Do you support the findings of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education? Are you committed to funding associated reforms, and if so, how?
Moon: Yes. In some respects the recommendations seem obvious. Early child education, quality teachers, and enhanced resources for the most at-risk students are no-brainers that will benefit the whole state. Paying for these ideas, however, is the real challenge. This year I supported legislation to create a constitutional referendum to “lockbox” casino revenues, to increase education funding. Additionally, I believe we need to close the “combined report” corporate tax loophole, that allows large national and global corporations to dodge their Maryland taxes. Generally, we should also restore more progressive tax brackets that previously generated millions of dollars in additional tax revenue that we are currently foregoing.
Is Maryland’s transportation spending appropriately balanced between roads and transit? Does the state have the resources to meet its transportation needs? With the cancellation of the Red Line and the advent of BaltimoreLink, is the Baltimore region adequately served by transit?
Moon: No. While road maintenance funds are obviously necessary, the state needs to prioritize transit infrastructure. Instead, Governor Hogan has proposed billions of dollars in toll-funded highway widening projects across the state that are likely to induce car-oriented development and more traffic. Ironically, Hogan also unilaterally lowered the cost of tolls across the state, thereby depleting our bond-backed transportation funding sources. This leaves us with few choices to raise new dollars, except for public-private partnerships that provide the public with less accountability and bring a private entity’s profit-motives into setting tolls and other fees. Other states that have gone down this road, including Virginia, now see laughably exorbitant “Lexus lane” toll pricing in effect. It’s no wonder the Hogan administration has been aggressively relying on excessive and unjust video toll violation penalties to raise new transportation revenues.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
Moon: Yes. For the last three years, I was the lead sponsor of legislation to let the voters decide the fate of legalization through a ballot referendum. The policymakers are behind the voters on this issue.
At a time when the federal government’s commitment to Chesapeake Bay restoration is questionable, what new steps should Maryland take to protect this resource?
Moon: Maryland needs to aggressively preserve open space and restrict the discharge and runoff of toxic pollutants into our waterways from the agricultural industry, energy plants, cosmetic lawn treatment, and impervious surfaces. Many of these policies were proposed in various bits of legislation over the years (eg: stormwater fees, chicken waste regulation, “safe grow” lawn restrictions, transit-oriented development, coal plant discharge, and more). Almost all of these initiatives failed or were rolled back, so the fight continues.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
Moon: Maryland is better off than many states, due to our unique “all payer” heath care model. Nevertheless, the model relies on layers of entities with profit motives involved in our system. This year we worked to temporarily halt premium increases with a new fee on insurance companies (who just received a federal tax cut), but we are all aware that this is a temporary band aid. Ultimately, we need to continue pushing to restrain excessive prescription drug costs, and put our state on a path to transition our “all payer” model to one that achieves universal, affordable coverage. This may require a transitional period where we implement a state-level individual mandate. In the meantime, we need to take back Congress and the White House, so that we will have allies in restoring federal support to cover the uninsured in our state and constrain costs.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
Moon: All of the historical data indicates that violent crime spiked in Baltimore after Freddie Gray’s spine was snapped and an uprising followed. This has clearly been exacerbated by mistrust of the police, fueled by recent revelations of criminal activity and evidence-planting by law enforcement. Unfortunately, the policy response has been primarily to resuscitate antiquated and emotional “tough on crime” laws, without a corresponding effort at addressing what started us down this road. We can make whatever laws we want, but if people don’t trust what happens if they call 911, it’s hard to see how this problem will be solved.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
Moon: Like many if not most states, Maryland’s business climate is geared toward large corporations and multinational companies. I would like to see this rebalanced in favor of small and medium sized businesses, since they are more likely to cycle state assistance back into the local economy. We can start by reallocating our economic development tax credits toward these more needy businesses. Lastly, we should continue modernizing and expanding our transportation infrastructure, including through enhanced transit services and investment in our port and airport economies.
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
Moon: When policymakers have the ability to require nonpartisan, independent maps for an entire legislative body there are sound policy arguments for doing so. However, this makes less sense when you are only able to do so for a portion of a legislative body. As a result, i support independent redistricting for state legislative districts, but believe congressional districts should be drawn independently for the entirety of Congress. If the latter is not possible, I support doing so in tandem with other states, through an interstate compact.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
Moon: The role of civilians on review boards should be enhanced in the LEOBR, but fundamentally the real problems I see are with the authorization for use of lethal force in too broad a range of circumstances. The public outcry after unwarranted police shootings is not likely to subside until this root issue is addressed, and training is correspondingly reformed.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
Moon: The opioid and overdose crises should be viewed as public health problems warranting a harm reduction approach. We have made great strides in promoting the use of lifesaving drugs like naloxone and shielding those who call 911 for help from prosecution. We have also begun more aggressively monitoring opioid prescriptions and steering people into treatment instead of jail. But fundamentally, we need more resources targeted at substance abuse treatment, given the long waiting lists we currently see at facilities. Additionally, on a macro level, we need to address the economic undercurrents and social malaise that feed the current wave of substance abuse.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
Moon: Maryland should reinstate it’s millionaires tax bracket and roll back recent tax breaks for those who stand to inherit multi-million dollar estates. These two reforms alone would generate almost $1 billion in revenues during each four-year legislative term. Additionally, casinos currently keep a lion’s share of profits, when they should be putting their fair share into the Education Trust Fund. Lastly, Maryland has numerous corporate tax credits that have been deemed ineffective by our state’s nonpartisan legislative analysts. These giveaways, mostly to weapons manufacturers & arms dealers, should be redirected from multinational companies, to local small and medium sized businesses.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
Moon: No. PIA officers too frequently deny requests or attempt to charge excessive fees for public records. Last year I had to pass a bill to require police to explain why they can’t redact documents instead of denying public records requests, when the Montgomery County police refused the press access to files regarding rape cases that they deemed “unfounded.” I also previously introduced legislation to livestream General Assembly floor debates and to post written testimony submitted at bill hearings online. There is no solving this problem. The legislature must be proactive in monitoring compliance with the spirit of our PIA laws.