Statement from Legislator Barnhart:
Thank goodness I didn’t take a nap or go for a walk after work yesterday. At 5:03 p.m., legislators received notice that there would be a Zoom meeting at 5:15 p.m. to override the County Executive’s vetoes of budget amendments.
I’m not surprised the Legislature Majority did not want anyone to know what was going on. They affirmed their support for an election-year, $2.5 million “slush fund” for the Legislature’s use. A slush fund is a reserve fund that has no particular use. There are few restrictions on how the fund can be spent.
The money may end up funding worthy organizations and projects. But there is no guardrail requiring that all legislators and districts have equal access to this fund. The fund could be used in a partisan way, allowing favored legislators to sprinkle money around their districts for favored projects. That’s exactly what some legislators who voted for the fund said they plan to do. The grant awardees are not the only ones benefiting from this arrangement; legislators also benefit from the power to give cash.
We should approach funding allocations in a more equitable way. We should have a plan for such a large appropriation. We should recognize we are in a pandemic, and it is not the time to create a $2.5 million slush fund.
The Majority Leader said those of us who voted against the fund would regret it. I hope I end up regretting my vote for the right reason – that the fund winds up being used in a collaborative, bipartisan and responsible way. I would love to be proven wrong.