1. Educational Priority

A strong educational system is the linchpin to improving the economy, restoring home values, and breaking once and for all, the school-to-prison-pipeline.

Currently, it costs about $13,000 to educate a child, and about $16,000 to incarcerate…….it is clear where our investment should be.

ISSUE: Our current legislators in 23B have failed to fight for Prince George’s County’s “fair share” of state aid.  We have lost approx $100M over the last several years because of the failure to act.

SITUATION: State funding is allocated using an “inverse wealth” formula.  Simply stated, the state takes the “net income” of all residents and determines the “relative wealth” of each county.  Wealthier counties get more, poorer counties get less.  In 2007 the federal filing deadline changed from Aug 1st to Oct 15th. Unfortunately, the state did not change the date by which they do their wealth assessment.  Since wealthier folks and business tend to file late, a large portion of income is NOT accounted for.  The Impact: Prince George’s County looks wealthier than it actually is, and Montgomery County looks poorer than it actually is.

REMEDY: If our legislators would act, Prince George’s County would net an additional $13M per year in state educational aid, and Montgomery County would lose approx $25M per year.  I represented our county against all other Boards of Education in 2007 when this issue first appeared but there were no legislators willing to take on the fight.  We were told it would be addressed in 2008.

IRONY:  Collectively, the 2 incumbents have been in Annapolis for 52 years.  This has been an issue for 7 years and again we were told at the end of the last legislative session that it will be addressed next year. Meanwhile, we receive postcards in the mail touting how much state funding has been “brought home”, while we cannot afford to bring back parent liaisons, teachers are still purchasing their own classroom supplies, and we continue to have a $2B backlog of facilities that need repair.  It’s time for a change…..Vote Ron Watson.

2. Prince George’s County 2nd from the Bottom?

Let’s clear up this fallacy once and for all.  This has been the standard “tag line” for all politicians for a long time now and someone needs to speak the truth.

TRUTH: Over the last several years 2000-2012 the following has happened in Prince George’s County:

  • White population has decreased 33.8%
  • Black population has increased 10.6%
  • Hispanic population has increased 142.7%

This change in demographics continues to impact the “At-Risk” population of our school district. Currently, PGCPS has the largest percentage of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) students, 3rd larger population of students on “Free and Reduced-price Meals”, and the 6th largest population of Special Education Students.

All tolled, Prince George’s has the 3rd largest population of “At-Risk” students.  That being said, NOW lets see why we are “at the bottom”……..

  • Howard County (Ranked #2 in the state) has the 2nd lowest number of At-Risk students but receives the 5th largest amount of per-pupil funding
  • Montgomery County (Ranked #10  in the state) is ranked 12th in the number of At-Risk students, but receives the 4th largest amount of per-pupil funding, and
  • Prince George’s County (Ranked #23 in the state) is ranked 3rd in the number of At-Risk students, but receives the 7th largest amount of per pupil funding

SUMMARY: We have a higher At-Risk student population, but schools districts with “less challenges” are receiving much more.  We must have legislators who are willing to fight for the funding we need to properly educate our children and if our residents are serious about changing this trend, we must have new ways of solving these old problems.  Our current legislators in 23B have had 52 years to solve the problem identified above. Do we really want to continue to hide the underlying problem and keep electing the same folks?  Make the difference……Vote Ron Watson.

SOURCE: Overview of Local Maryland Governments 2014


2. Legalizing Marijuana?

I am against legalizing marijuana and refuse to engage in any meaningful discussions until data and statistics are available from the 2 states that have legalized it (Washington & Colorado).  Specifically, I would want to see data on:

  • Comparison of student achievement before and after the legalization in those respective school systems, to include truancy, drop-out rates and violence,
  • Comparison of traffic infractions and accidents, both pre and post legalization, and
  • Laws that must be put in place for specific individual that restrict the use of marijuana for public safety and national security.

We must consider the impacts of marijuana on our medical professionals (doctors, dentist, etc) and how usage must be restricted for specific occupations.  Those who operate heavy machinery and well as those whose job is to protect local and national security.  We must stop sacrificing “Long-Term-Pain” for “Short-Term-Gain”.

3. What would be one of you first priorities if elected? 

Boosting the economy in Prince George’s County.  Our county was hit harder than anywhere else in the region when home values declined.  You must understand that our county formulates its budget based on “projected” housing tax income.  When the market tanked, County income from tax assessment fell, but the county’s financial obligations did not.  In other words, we still had to pay the bills even though income decreased. this of course creates pressure of swallowing additional taxes to make up for the shortfall.  The answer to this dilemma has not changed in many years, that is to coax businesses, both private and federal, to set up shop here in the county.   We must have mechanisms in place that will cause businesses to select Prince George’s over competing counties in the state.  This would be one of my top priorities as the Maryland State Pension System is currently underfunded by $19 Billion.

4. When money is tight, school funding is always impacted? What can you do to protect school funding if we are not getting the business growth we need.

By facilitating “out of the box” thinking on alternative revenue streams. While a member of the Board of Education, and facing back-to-back years of decreased funding, I floated the idea of generating revenue by allowing advertisements on school buses.  My thoughts were that advertisements are in every metro bus, every subway station, and every train.  By allowing this, millions of dollars in “alternative revenue” could be raised. Unfortunately, because of the current laws, our school system can only derive its funding from federal, state, and county sources.

Here is the potential: The House staff analysis says in Colorado, one of the states that allow exterior advertising, only 10 districts have chosen to put commercial messages on their buses. It’s estimated they raise $5,000 to $10,000 per bus annually.

PGCPS has a school bus fleet of 1,250 buses.  Based on the conservative number above this equates to $6,250,000.  Yes, there would have to be restrictions on the  advertising for alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, prescription drugs, political ads, and material that’s inappropriate, offensive or insensitive to children or the community, but a little thinking “outside of the box” could go a long way.

I proposed this in 2007 as a means to mitigate school funding reductions caused by the lack of action on the part of our legislators in District 23B to ensure our county got its “fair share”.  I will push for our school system to have the flexibility to generate additional sources of revenue.

5. What changes, if any, would you make to Maryland’s tax structure?

This is a very high-priority item and very complex.  We must implement tax reform that concurrently positions the state to be competitive for business growth, achieves long-term revenue growth, AND minimizing the need to increase taxes on residents.  This requires a fresh look at all elements of state and local government and restructuring the process for allocating revenue.

6. What should the state’s transportation priorities be?

Transportation is critical to sustaining our economic growth. Our priority should be the expansion of the Purple Line in Prince George’s County and the Red Line in Baltimore.  Affordable public transportation will improve accessibility and ease traffic congestion.

7. What is the most pressing environmental issue in Maryland?

  • Safe water and clean air are the most pressing issues. I will work to accelerate Bay restoration and seek innovative ways to harvest energy and reducing Maryland’s carbon footprint.