Statement Regarding 2020 Ballot Questions

Media Contact:
Sam Miller

Statement attributed to Jackie DeCarlo, CEO, Manna Food Center and Lorna Forde, Chair, Manna Advocacy Task Force

SILVER SPRING, October 8, 2020 — Manna Food Center works every day to eliminate hunger in Montgomery County. In our diverse and growing community of 1.1 million residents, hunger remains a real and constant challenge for thousands of families. Supporting neighbors is the guiding force for all that we do. Whether our staff and volunteers are distributing nutritious food or offering nutrition education to our participants, we remain mission focused every day. Our work, and that of our collaborators, aims to fill the gap when our neighbors find themselves not sure where their next meal is coming from. The coronavirus pandemic has brought that mission into sharp focus as fighting hunger has become as important as ever. The unprecedented and widespread challenges being experienced by people in all corners of Montgomery County, MD have in turn challenged us to step up in previously unanticipated ways: to rapidly scale up services, stretch our resources, seek out a wider array of partners, and engage more strategically with coalitions. 

This work happens because of the dedication of our staff and volunteers and the generosity of our partners – including those in government.  Montgomery County has partnered with us in major ways to fight hunger, especially as we renovated our Gaithersburg warehouse and created a center in Silver Spring last year.  Those investments allowed us to rapidly stock up on food resources as the pandemic began and provide essential infrastructure as we increased our distribution efforts as the economic recession began.  In the face of the dire emergency created by COVID-19, the county again answered the call to fund our efforts to address food insecurity, especially making it possible to double the production of Smart Sacks weekend bags and stand-up a grocery delivery service to those most susceptible to illness.  We do not know how long the crisis brought on by the virus will last, but we do know that it is imperative for Montgomery County to remain nimble enough to respond to the emerging challenges and work with Manna to continue providing critical services. 

It is with both our mission and those challenges in mind, that we express very serious concern about Question B; the self-imposed austerity question appearing on the general election ballot this year. Question B would hamstring the county by stripping the county council’s ability to increase revenue that might be collected through property taxes; even with a unanimous vote as is the current law. While this may seem on its face like an ordinary tax issue, it is not. In reducing the tools available to raise revenue for critical services, Question B would arbitrarily constrain the county no matter the future emergency. The loss of fiscal agility threatens the county’s AAA bond rating and shrinks the pool of necessary resources to serve our neighbors in need. In practical terms, this would also seriously curtail the county’s ability to battle the long term fallout from COVID-19 with targeted resources. 

For Manna, Question B represents a real threat our ability to provide expanded services effectively to a growing population of residents who find themselves vulnerable to hunger. Now is not the time to self-impose measures that would stunt the county’s ability to fund itself, and Manna’s ability to provide services to communities when they need us most. Manna does NOT support Ballot measure B.

In a similar regard, the budget process of the State of Maryland is important to Manna Food Center, those who support us, and those we serve. Ballot Question 1 proposes a change to the state constitution that would give the Maryland General Assembly the same power 49 other states have to move money around in the budget.  The budget would still be required to balance each year, and the Governor still will have the authority to set the overall amount of the annual budget. This measure would also give the Governor a new line item veto authority over individual items in the budget. There are 13 states that currently have an AAA bond rating, including Maryland, and the 12 other states all have the type of legislative power over the budget laid out in this ballot question. If passed, this change would not become effective until 2023 and the Fiscal Year 2024 budget, with a new General Assembly and Gubernatorial term.  We believe it is important to give the legislature the authority to determine spending decisions. This would restore the balance of power between the legislature and executive, provide much needed transparency in the State’s budget process, and give ordinary citizens and organizations the ability to advocate for spending decisions directly with their district representatives. For these reasons, Manna supports Question 1.

Manna Food Center is grateful to have a variety of funding streams that enable us to reach more than 40,000 neighbors in need of our services.  As a community based organization with a variety of stakeholders we share these positions in the hopes of educating our constituents on the impact the ballot measures might have on our mission.