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Harris Jones & Malone: Spotlight on Senator Edward Kasemeyer

Senator Edward Kasemeyer, Chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee

Each session, the State budget is one of the most important and controversial topics of discussion surrounding the General Assembly. With the roughly $500 million surplus the State received after restructuring spending priorities in 2015, this year’s budget has been one of the more interesting to follow in recent years. One man who knows the importance of the State budget and has played a vital role in ensuring that it addresses the concerns of Maryland’s citizens is Senator Edward Kasemeyer (D- 12, Baltimore County & Howard County). The current Chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, Senator Kasemeyer has been at the forefront of the State’s efforts to reduce the budget and limit unnecessary spending. I sat down with Senator Kasemeyer to discuss his background, role as Chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, and his various legislative achievements.

Senator Edward Kasemeyer was born in Baltimore, Maryland and attended Baltimore City and Howard County public schools as a child. Following high school, Senator Kasemeyer attended Western Maryland College, now known as McDaniel College. Despite being heavily involved with student government and athletic associations as a student, Senator Kasemeyer never imagined he would enter the world of politics. “I was always interested in politics but I never imagined that I would run for office. It wasn’t like a goal or something I thought I would do,” says Senator Kasemeyer. However, as Senator Kasemeyer grew older, he noticed that he consistently found himself in positions of leadership. As such, Senator Kasemeyer began to ponder whether he could use his leadership skills and interest in government to serve the citizens of Maryland. After running unsuccessfully for the Howard County Democratic State Central Committee in 1974, Senator Kasemeyer was finally elected in 1978. As a member of the State Central Committee, Senator Kasemeyer had the opportunity to work with Howard County legislators and recalls the sense of excitement he felt when visiting Annapolis. Speaking of his visit to Annapolis, Senator Kasemeyer recalls, “I came into the legislative chambers and it really impressed me. I thought to myself, I’d like to be here. I don’t know. It’s kind of a weird phenomenon or feeling. When I came in here I thought, that’s somewhere I wanted to be.” Feeling that he represented the perspectives of citizens throughout his district and having the urge to express their views on a statewide level, Senator Kasemeyer decided to run for the Maryland House of Delegates.

In 1983, Senator Kasemeyer was elected to the Maryland General Assembly as a member of the House of Delegates. Four years later in 1987, Senator Kasemeyer was elected to the State Senate. After a brief hiatus, Senator Kasemeyer returned to the Senate in 1995 and has served the State of Maryland every year since. In addition to his normal duties as a member of the legislature, Senator Kasemeyer served as Majority Leader and Vice Chair of the all-important Budget and Taxation Committee from 2007 through 2010. After serving as the Vice Chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee for three years, Senator Kasemeyer was elevated to Chairman in 2011 and has been in that role ever since.  Speaking of his time in the legislature, Senator Kasemeyer discussed the importance of being patient. “Being around here a long while makes you appreciate patience even more. Some things take a long while to change. Don’t be in such a hurry to make change. It’s a deliberate process and that’s probably a good thing,” says Senator Kasemeyer. In addition to patience, Senator Kasemeyer believes that integrity is an essential skill to have in order to be an effective legislator. Senator Kasemeyer’s patience, integrity, and willingness to work with other legislators has made him one of the most effective Chairmen in the General Assembly.

Senator Kasemeyer welcomes the challenge of being the Chairman of the Budget and Taxation committee. Speaking of patience in acquiring such a prominent leadership role, Senator Kasemeyer says, “It’s been very satisfying and it’s taken a long while but each step of your career presents a new challenge and creates opportunities. Eventually if you work hard you can reach whatever your goal is. It’s been very satisfying to become Chair and I enjoy my position I serve in today.” In his role as Chairman, Senator Kasemeyer’s goals are to empower each member of his committee and include them all in the decision making process.  Senator Kasemeyer says that in order to accomplish these goals, “You try to make everyone feel important and significant to the group, and let them know you value each person, which you do, you have to.” Despite the significant amount of power Senator Kasemeyer holds as Chairman, he believes that government works best when everybody plays a role. He also believes that legislators are most effective when they feel they play a vital role in the legislative process. By involving each member of his committee in decision making, the Budget and Taxation Committee has been able to help pass a balanced and fiscally responsible budget each year Senator Kasemeyer has served as Chairman.

Senator Kasemeyer’s accomplishments in the legislature are not limited to his role in helping Maryland pass a balanced budget. Senator Kasemeyer has also been an important voice in helping Maryland attract businesses by fighting to make sure Maryland tax law does not unfairly target growing business. In 2008, Senator Kasemeyer help lead the fight in opposition to a tax targeted solely at the computer service industry. The tax was introduced in a time when the computer service industry was growing and expanding. In opposing the tax, Senator Kasemeyer remained cognizant of the positive impact a business-friendly climate can have on Maryland job creation and the State economy as a whole. Efforts like Senator Kasemeyer’s to protect growing industries and small businesses led to Maryland being ranked the 16th best state for business according to Forbes magazine in 2012.

Senator Kasemeyer has also been a strong proponent of improving the quality of life for Maryland’s developmentally disabled communities. In 2010, Senator Kasemeyer introduced legislation establishing an income tax check off system for the developmentally disabled. The legislation allowed for voluntary contributions to the Waiting List Equity Fund which is used to provide community-based services to those not receiving service from the developmental disabilities administration.  Senator Kasemeyer’s work with the developmentally disabled community earned him the “Champion for Real Lives Award” from the Maryland Developmental Disabilities Coalition in 2013. Lastly, Senator Kasemeyer has been a strong proponent of improving Maryland’s K-12 education and making higher education more accessible. In his time in the legislature, Senator Kasemeyer has continually advocated for school construction projects in Baltimore and Howard counties. He has also worked with other legislators to help make community colleges more affordable and has supported freezing tuition at public universities throughout the State. Due to Senator Kasemeyer’s efforts to move Maryland education forward, he was awarded the 2016 John R. Hargreaves Distinguished Legislative Fellow award by Salisbury University.

Senator Kasemeyer’s focus for the 2016 session remains on ensuring that Maryland has a fiscally responsible budget. “The budget has become a challenge all into itself in terms of creating a document that helps all segments of society. Not just business, or education, or human services, but somehow you spread the benefits around so that everyone benefits in some way”, says Senator Kasemeyer. Senator Kasemeyer has committed himself to working with members from across the aisle and within his own party to ensure Maryland continues to have a balanced budget. Beyond the budget, Senator Kasemeyer has introduced legislation requiring teachers and professional personnel at the Maryland School for the Blind to be paid annual salaries at least equal to the salaries of Baltimore County public school teachers and professional personnel with similar training and experience. Senator Kasemeyer believes this legislation is a step in the right direction to ensuring equality across the board for those who sacrifice their time to educate Maryland’s youth. Whether it be through improving education, balancing the budget, or creating job opportunities, Senator Kasemeyer remains committed to improving the quality of life for all of Maryland’s citizens.

By:  Kenneth N. Harris, Jr.

 

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