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?
McCray: Yes, I support the Commission’s findings, and am committed to funding the reforms outlined in its 5 areas of policy recommendations. I believe reinstating Maryland’s “millionaire’s tax” and returning Maryland’s estate tax to a progressive framework that is lower than the federal level are important first steps to finding the funding these reforms will require. I also believe that putting casino revenue in a “lock box” that supplements rather than replaces existing education funding, while restoring non-casino funding to its pre-casino levels, can help bridge the funding gap. Maryland could also save hundreds of millions of dollars annually by aggressively reducing its prison population the way other states around the nation have- states like Texas, Georgia, New York, and California have reduced their prison populations by over 20% in recent years. If Maryland legalizes adult use of marijuana, the resulting revenue should also be tabbed for education funding, and required to supplement rather than supplant existing funds.
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?
McCray: No, our transportation spending is not appropriately balanced. Study after study shows that putting more lanes on a highway does not actually reduce traffic: getting more residents to use public transportation, however, necessarily reduces traffic. The only way to get more residents to embrace public transportation, however, is to invest in a quality of public transportation that is fast, clean, reliable, and convenient. We simply cannot do that with our current transportation spending balance, which leads our population-centers like Baltimore to suffer by comparison to their competition in cities like DC, Philadelphia, and Boston. The state has the resources it needs to meet these needs- it need only change its spending allocations to give public transportation a greater share of the budget. The Baltimore region- and Baltimore in particular- are not adequately served by transit. We have turned many of our neighborhood main streets into miniature highways used primarily by commuters from surrounding counties and the City’s periphery, to devastating effect on our neighborhoods’ ability to access nearby anchors- Druid Hill Park is a perfect example of this problem. 1 in 4 Baltimoreans lives in poverty, and many more who do not live in poverty still lack regular access to an automobile. Better spending on better public transportation is a solution that will give these residents greater access to opportunity, but it will also improve our City’s appeal to other potential residents looking for a community that keeps pace with the 21st Century’s ever increasing embrace of public transportation.
Do you support the legalization of recreational marijuana?
McCray: I support the legalization of adult use marijuana if it is accompanied by a proper regulatory framework, and its revenue is sequestered for spending on increased equity in Education.
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?
McCray: As a member of the House of Delegates, I have voted to extend protections on our fisheries, reduce pollution from fertilizers and insecticides, and move Maryland’s energy sector and its workers towards a more green economy. An equitable solution that accounts for the needs of chicken farmers but recognizes the environmental reality of their impact on the Bay must be taken if we’re serious about protecting it as a resource. We should also invest more aggressively in restorative infrastructure projects for the Bay that both improve its health and return it to its historic form, by introducing more oyster beds to serve as water filtration systems, and more restorative flora projects so that native grasses can help prevent beach erosion. Maryland can and should also continue to extend the length of our commitment to the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, and increase the percentage of renewable energy that it requires.
What steps should Maryland take to ensure the broadest possible access to affordable health care?
McCray: In lieu of a true single payer system, which countries around the world demonstrate can work quite effectively, Maryland must continue to expand the funding levels available to applicants through the Maryland Health Exchange. Expanding medicare and medicaid coverage, offering seniors more competitive prescription costs and more affordable generic-prescription alternatives, and expanding enrollment for the Health Exchange to be year round would all be steps in the right direction.
What role should the state play in helping Baltimore address violent crime?
McCray: State Government should allow the Baltimore Police Department to focus wholly on criminal enforcement, by permanently assigning the Maryland State Police to perform tasks like highway patrol in the City. State Government should also commit to more aggressive annual funding contributions to violence interruption programs like Safe Streets. State Government could also improve the relationship between the Baltimore Police Department and the residents it serves by passing legislation that improves oversight of the Baltimore Police Department, like requiring civilian participation in all police misconduct hearing boards, and requiring an apparatus for civilian oversight of community policing in Baltimore. The state should also help restore trust in BPD by conducting audits, ensure efficiency and effectiveness by redistricting our police districts every 10 years and ensuring dollars appropriated by the State of Maryland for community policing is utilized for community policing.
How would you characterize Maryland’s business climate? What can the state do to foster the creation of more family-supporting jobs?
McCray: Maryland’s business climate is clearly friendly enough- the high average income levels and low unemployment rates for the state cannot be chalked up entirely to government employment, after all. The problem is that BIG businesses play far too great a role in influencing public policy that ultimately harms workers and small businesses alike. The best way to create more family-supporting jobs is to require that all jobs be family supporting. That means passing legislation like a $15 minimum wage, but it also means requiring the State of Maryland to expand affordable, quality healthcare coverage and improve public transit. Businesses benefit from more punctual, more healthy, less stressed workers. Why shouldn’t they contribute financially to helping generate those outcomes?
Do you support the creation of a non-partisan, independent body to draw legislative and congressional district maps after each census?
McCray: I do, so long as it is clear that our Governor and legislative leaders would actually commit to a truly independent body. As a representative of one of the most impoverished districts in the State of Maryland, I take a strong position on ensuring that my district is represented fairly, along with stakeholders across our great State of Maryland.
Does the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights adequately balance protections for police and the public? Should it be changed, and if so, how?
McCray: No, it does not balance protections among the two groups. LEOBOR must allow for increased accountability to the public, and a role for the public in regulating police misconduct. Perhaps the greatest opportunity for LEOBOR reform is allowing citizens to serve on police misconduct hearing boards.
What strategy would you adopt to address the opioid addiction and overdose crisis?
McCray: We need to augment the strong framework created by the HOPE and Keep the Door Open Acts, by providing the health-based programs they create with more funding so that they can serve more citizens. Opioid addiction must be treated as a health problem at all levels of state-interaction with addicts though, not as a crime problem. This includes de-criminalizing homelessness and its associated acts, so that addicts who experience housing insecurity are given the treatment they deserve, rather than winding up in a jail cell where their situation will only get worse. Moreover, it must be acknowledged that in every state where adult use marijuana is legalized, opioid addictions has fallen, in no small part because of marijuana’s utility as a pain killer.
What if anything should the state do to address income inequality?
McCray: Income inequality can be addressed both by greater equality of opportunity and greater baseline guarantees for employee compensation. For equality of opportunity, that means a stronger education system that provides better pathways to employment through career on-ramps like organized labor supported apprenticeship programs. For better guarantees of family-supporting employee compensation, that means a $15 minimum wage, stronger prevailing wage guarantees for skilled trades, universal access to healthcare coverage, better fair housing oversight so that more Marylander’s have access to home ownership as a vehicle for long term wealth.
Do the state’s Public Information Act and open meetings laws adequately ensure Marylanders’ ability to exercise oversight of the government?
McCray: There is always an opportunity to improve transparency by requiring that government agencies respond more quickly and more constructively to PIA requests from the public. I believe that an ability to exercise greater oversight of the government hinges heavily on campaign finance reform though. Montgomery County has made great strides at a municipal level towards allowing grassroots candidates to run competitive campaigns with public financing, and every municipality in the state deserves to benefit from that same opportunity. By making campaigns less dependent on well-heeled donors, we increase the strength of the average citizen’s voice, and by strengthening that voice, we allow government to become more beholden to their oversight, and less beholden to special interests.