Adams and Lierman describe visions of the comptroller’s office during the Tuesday evening forum

Josh Kurtz (top left), founding editor of Maryland Matters, hosts a forum with Democratic candidates for state comptroller: Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D) and Bowie Mayor Tim Adams (D). Screenshot.

Maryland’s Democratic candidates for comptroller pledged Tuesday night to undertake efforts to bring racial and social equity to Maryland’s tax system and state contracts, but they differed on the office’s recent legislative reforms.

Both Democratic candidates would make history if elected: Bowie Mayor Tim Adams would be the state’s first black comptroller and the first paraplegic to hold office statewide in Maryland; Baltimore City Del. Brooke E. Lierman would be the state’s first female Comptroller.

The winner of the July 19 Democratic primary for comptroller will face limited-time Harford County executive Barry Glassman, who is unopposed in the Republican primary, in the general election.

Tuesday’s forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters and its co-sponsors — Maryland Matters, Maryland Reporter, Maryland Nonprofits, Maryland Latinos Unidos and the University of Baltimore’s Schaefer Center for Public Policy.

Josh Kurtz, founding editor of Maryland Matters, moderated the discussion.

This year marks the first time since 1998 that there has been an open seat race for controller.

The competitive election comes after incumbent Peter VR Franchot (D) launched a gubernatorial bid, along with nine other Democrats.

Asked about their vision for the agency, Lierman said she plans to create an “Office of the Maryland Taxpayers’ Advocate,” which would help break down barriers to make it easier for residents of the area to apply for tax credits. low-income Maryland.

“The comptroller is one of only three independently elected statewide officials,” Lierman said. “And so we need this comptroller to be a voice statewide and champion the key economic challenges facing our families and small businesses.

Adams, founder and CEO of multimillion-dollar defense contracting firm Systems Application & Technologies, said it was important to bring leadership experience to the comptroller’s office, as Maryland’s chief financial officer. .

“It’s really a leadership position, a position that you need to have the experience like me, after 30 years,” Adams said. “And you have to be able to fight for people. I fought to level the playing field and understand that and have that experience to make sure everyone in Maryland could participate.

Help the economy

Asked about the comptroller’s role in charting the state’s economic success, Adams said it’s important to “make sure everyone pays their fair share of taxes.”

“What we have right now is some companies just aren’t paying their fair share,” he said. “And we have to make sure we prosecute them and close all these tax loopholes.”

Adams also said the Comptroller and Board of Public Works should stop approving sole-source contracts and work for state contractors who fail to meet minority and disadvantaged business inclusion goals.

Lierman, who expressed support for the same goals at various points throughout the evening, specifically focused on maintaining the government’s Triple A bond rating and spurring economic development through government spending. investment as a means of strengthening the economy of the state.

“Our capital budget is our most powerful job creation tool we have as a government,” said Lierman, a former member of the House Appropriations Committee.

She also voiced support for state pension funds investing in state-owned companies, a policy Adams also backs as “double bottom line investing.”

Monitoring of state contracts

Asked about specific contracts entered into by the state that should be monitored more closely, Adams said he was concerned about public-private partnerships.

Lierman said she was concerned about a slew of contracts that were retroactively approved by the Public Works Board during the pandemic, including controversial deals for COVID-19 test kits and contractors to process unemployment claims. .

She said the contracts amounted to “hundreds of millions of dollars worth of contracts…which was basically a huge waste of money.”

Adams and Lierman agreed that a public-private partnership for Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s plan to widen parts of the Capital Beltway and I-270 with toll lanes should have included a more concrete commitment towards union work earlier in the contracting process.

Lierman and Adams also each expressed concern about the continuation of the enlargement project. Lierman said other policy decisions need to be made to tackle ring road congestion more comprehensively, including making sure people can live close to where they work or meaningful transportation opportunities. She also said the state should carry out an analysis – which has not been carried out so far – to understand whether a public-private partnership or a traditional construction contract would be the best alternative for the construction of highways.

Adams said he doesn’t believe toll lanes will help average Marylanders, that light rail should be considered an alternative, and that the state should have a more meaningful process to allow losing bidders to challenge contracts. .

Reflections on recent reforms

Candidates were also asked about recent legislative efforts to reduce the comptroller’s role in certain policy decisions, including funding for school construction and enforcement of state alcohol and tobacco laws.

Lierman said General Assembly lawmakers decided to create the Interagency Commission on School Construction to expedite school construction and renovation contracts and that every child in Maryland should attend a well-built, air-conditioned, equipped with a powerful and “worthy of them” Internet access.

Adams said he believed the change in oversight of school construction was a “political decision” and that he would like to see that power returned to the Public Works Board. He said pressure from politicians, including at the Board of Public Works, to install air conditioning in public schools has brought greater public visibility to important policy decisions.

Adams said he would also support moving the new State Alcohol and Tobacco Commission into the comptroller’s office, while Lierman said she supported creating the separate entity, which was compliant. best practices of state governments across the country.

“I think the only reason we should move an agency … is if we can show that it’s a benefit for citizens, for taxpayers,” Adams said. “I haven’t seen anything to show that there has been any sort of improvement by moving the alcohol and tobacco regulations from the comptroller’s office.”

Both candidates support the legalization of marijuana for adult use. Lierman would transfer oversight to the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, while Adams said he would prefer direct oversight.

Lierman approved

The forum took place Tuesday night, hours after Lierman secured an endorsement in Adams’ court – from Bowie Pro Tem Mayor Adrian Boafo.

The approval was announced on social media on Tuesday morning.

“Brooke is an effective leader who knows how to get things done and deliver her constituents to the country,” Boafo, who is running for the Prince George’s County House of Delegates, said in a statement. “I have unique insight into this race and Brooke is the candidate who has the experience and know-how to ensure that every dollar goes back to the community to fund our public schools and support our small businesses. With Brooke, I know Prince George’s County will always have a seat at the table.

(To see a list of past mentions in the race for controller, click here.)

Posted AG forum videos

The same organizations held forums last week with candidates for Maryland attorney general. The Schaefer Center for Public Policy at the University of Baltimore released a video of the forums for Republican candidates and Democratic candidates this week.

The controller forum video should be released later this week.

Melvin B. Baillie