Government for All Marylanders
Article I of Maryland’s Declaration of Rights declares that government is instituted for “the good of the whole.” Government needs to work for all Marylanders, not just some. One of the great strengths of our state is the diversity of our residents. Maryland will not fully prosper until our government is responsive to its constituents regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, ability, age, sexuality, language, nation of origin, creed or other aspect of identity.
As a civil rights attorney and legislator, Brooke has fought for equitable treatment for all and the recognition of common dignity of countless Marylanders. As Comptroller, she will continue to lead with a focus on equity and accessibility which is present throughout each of her policy planks. (You can read more about Brooke’s policy ideas for tackling racial disparities here.)
Through a collaborative process with advocates and residents from around Maryland over a six-month period, Brooke pulled together the below policy priorities. If you have an idea, please share it at [email protected].
Brooke will ensure that the important role of our immigrant community is understood by all Marylanders, sharing the data on the important role they play in our economy and in our tax system.
Focusing Outreach to Immigrant Communities
Brooke will reimagine the Comptroller’s field offices to better interact and integrate as part of their communities. Brooke will ensure field office staff are fluent in common languages and have access to appropriate translation services and that forms and materials are available in the many languages spoken in Maryland’s communities. The Comptroller must have an active presence in immigrant communities to address issues like Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) application hesitancy and the importance of filing taxes. The Comptroller can more actively educate those in immigrant communities in partnership with nonprofit organizations like CASH Campaign of Maryland.
Stopping Fraudulent and Predatory Tax Preparation Services
Fraudulent and predatory preparers may take advantage of inexperienced or vulnerable filers like immigrant workers, offering false promises for higher refunds with the intention to turn a profit at the expense of taxpayers. Data provides powerful tools in the fight to stop predatory practices. The identification and tracking of unlicensed third-party preparers will be key in weeding out these predatory practices. Brooke will call for disclosure requirements for tax preparers that require predatory preparers to clearly disclose their tax preparation fees to customers and to disclose any payments received on refund advance loans. Brooke will also create a task force to work with the State Board of Individual Tax Preparers to improve enforcement measures. Read more about Brooke plans for tax policy and practice here.
Increasing Outreach to Immigrant-owned Small Businesses
Immigrants are almost twice as likely to start a company than U.S.-born citizens, and immigrant-owned companies are major drivers of job creation nationally. In 2018, Maryland was home to more than 65,000 immigrant entrepreneurs and accounted for 23% of all self-employed Maryland residents. This community of business owners represents billions of spending power and tax revenue. Between 2006 and 2010, immigrant-owned businesses in Maryland generated a net income of $2.8 billion There is a disproportionate number of “invisible,” immigrant business owners due to hesitancy to interact with government agencies. As Comptroller, Brooke will build trust with these communities and provide information and resources to new and existing entrepreneurs like providing support to business owners without social security numbers (SSN) file taxes. She will also ensure that Maryland’s procurement and contracting policies are fair and accessible to immigrant business owners.
As Comptroller, Brooke will use data to deeply understand the situation of immigrant workers and business owners to help target resources and solutions effectively. Brooke plans to release data on Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) filers each year to demonstrate the economic and community benefits that immigrants provide to Maryland. Using data, the Comptroller’s office will be better able to serve immigrant communities and work with the General Assembly and Governor to propose equitable solutions.
Maryland must be a place that welcomes seniors and seeks to ensure they can live out their later decades in comfort and peace, continuing to devote time and energy to uplifting their communities and enjoying their families.
Increasing the Affordability of Aging
As Comptroller, Brooke will promote affordable housing, convenient transportation, and fair taxation for older Marylanders. She understands that older adult Marylanders need a range of affordable housing and lifestyle options. These include remaining in current homes, downsizing, moving to senior communities, retrofitting and for those in need, skilled nursing or assisted living facilities. Brooke will promote using State funds as a source for safe and affordable housing opportunities. Most importantly, Brooke will advocate for just and reasonable taxes for older adult Marylanders, especially focusing on creating policies that are helpful to low-income older adult Marylanders. You can read more about Brooke’s plans for thriving communities here and plans for tax policy here.
Making Maryland an Age Friendly State
Brooke is committed to Maryland being a certified Age-Friendly state that meets World Health Organization’s Age Friendly communities framework for serving the needs of older adult Marylanders. She will work to create accessible, quality health care integrated with mental health and social services for all Marylanders. She will create communications networks to express and secure help meeting diverse needs and concerns. Brooke will work closely with local and municipal governments to provide transparent and user-friendly information on services and spending across the State of Maryland. She will work with other State offices to strengthen Maryland’s consumer protection programs. For instance, her proposed expanded Ombudsman services will proactively reach out to older adult Marylanders helping them claim exemptions and working with the Attorney General to aggressively pursue scams and other fraudulent activity. Brooke will also create a mobile tax unit which can bring services and assistance directly to older Marylanders. Brooke will forge new partnerships and leverage existing ones with faith-based communities, non-profit organizations, business communities, and educational communities in order to further understand and respond to the challenges older adult Marylanders face.
Choosing Where You Age
By 2030, more than one in four Marylanders will be sixty or older. Most will be healthy and will want to live in community settings where they can pursue an active lifestyle, while those in need of care will face difficult decisions regarding obtaining the help they need whether at home, with family, or in long-term care facilities. Brooke understands that older adults have choices for their places of residence, from independent living to skilled nursing facilities, if they can afford them. She will work to protect older adult Marylanders’ financial stability in the face of increasing costs for assisted living with innovative programs to make long-term care insurance more accessible and affordable during a person’s working years. She will work to ease the financial burdens working families of aging parents face with in-home care for older adults. Brooke is committed to a Maryland where people can age well, regardless of financial status. As Comptroller, Brooke Lierman will use her position and authority to make and keep Maryland an attractive place for older adults to live and stay.
Increasing the Affordability of Long-term Care
An increasing number of Marylanders are expected to require long-term care in their later years. Long-term care can be incredibly expensive ranging from $1,000 per month for less intensive support up to $15,000 per month. Long-term care insurance is available, however the premiums on these policies can be expensive enough to be prohibitive to many Marylanders as they plan for the future. As Comptroller, Brooke will call for a long-term care insurance public option that would create a larger pool for negotiating rates and premiums to drive down costs to Maryland participants.
Offering and Creating Opportunities for Vital Aging
Brooke understands that older adult Maryanders are a diverse and active community of people eager to continue contributing to a vibrant and thriving Maryland. She will work with the State’s business communities to encourage practices that combat ageism and support hiring older adult Marylanders. She will also interact with local Area Agencies on Aging and nonprofits to support intergenerational and intragenerational programming and find opportunities for recreation, life long education, volunteerism, and the arts for older adult Marylanders. Brooke will also use her position on the Board of Public Works to vote for senior-friendly projects to be brought to Maryland communities.
Create Tax Incentives to Support Aging Communities
Brooke will call for establishing a commission to explore the creation of new state tax incentives to support a wide range of ideas to support seniors, including incentives to build affordable senior housing, to lower or eliminate taxes on pensions, and to incentivize private long-term care insurance.
When women succeed, Maryland succeeds. As the first woman Comptroller in the state, Brooke will devote herself to ensuring that no woman is left behind.
Women & the Workforce
Many Marylanders are caring for children and their aging parents simultaneously. This fast-growing group is sometimes referred to as the “Sandwich Generation.” The Sandwich Generation is increasingly becoming younger, more female, and more racially diverse – a trend only accelerated by the pandemic. The costs of care include time, money, energy, and emotion. The financial stability of Marylanders in these situations are critical now and will become an even larger concern in the years to come. As Comptroller, Brooke will push the General Assembly, the Department of Health, and other state agencies to think and act to innovate and pilot successful programs for increasing the accessibility and affordability of child and elder care. Brooke will call for ways to provide tax relief to families caring for elders to ease the stress and financial burden.
Making Childcare Accessible and Affordable
As a mom of two, Brooke personally understands the needs of working parents and the demands of modern family life. Brooke has been a champion for the Healthy Working Families bill (the paid earned sick leave bill), and has supported increased access to high-quality and affordable child care options for Maryland families. Women cannot work without affordable, quality child care and a safe, stable home. The rising cost of childcare coupled with the reduced availability of quality childcare leaves women having to choose between leaving employment or settling for inconsistent or unlicensed care. According to the Maryland Family Network (MFN), almost 50% of working Maryland parents reported that they lost work time due to childcare issues and nearly15% reported having to make larger adjustments to compensate for lack of adequate, affordable childcare, like shifting from full-time to part-time work. As Comptroller, Brooke will continue working with parents and state government to increase Child Care Subsidy payments for working families and identify and eliminate barriers to starting new child care facilities in Baltimore and around the State. Creating high-quality child-care provides jobs, starts our children on a solid path from their first days, and enables parents to return to the workforce confident that their children are being cared for. It must be a priority for Maryland, and Brooke will fight to keep attention focused on this critical need.
Making Pay Work for Women
In Maryland, women (on average) earn an estimated 11% less than men. This figure is worse for Black women, Latina women, Asian women, and Indigenous women.
Support Women-Owned Businesses
Business owners in Maryland are 1.2 times as likely to be a man and the value of the business is 1.8 times higher for men. Women are more likely to lack access to start-up capital or networks or wealth that can be leveraged. Women of color, particularly Black women are less likely to own a business than white women. Women are also more likely to be sole proprietors versus owning a business with employees. As Comptroller, Brooke will advocate for and/or institute programs to:
- Teach women to negotiate for better salaries, following a model being deployed in Boston
- Make expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit permanent and valuable for workers without dependents and immigrant taxpayers
- Make tax credits for child and dependent care refundable and tied to today’s child care costs
- Analyze Maryland business tax credits to determine if equitably distributed to women-owned businesses, including by race.
Setting Ambitious Procurement Targets & Creating Procurement Centers
Procurement can be a valuable mechanism for leveling the playing field for Black and brown-owned businesses. As Comptroller, Brooke will use her seat on the Board of Public Works not only to ensure that we are meeting all MBE targets, but also to ensure our procurement regulations are resulting in best value for the state – not just the lowest price. Examining contracts and understanding not only what is being built but who is doing the building will be something Brooke takes seriously. State agencies will review current procurement goals for minority-owned businesses and look to increase these goals. To make contracting with the State of Maryland more accessible to Black and brown-owned businesses, the Comptroller will establish Procurement Centers in local offices to assist businesses with necessary certifications and bidding on State contracts. The Procurement Centers will actively recruit small businesses in their regions, connect them directly with state government procurers and create a robust mentor-protégé program with procurers and larger state contractors. Read more about Brooke’s plans for procurement reform.
Ending Gender-Based Consumer Goods and Services Pricing Practices
A gender price gap exists among consumer products and services directed at women. Everything from razors to shaving cream to shampoo and conditioner cost on average 48% more than those marketed to men. A study on gendered pricing released by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs finds that products marketed to women cost more nearly half of the time. This premium on items is sometimes referred to as the “pink” tax. Some items marketed to women not only cost more but actually contain less of the product in an approach called “shrink it and pink it.” Some states have passed legislation addressing this issue, banning practices of differentiating prices based on gender. As Comptroller, Brooke would call for similar legislation that would prevent price-setting practices based on gender.
Building Financial Capacity
Women (and the rest of society) will benefit from women learning financial management skills from an early age. This will better position women and their families for a more financially resilient future. It’s particularly important for women as they tend to live longer than male partners, often with less wealth or assets at their disposal.
Lack of financial skills and access can, and often, leads to financial insecurity, financial abuse, predatory lending, and mounting debt. Women have been underserved in this area, as past biases favor men and finance. This is changing, but still presents a disadvantage for women. Many women, particularly those who are low-income, live in banking deserts where there is no access to affordable financial services.
Managing money can be intimidating. Financial products are often confusing, tax consequences complicated and investment strategies overwhelming. Budgeting, record-keeping and managing debt are time consuming and complex. Women earn, on average 20% less than men, and are often in positions of multitasking each day as they work full-time, raise a family, engage childcare support, plan for a retirement without a pension, save for college and care for aging parents. This leaves little time for financial skill building, but may unintentionally cause opportunities for mounting debt and financial misunderstandings.
Without a clear foundation of basic financial skills, and access to appropriate financial services, women miss financial opportunities to budget, save, manage debt, 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/funding. For those transitioning out of abusive situations, bank protections to prevent identity theft can lead to a woman being found or exposed.
Brooke will work to:
- Ensure that access to high-quality, affordable financial education and skill building is available to all Marylanders, at all ages
- Support teachers and educators to deliver high-quality financial education in schools
- Ensure that programs that help women include financial education and access to quality financial services
- Working with MD Center on Economic Education and the CASH Campaign’s MD CASH Academy to promote financial education options through women’s organizations and women’s schools
Ensuring Inclusiveness & Accessibility of Forms and Systems
Under Brooke’s leadership, the Comptroller’s Office will review all forms and systems to ensure inclusivity and accessibility for all Marylanders. Her Office will work to update systems to accommodate name changes for transgender and nonbinary Marylanders to improve the accuracy of official communications.
Preventing Discrimination in State Contracting
As Comptroller, Brooke will be an independent watchdog on the Board of Public Works to ensure that contracts are not being provided to bad actors who run afoul of Maryland’s nondiscrimination policies. She will push to collect data and report on who is receiving state contracts based on race, gender, and sexuality.
Streamlining Minority & Small Business Certification
While Maryland’s process for certifying minority and women-owned business enterprises is the oldest in the country and is generally highly regarded, the process remains intimidating for many new business owners already experiencing barriers to successful entrepreneurship. It should not be overwhelming, cumbersome, or unduly time-consuming to request and receive the state’s confirmation that your business qualifies for its applicable certification. At the same time, no one benefits if the State’s certification process lacks sufficient rigor and unduly licenses undeserving businesses. Certification procedures are embedded within the Maryland Department of Transportation while oversight is implemented by the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority and Women Business Affairs and the state’s Chief Procurement Officer working for the Department of General Services. Maryland’s Minority and Women-owned Business Enterprise certification process appears fractured. Brooke promises to prioritize focus on ensuring open and equitable access for all potential qualifying businesses to benefit from the state’s programs.
Promoting Accessibility in State Systems
Accessibility for people with disabilities needs to be front and center in the procurement process for both public- and employee-facing systems, especially technology and IT purchases and contracts. Brooke will be an advocate for accessibility in state construction projects and procurement contracts through the Comptroller’s seat on the Board of Public Works (BPW). Brooke will call for the development of an independent IT testing group, which will include individuals with disabilities, to ensure that proposed and final systems meet the accessibility needs of every Marylander. Read more about Brooke’s plans for procurement reform.
Promoting Transparency in Goals & Funding for People with Disabilities
State agencies should be transparent about their hiring goals, the percentage of employees with disabilities, and disability funding. As Comptroller, Brooke will demand adequate funding and transparency for state agencies and apply oversight to those agencies’ efforts.
Ensuring the Office of Comptroller Reflects the Population of Maryland
The Comptroller’s Office and the services it provides must be accessible to every Maryland resident. The Comptroller’s Office will model state agency leadership in serving and employing a diverse workforce. Under Brooke’s leadership, residents with disabilities will avail themselves of services. Her Office will be a model employer for people with disabilities and people of every demographic.
Fighting for Workers as an Attorney & as a Delegate
Brooke has represented workers for over a decade as an attorney – most recently being named one of the 500 best employment lawyers in America. She has fought for low-wage workers who are not fortunate enough to have a union representing them; she has represented school bus drivers; and, she represented the workers at the Baltimore ESPN Zone who were illegally laid off in violation of the WARN Act, winning a major settlement for them. In other words, Brooke knows and understands the plight of many working people and has been on their side.
As a State Delegate, she has continued her advocacy for workers, advocating for our state employees and educators, working to expand collective bargaining rights, and helping safeguard the pension of our state retirees. She has supported a ban of PFAS to protect our firefighters from chemical hazards, and championed investments in public transit to support our bus drivers. She also championed and supported legislation to raise Maryland’s minimum wage and introduced legislation to ensure transparency in paystubs that Marylanders receive to better ensure fair and accurate pay by employers.
Protecting Workers Rights in Procurement
As Comptroller, Brooke will play an active role as a member of the Board of Public Works, ensuring that The Board of Public Works pursues best value for its contracts, not just lowest price. Best value ensures that project labor agreements are in place, apprenticeship programs are supported, and/or labor neutrality agreements are in place. This practice ensures our contracts have a double bottom line: securing excellent service for our state and increasing prosperity and good jobs in the state.
Improving Working Conditions for Maryland’s Employees
Brooke has been advocating for improved health & safety in American workplaces for over a decade, authoring a cited law journal article detailing the importance of unions in fulfilling the promises of OSHA. As Comptroller, she will ensure that every agency and contractor follows the health and safety stands of Federal OSHA and the Maryland Occupational and Safety Act. It is never acceptable for public servants to work in unsafe conditions or for tax dollars to be spent on contractors who do not take every precaution for keeping workers safe and healthy.
Expanding Apprenticeship Programs
Maryland employers need a skilled workforce, ready to work at jobs from installing electric charging stations to driving busses to doing advanced manufacturing and more. Union-led apprenticeship programs are critical for Maryland’s economic development and to build healthy and thriving families and communities. Brooke will work to ensure that every contractor that works for Maryland has a training program that will uplift Maryland’s workers and build a strong union workforce.
Fighting Misclassification & Wage Theft
Because of her work as a labor and worker attorney, Brooke understands the challenge of misclassification and wage theft and the result that it has in underpaying workers. She will use the Comptroller’s office to crack down on unscrupulous employers who misclassify workers or underpay them. She will ensure that when workers file cases alleging violations of underpayment or misclassification, that the Comptroller is auditing those companies to hold them accountable for all taxes owed.
Ensuring a Just Transition
Workers and unions must be front and center for all conversations regarding our state’s movement toward clean energy. Brooke will ensure that as wind energy and solar energy comes to Maryland, unions are involved in conversations to help ensure our workforce is ready to go and are union-led.
Comptroller’s Labor Advisory Board
Brooke will also ensure that Labor Unions have a friend and advocate for their members. She will appoint a liaison to all labor unions in the state to ensure that they have a clear line to get guidance and help for their members in the case of concerns over taxes, billing, etc. Brooke will also form a Labor Advisory Board with representatives from a cross-section of unions from all over the state to advise her on the state of labor, challenges, and to recommend actions she takes as Comptroller to improve the working conditions of Maryland’s working and union families.
Youth and Young Adults
Opportunities for All
There are 1.1 million young adults between the ages of 18 and 36 living in Maryland. Brooke understands that a requirement of a thriving young adult population is abundant access to high-quality educational and career opportunities. Whether this looks like getting a bachelor’s degree at University of Maryland, starting a small business in Carroll County, working at a non-profit in Baltimore, or attending a trade school for welding, Brooke will support young Marylanders to achieve their vision of success. Brooke will prioritize ensuring access to the critical infrastructure that young adults need to access these opportunities – from wide-spread access to broadband internet to transportation options necessary for an efficient commute.
Increasing Affordability for Young Marylanders
Brooke understands that the cost of living nationally has outpaced the growth of average wages, and a balance is particularly important for young professionals who are beginning their careers and adult lives. Brooke supports easing the burden of student debt by providing support with loan repayment and providing a Maryland public service option for recent graduates. Beyond that, Brooke understands that parents need access to affordable childcare in order to maintain work and build careers. This issue particularly affects women, and Brooke is committed to introducing incentives and programs to increase childcare options. Lastly, affordable housing in areas proximate to work and school is critical to maintain a healthy workforce; Brooke will work to incentivize affordable housing to meet the needs of young adults.
Creating a Human-Centered Tax Experience
As young adults join the workforce and start earning, many of them will pay taxes for the first time. Brooke strongly supports re-shaping our current tax payment process to maximize accessibility for all, ease of use, and efficiency. Maryland’s tax payment process of the 21st century will include pre-filled tax returns, reduced late tax fees, and a more transparent tax refund system. Beyond that, Brooke will promote access and awareness to tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in order to ensure that eligible young adult Marylanders can claim these funds.
Supporting Cannabis Legalization
Brooke supports the legalization, regulation, and taxation of cannabis. Maryland is lagging behind neighboring states in cannabis legalization. As we’ve seen from other states, legalization has had little to no impact on crime or traffic accidents, has created tens-of-thousands of jobs, and has created tens-of millions of additional tax revenue. Brooke supported efforts toward legalization as Delegate in the General Assembly. She believes that legalization must be accompanied by rigorous regulation and licensing, racial inclusion within the industry, and appropriate criminal justice reforms that include expungement and resentencing for cannabis related offenses.
Supporting Housing Counseling
Housing counseling is an important aspect of financial literacy. As part of the suite of services that the Comptroller’s Office provides through its regional field offices, Brooke will connect taxpayers interested in homeownership counseling with the many nonprofits and community development organizations that provide counseling services free of charge.
Expanding College & Education Access & Affordability
Rising costs of tuition and fees and larger debt loads are becoming a hardship for too many Marylanders. As a Board member of the Maryland 529 plan, Brooke would call for recruitment and performance targets to ensure that there is equitable access and participation to 529 savings plan and match programs. She will work actively to grow participation in the program from Black and brown households and households with incomes under $75k. She will also ensure oversight and transparency of the State’s Guaranteed Access Grant program. You can read more about Brooke’s plan for an excellent education for every student here. Brooke will also work with other state Comptrollers and Treasurers to call on the federal government to do more to alleviate student loan debt.
A Green, Clean Future
Perhaps no threat to our economy and way of life is greater than the threat of climate change. Every elected official in Maryland, including the Comptroller, must be actively engaged in meeting this challenge head on. Climate change is already affecting almost every aspect of our state from the economy to the health of our citizens to the preservation of our cultural heritage. Its consequences will become much more serious in the years ahead and will significantly impact important environmental, social, and infrastructure assets. To prepare for climate change, the State needs a detailed understanding of future impacts, and a long-term strategic plan that outlines the role for all state agencies. Coordination for these actions can begin within the operations of the Office of the Comptroller. Making climate resilience one of the key pillars of the Comptroller’s Office will ensure that all decision-making and functions have a “climate lens” by which to define future actions. Read more about Brooke’s vision for addressing the climate crisis and ensuring healthy, sustainable communities in every part of our state here.
As a civil rights attorney and Delegate, Brooke has been a defender of rights for all Marylanders.
- Brooke has supported legislation that prohibits acts of extortion on the basis of immigration status, prohibits law enforcement from inquiring about immigration or citizenship status, and expands Maryland’s Child Tax Credit to ITIN taxpayers.
- Brooke was a lead sponsor on legislation that protects retired Marylanders supported by disability benefits, expands tax credits on military retirement benefits, supplements food assistance benefits to older Marylanders, and increases supports for survivors of elder abuse.
- Brooke has supported legislation to establish a statewide Commission on LGBTQ Affairs and prevent discrimination of LGBTQ people in comprehensive care or extended care facilities.
- Brooke has advocated for people with disabilities for 10 years, successfully suing universities, states, and the US Military around the country to ensure Americans with Disability Act (ADA) and other civil rights laws were respected and followed.
- Brooke has led efforts to prohibit suspensions and expulsions of prekindergarten and kindergarten students, waive residency requirements for in-state tuition for AmeriCorps members who serve in Maryland, and limit year-over-year tuition increases in public universities.
- Brooke was the lead sponsor on legislation that supports flexible leave for taking care of family member illness, increases support for prenatal and infant care coordination, expands legal services to survivors of domestic violence, and prohibits sexual assault by law enforcement. She has supported legislation establishing earned sick leave, removing firearms from convicted domestic abusers, and expanding child and dependent care tax credits.