I’m running for Governor because I want to build a Maryland where the sky's the limit for Black Marylanders, and zip code never determines destiny.
This election presents an opportunity for generational change, and I believe that my life’s work has uniquely prepared me to lead the state through this time. After law school, I joined the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department and prosecuted high-profile hate crimes and police brutality cases. I worked for Senator Ted Kennedy as an advisor for civil rights and led the office of civil rights at the Department of Health and Human Services. In 2002, I became the first Latino elected to the Montgomery County Council, and I fought against predatory lending practices that were targeting Black and Brown communities. I later became the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation -- it was right as the foreclosure crisis was beginning to decimate communities -- particularly the Black community. I worked to pass a package of aggressive reforms to protect homeowners. In 2009, I was incredibly honored when President Obama asked me to lead the Civil Rights Division, where I began my career. In that role, I lead systemic police reform cases. I worked to protect the right to vote by bringing cases against discriminatory voter ID laws and working to enforce the Voting Rights Act. And my work to combat predatory lending here in Maryland came full circle, when we reached the second largest fair lending settlement ever in a case against Wells Fargo.
I’ve been in the trenches fighting for working people my entire career. I’m ready to put that experience to work as your partner in Annapolis and to use what I’ve learned to help lift up Black Marylanders.
On issue after issue facing the Black community, we’re punching below our weight.
Here’s a great example: Maryland’s 4 HBCUs have always been agents of equity and excellence in education. Their incredible success has been achieved despite decades of underfunding. The tremendous work of Speaker Jones and many others led to a $577 million dollar settlement for our HBCUs. But we can’t stop there -- that was just a down payment.
As Governor, I will work to combat and develop solutions to the climate crisis, which disproportionately harms Black Marylanders, and make sure that the solutions bring opportunity for the same communities that are most impacted.
As Governor, I will work to address the impacts of the failed war on drugs by reinvesting cannabis tax revenue back into communities that have been systematically and disproportionately criminalized for marijuana.
As Governor, I will partner with local and state leaders to make our streets and our communities safer.
As Governor, I will make Maryland a leader in providing economic opportunities for Black business owners by reforming our antiquated MBE program.
As your Governor, I will intentionally work towards increasing opportunities for Black business start-ups and small businesses through expanding the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority, Neighborhood Business Works, and EARN. We have great examples of programs such as Non-Profit, Interest-Free, Micro Bridge Loans (NIMBLE). The Department of Commerce that I would like to expand for for-profit Black businesses, which will help with access to capital when conducting projects for local, state or federal government. And I will require the Office of State Procurement to provide a summary of reasons for each MBE waiver granted each year to ensure transparency as we work to fix this broken, but important program.
As Governor, I will fight tirelessly to close the health care enrollment gap to ensure that 100% of Black Marylanders can access insurance.
Throughout my career, I’ve spent countless hours listening to the needs and concerns of Black residents of this state, from Mountain Maryland to Southern Maryland, the Eastern Shore. I will continue these conversations in the weeks and months to come -- and I will continue to work with all of you -- to craft a detailed agenda built on a foundation of equity and racial justice. We can’t wait any longer -- we’re at a critical crossroads, and we have to seize this opportunity to bring about real change with real leadership.
According to the latest Census data, a majority of Maryland residents are people of color, and it’s critical that we celebrate our state’s rich diversity and empower communities of color so they’re able to reach their full potential.
Under a Perez Administration, we will:
Recruit and Retain a Diverse Workforce
Develop equity dashboards to provide transparency on the implementation of equity goals and milestones.
- The Office of Small, Minority, and Women Business Affairs has not published its annual report since 2017 -- which is unacceptable.
Recruit, hire, grow, and support Black Talent across state government including in the Governor’s Office.
Within the first 100 days, establish a fellowship within the Office of the Governor to mentor and cultivate young Black leaders, strengthen their understanding of the state government, and prepare them for future public service opportunities.
Build Meaningful Relationships to Spur Innovation
- Collaborate with national Black innovation leaders and organizations, like Fund II Foundation, OneTen, and Ninety to Zero, in technology, medicine, nonprofits, economic development, and other fields in order to implement best practices and make Maryland the capital of Black innovation across the nation.
- Implement recommendations from the Report of the Senate President’s Advisory Workgroup on Equity and Inclusion published in January 2021.
If you work hard, you should be able to punch your ticket to the middle class. This is far from reality for many Black Marylanders. Right now, white American families have roughly ten times the amount of wealth when compared to Black American families. A top priority for Maryland’s next Governor must be to provide economic opportunities to Black Marylanders so they’re able to provide for their families, start and grow businesses, and build generational wealth.
Under a Perez Administration, we will:
Support Workers and Families
- Empower Black workers by proactively affirming the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively for fair wages, decent benefits, a pension, and something to leave behind for the next generation. Unions are critical to combating racial wage inequality. Wages of unionized Black workers are 14.7 percent higher than those of their non-union counterparts.
- Expand collective bargaining and invest in public sector employees to ensure that the state never aids and abets poverty, particularly for Black women, which make up a significant portion of our state’s frontline workers.
- Accelerate increasing the minimum wage and work with Maryland legislators to index future minimum wage increases to the cost of inflation.
- Pass paid family leave that improves the economic security and health of working families, with higher wage-replacement rates for lower-wage workers.
- Increase access to affordable childcare by expanding the Child Care Scholarship program.
Advance Procurement Reform to Address Income and Wealth Inequality
- The Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs has failed to provide an updated MBE goal since it was increased in 2013. 29% isn’t enough.
- Increase the state's MBE goals to bring our goals in line with the state's demographics.
- Ensure that the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority & Women Business Affairs implements all statutory and regulatory requirements of the state’s MBE program in a timely manner.
- Invest in technical assistance for MBEs in submitting competitive and successful bids and proposals for procurement contracts.
- Require the Office of State Procurement to provide a summary of reasons for each MBE waiver granted each year.
- Expand the Department of Commerce’s Nonprofit, Interest-Free, Micro Bridge Loan Account (NIMBL) to include bridge loans to for-profit MBEs who have been awarded a government contract, but have not yet received funding.
Ensure Job Readiness and Support Black-owned Businesses
- Expand apprenticeship opportunities in the Black community, particularly in high-demand high-paying sectors like offshore wind. Black workers cannot be left behind in the clean energy transformation and the economic benefits of the green economy must be equitably shared.
- Bring the skills to the people by providing job readiness and training at all skill levels and by expanding the EARN program at the Maryland Department of Labor.
- Connect Black Marylanders with jobs in manufacturing, which offer a living wage through programs like JARC in Baltimore.
- Leverage the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Authority (MSBDFA) within the Department of Commerce to maintain and expand Black businesses across the State.
- Improve accountability and efficiency of Maryland’s Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) certification program.
Build Financial Freedom
- Direct our state agencies to conduct targeted audits of banks to determine their compliance with their obligations under the Community Investment Act to serve underserved communities.
- Invest in Black banks and Black asset managers to ensure upward mobility of emerging Black financial professionals and support growing wealth in Black communities.
- Increase Black financial freedom by targeting mortgage lending to Black buyers, especially in previously redlined areas, to undo the history of segregation.
Education is the key to a successful, prosperous future, and tragically, far too many Black students across Maryland are missing out on pre-K and K-12 educational opportunities simply because of the zip code they live in. On top of that, we’re facing a critical teacher shortage, particularly Black teachers, and while Maryland is home to four historically Black colleges and universities, they are subject to severe underfunding year after year.
The Maryland General Assembly took heroic action by passing the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future Act, but we must ensure that as we implement the Blueprint, zip code doesn’t determine destiny for our students. We must also make sure that the most economically disadvantaged students and communities receive the support they need and deserve.
Under a Perez Administration, we will:
Ensure Equity in Maryland’s Education System
- Address the chronic teacher shortage by partnering with HBCUs to increase the pipeline of teachers, ramping up recruiting efforts, and providing loan forgiveness or service scholarships to recruit and retain prospective teachers.
- Expand early childhood education programs with financial support to reduce barriers to access and increase early interventions as well as increased funding for Judy Centers, providing family support and wraparound services.
- Launch a comprehensive public engagement campaign to encourage families to enroll Black children in Pre-K and Kindergarten by developing relationships with families of young children from birth.
- Reverse current trend in declining Pre-K and Kindergarten enrollment.
- Increase funding and support for Special Education and English Language Learners, mental and behavioral health services, community school programs, and wraparound services, including school-based health clinics.
- Address the teacher shortage by recruiting Black and Brown educators, especially from HBCUs. Adjust the promotion ladder to include supports to become a National Board Certified Teacher and administrator, increase teacher salaries, and improve teacher preparation programs.
- Elevate teachers across Maryland with the skills necessary to teach young Black Marylanders in the modern classroom, including cultural competency, technological training, and facilitated project learning principles.
- Introduce College & Career Readiness standards beginning in 9th grade, increase funding for CTE programs, and increase dual enrollment partnerships.
- Support the Accountability and Implementation Board (AIB) to perform oversight and routine maintenance to the formula and policy with an ongoing equity lens.
- Increase per-pupil funding from $7,991 in 2022 to $12,365 in 2033 to address technology, broadband, and IT needs as well as faster implementation of Concentration of Poverty Grants.
- Ensure every student in Maryland has access to a challenging curriculum that allows them to reach their full potential by expanding current AP and IB offerings.
- Investigate the causes and impacts of chronic absenteeism in schools and develop a non-carceral strategy to combat absenteeism on a school, community, and individual level without criminalizing our young people.
- Leverage modernized school assessment strategies that complement standardized testing to gain a more comprehensive understanding of Maryland’s educational landscape and shortcomings.
Support Higher Education
- Reinvest the $577 million settlement back into Maryland’s four HBCUs.
- Support capital investment in HBCU campuses to address decades of deferred maintenance expenses and campus modernizations necessary to aid institutional sustainability and competitiveness.
- Invest in campus infrastructure and expand academic capacity in high-demand STEM fields to ensure that Maryland’s HBCUs reach “top research universities'' status.
- Expand Maryland’s Student Loan Debt Relief Tax Credit Program.
CREATING SAFE COMMUNITIES AND REENVISIONING OUR CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
It is a false choice that we either reduce crime or ensure that people’s constitutional rights are protected. We can and must do both.
We have a broken criminal justice system in Maryland and across the country that has historically and continues to criminalize Black Marylanders. The Maryland General Assembly took historic action to pass Anton’s Law to protect Marylanders from unjust policing and are exploring the legalization of marijuana, but it’s critical that the next Governor of Maryland work with the General Assembly to address the injustices of the past and create a more equitable justice system that Black Marylanders can trust.
Under a Perez Administration, we will:
- Take on emerging challenges of “ghost guns.”
- Conduct a thorough review of the probation and parole system. Most individuals that commit violent crimes are on parole or probation. We need to make improvements to the current system to enhance public safety, reduce incarceration and recidivism, and strengthen communities.
Establish Better Pathways Between Prisons and Employers
- Leverage academic excellence in the University of Maryland system and HBCUs to expand job readiness programs for formerly incarcerated people.
- Similar to the LEAP program I enacted at the Department of Labor, establish jail-based American Job Centers to better coordinate pre-release job-seeking services and connect those leaving incarceration with potential employers.
- Expand in-demand pre-apprenticeship programs in state and juvenile correctional facilities and support programs like the Apprenticeship for Formerly Incarcerated Individuals Pilot Program to help transition those leaving incarceration into full-time apprenticeships.
- Align DPSCS occupational training and work readiness with the realities of post-release employment and the job market. Ensure that training programs are connected to market demand and that there are strong industry partnerships, as well as sustainable partnerships between government and non-government entities.
- Create an interagency reentry task force to streamline cooperation between workforce and corrections agencies, coordinate reentry services, and establish formal partnerships between private sector employers, DPSCS facilities and reentry staff, workforce boards, and community-based organizations to build a framework that links currently incarcerated individuals with employment and wrap-around services pre-release.
- Ensure the successful implementation of S.B.77 -- legislation that requires each local correctional facility to develop and implement a policy for assisting incarcerated individuals to obtain identification (ID) cards issued by the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) before release.
Expand Job Opportunities for Justice-Impacted People and Returning Citizens
- Establish programs within the Maryland Department of Commerce to support organizations, or partnerships between organizations, that provide business counseling and entrepreneurial development training to justice-involved individuals.
- Build on the success of H.B. 22 introduced by Representative Sydnor by establishing a commission to evaluate existing state occupational licensing restrictions and mandate ongoing data collection by licensing agencies.
- Build demand for apprentices by requiring project labor agreements and community benefit agreements that promote local hiring and target disadvantaged groups in the labor market, including justice-involved individuals.
Ensure Cannabis Justice
- Expunge and provide automatic record removal for individuals convicted of nonviolent cannabis-related charges.
- Target tax revenue from the emerging cannabis industry to reinvest in communities disproportionately affected by the war on drugs through targeted investments in HBCUs, mental health resources, job training, and entrepreneurial support.
- Lead the nation in ensuring restorative justice in the cannabis industry by prioritizing individuals previously incarcerated for cannabis-related offenses for cannabis business licenses, license fee waivers, and business loans.
- Currently, only two states (Massachusetts and Illinois) have enacted bills that help formerly incarcerated and disproportionately affected communities to get economic access to the legal cannabis industry through equity business applications, which expedite processing and waive fees.
- Only 5 states have established automatic expungement upon legalization of cannabis: New Jersey, California, Illinois, New York, and Vermont.
Ensure 21st Century Policing and Dignity for Justice-Involved Individuals
- Ensure a third of community treatment teams are in place in police departments to de-escalate situations involving people in mental health crises and to divert people in mental health crises away from the criminal justice system and into treatment.
- Develop and implement a community mental health infrastructure that will provide additional tools to law enforcement and people in mental health crises.
- Expand efforts to ensure that mental health calls to 911 are responded to with qualified clinicians and mental health workers rather than law enforcement.
- Break the cycle of criminalizing behavioral health by expanding the use of Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion to connect individuals to substance use treatment and social services such as rental assistance, job training, and mental health programs instead of the criminal justice system.
Protect Children in the Juvenile Justice System
- Require an attorney to be present when a child is first interrogated by law enforcement and ensure that parents or guardians are notified when a child is taken into custody.
- Raise the minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction and ban the incarceration of children for low-level offenses.
Transportation connects Black Marylanders not only to their friends and families, but to job and economic opportunities, educational opportunities, and more. For too long, transportation projects that would largely benefit Maryland’s Black communities have been ignored, underfunded, or canceled altogether.
Under a Perez Administration, we will:
Expand Large-Scale Transit Projects
- Reinstate the Baltimore Red Line.
- Advance the Southern Maryland Rapid Transit Plan to expand light rail service into Charles County.
- Ensure the completion of the Purple Line.
Ensure Sustained Investment in 21st Century Transportation
- Replenish the Transportation Trust Fund to invest in new transportation projects.
Expand Green Transit
- Improve walkability and pedestrian safety in majority-Black areas to create safe and vibrant Black community spaces.
- Invest in green transportation options, including public transportation and school busses as well as electric vehicles, in order to mitigate the impact of climate change, which disproportionately harms Black communities.
Pave a Path to the Middle Class
- Require the use of true Project Labor Agreements for all infrastructure projects, including transportation projects to ensure that workers can gain meaningful employment with good benefits and a path to the middle class.
Every Marylander deserves access to high-quality, affordable health care, yet this care is still out of reach for so many Black Marylanders due to a variety of reasons, including financial hurdles, deeply-rooted health disparities, distance to care, and more.
Under a Perez Administration, we will:
Create a Diverse, Culturally Competent Health Care Workforce
- Invest in local Black health care leaders and providers to expand access to trusted medical professionals and improve culturally competent communication of medical information.
Expand Health Care Infrastructure
- Work with Prince George’s County leaders to re-engage with the Maryland Health Care Commission on a new certificate of need for Prince George’s Hospital that will expand the current hospital capacity to combat health inequities and ensure every community has access to high-quality health care in their own community.
Expand Access to Health Insurance
- Ensure every Black Marylander has health insurance by automating and streamlining enrollment into health care coverage whenever possible, including when filing state tax returns or claiming unemployment benefits.
Tackle the Opioid Crisis
- Reinvest the recent opioid settlement back into the most impacted communities in our state.
Close the Black Maternal Health Gap
Provide targeted support for prenatal and postpartum resources to Black women by fully funding health care providers that engage in black women-specific interventions to ensure every Black baby born in Maryland has a healthy birth.
Close the Black Mental Health Gap
- Integrate mental health services into primary care in order to expand access to mental health and support community healing.
Combat Food Insecurity and Eliminate Food Deserts
- Combat food insecurity and lack of access to fresh food by allowing grocery stores to sell wine and beer in addition to fresh food if they open in a food desert.
Housing is the basis for a healthy life, and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown that countless Black families are just one emergency away from disaster. In order to create stronger, healthier communities, it’s critical that we create a system that will work to keep people in their homes.
Under a Perez Administration, we will:
Invest in Eviction Protections
- Raise the fee that courts in Maryland charge from $15 per eviction case filing to the national average of $120.
- Overhaul the current eviction system to focus on keeping individuals in their homes through the expansion of rental assistance and eviction diversion programs.
- Ensure robust enforcement of source of income discrimination.
- Fully fund H.B.18 to ensure tenants have access to counsel.
- Leverage the Maryland Affordable Housing Trust (MAHT) to expand Maryland’s affordable housing capacity by increasing the award limit to $75,000 and providing financial support to both owners and renters.
Tackle the Appraisal Gap
- Establish a grant program to promote diversity and inclusion in the appraisal profession through scholarships, training and education, and implicit bias training.
- Establish and convene an interagency Task Force on Real Estate Valuation and the appraisal gap, consisting of representatives from the Comptroller’s office, the Department of Assessment and Taxation, the Department of Labor, the Maryland Commission of Real Estate Appraisers, industry representatives, legislators, civil rights advocates, and consumer advocates to evaluate and respond to racial disparities in real estate valuations.
Expand Black Homeownership
- Expand accessibility of the Maryland Mortgage Program to potential Black homebuyers through public information campaigns and improving the transparency of fund disbursement.
- Provide down payment assistance for qualified individuals.
Preserve Marylanders’ Homes
- Expand investments in programs aimed at renovating aging homes for Maryland’s seniors, allowing them to age in place and one day pass their homes to the next generation.