. “What are you showing as a positive result?”

“I think the small business grant program is not something that is going to keep small businesses from closing,” Franchot said, adding that he doesn’t have all the details.

Franchot said the Maryland economy does need that money coming in until everyone is vaccinated, but he still wants to know where it is going.

“We need a complete audit of all of this money,” said Franchot.

The comptroller was also asked about the role of public education in training students for jobs.

“As a state our most important asset are our kids,” Franchot said, adding that he is not in favor of blindly spending money on education.

“I’m a believer in improving public education, but let’s do some pilot programs to make sure what we’re funding makes sense,” he added.

Franchot said Junior Achievement has done research in restructuring K-12 education in which students learn and study and work together as a team through a curriculum. He believes in filling  young people with confidence and skills, and some financial literacy, something he said he learned when he was in the Army.

He said he would like to see an adjustment in the K-12 and college curriculum. 

At the beginning of the meeting, Chamber President Katherine McAllister reported that the chamber is teaming with the city to honor veterans and active duty military with banners. The cost of the banners, which will be hung from Memorial Day to Veterans Day, is $100 per flag.