Modernizing the Office of the Comptroller and providing unprecedented customer service to taxpayers will be some of Brooke’s top priorities. This means enhancing current technologies to handle the volume of data, and ensuring the workforce in the Comptroller’s office have opportunities to grow and learn and are supported in their efforts to help every person or company who reaches out to the office. Brooke commits to reducing the shortage of state workers through outreach to all under-represented communities, including veterans and military spouses. Brooke will continue the process of bringing offline processes online to provide a smoother user experience and to provide better, more usable data. The State’s financial data will be provided in a way that allows for comprehensive analysis and that can be easily understood by anyone who visits the website.
Brooke’s take on transparency is clear: everyone should have quick, easy access to information about how money flows through our state government. In an era in which user-friendly dashboards and interactive images overtake the internet, there is no excuse to compel fiscally-minded Marylanders to pour over budget books and make multiple phone calls to bureaucrats to understand Maryland’s finances. OpenBookMaryland will ensure that every Marylander and every Maryland business knows what the State is paying for; how it pays for those goods and services; and when payments are made. No more guesswork and no more Public Information Act (PIAs) requests needed.
The Comptroller has more than 10 offices across the state of Maryland. Brooke will ensure that every office is doing more than its fair share of work for the people in its region. Brooke will work to locate each office in a Main Street district, downtown, or in an area that can help ensure economic development opportunities. Each office will be a hub of activity with classes on banking, tax preparation, housing counseling, and more. They will serve as a place for local community development groups to come together and will be available for any community organization that needs a space to meet to hold financial literacy or tax prep sessions. She also will help bring programs and services online so that Marylanders can experience tutorials through the Comptroller’s website. Brooke will ensure that every local office is participating in the activities of that community.
She will coordinate with the Federal and State Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure Maryland veterans have access to the information they need on benefits, health care, compensation, employment, and tax filing. Every regional office and Comptroller website will have a link to Crisis Hotlines for all struggling Marylanders, including veterans as well as resources from community partners to fight homelessness. She will also coordinate with county-based VSOs and when in a county without a VSO, will work to include VSOs in the regional office.
As Comptroller, Brooke will unleash the way data is used to inform policy and the way the office operates. Brooke will use the wide variety of data the Office of Comptroller collects to problem solve and deploy resources to ensure that communities, businesses and families across the state are thriving. From streamlining small business and minority and women-owned business enterprise licensure to transit planning to workforce development, this data can be a revolutionary tool to develop our economy. Brooke will evaluate small business growth or contractions across communities and wage growth or loss across industries to identify where to focus resources and help local communities and workers.
Brooke will use the available banking information from tax returns to help connect Marylanders who don’t have bank accounts to stable financial institutions and avoid high third-party rates. Brooke will also use data to explore the reasons why households and small businesses are encountering tax debt. As Comptroller, Brooke will use this information to work with other agencies to launch targeted programs to provide the necessary accounting support available from the State and take regional approaches to send support into communities. Financial education saves taxpayer dollars in the long-run and yields higher rates of tax compliance.
Every year, our federal, state, and local tax laws change to some degree. New laws are passed or regulations are added, amended, or deleted. Oftentimes, individuals and businesses wonder how these changes impact their own particular set of circumstances and facts. Brooke would create a private letter ruling process – similar to those processes in our neighboring states – to provide greater administrative tax guidance, transparency, and consistency to Maryland’s individual and business taxpayers in a fiscally responsible manner.
A modern tax code is one that is fair, transparent, and provides adequate revenue to fund government operations. Brooke will advocate for equitable and straightforward tax policies for businesses, workers, and families that make Maryland a competitive place to live, work, and do business. She will advocate for an expansion of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and will be an independent watchdog for the effectiveness of tax incentive programs. Brooke will also bring parties together to explore options for modernizing the state’s income tax code to ensure that everyone pays their fair share.
Brooke will work to streamline the tax return filing process by providing pre-filled out state tax return forms to taxpayers, allowing Marylanders to more easily review their tax returns and make changes before final submission. Drawing on best practices from around the globe, this practice will reduce time and cost for millions of Marylanders, reduce tax evasion, and increase compliance with state tax laws.
Local governments rely heavily on revenues collected by the comptroller to fund their operations. As Comptroller, Brooke will be a reliable partner for local governments. From day one, she will work with local governments to remit taxes quickly, and will continue the work of Comptroller Franchot to modernize the office’s aging software systems to ensure taxes are remiting correctly.
Consumers today are confronted with varying financial challenges. Managing money can be intimidating. Financial products are often confusing, tax consequences complicated and investment strategies overwhelming. Budgeting, recordkeeping, and managing debt are time consuming and complex. Adults, working full-time, raising a family, planning for retirement without a pension, saving for college and caring for aging parents find little time for financial skill building. Without a clear foundation of basic financial skills, individuals often find it difficult to save, invest, and understand financial assets. This increases the risk of unmanaged debt, little or no savings, little or no retirement, bankruptcy and greater dependence on government support programs. Financial institutions, colleges and nonprofits have introduced a variety of online materials offering financial education for adults. As Comptroller, Brooke will work with nonprofits and the financial sector to make financial education resources more widely available.
In 2014, the state of Illinois implemented the Grant Accountability and Transparency Act (GATA). GATA established uniform administrative requirements, cost principles, and audit requirements for state and federal pass-through awards to non-federal entities through a focus on improving performance and outcomes, while ensuring transparency and the financial integrity of taxpayer dollars. Grants comprise a large portion of the General Revenue Fund within the Illinois State Budget. Illinois is the first state in the nation to require uniform rules for the full life cycle of grants management. The program has saved Illinois taxpayer more than $250 million. As Comptroller, Brooke would call for similar legislation in Maryland that will build capacity of the state agency staff and grantee community by mandating grant-related training, and providing guidance and support to correct occurrences of non-compliance with fiscal, administrative and programmatic requirements. This will provide uniformity and guidance for all institutions seeking to partner with grant-making agencies in state government.