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Best Week, Worst Week: Northrop Grumman gets a $20M gift; Secretary’s resignation alters future of DHMH

best-worst-121716Northrop Grumman got a $20 million early present this week from the Maryland Legislature as Maryland kept at least 10,000 jobs in Linthicum, while the state’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene faces an uncertain future with the immediate resignation of its top leader.

Government affairs writer Bryan P. Sears reported Tuesday that the joint Legislative Policy Committee unanimously approved a $20 million, four-year aid package to Northrop Grumman two weeks after Gov. Larry Hogan and the legislature reached a compromise that freed up the aid to the defense contractor in return for $20 million in aid to local pension plans for teachers.

As part its deal with Maryland, one of the largest packages of state aid to a private company, Northrop Grumman would receive $5 million annually over four years and agree to keep a minimum of 10,000 employees at its Linthicum plant. Also included was included $37.5 million in refundable tax credits for the company for generating new business. Those tax credits are refundable and will go to the company even if they do not owe state taxes as long as they meet benchmarks including increasing the amount of business brought into the state.

Northrop Grumman was the second major employer in Maryland this year to get an aid package to keep employees in the state. A similar, $70 million incentive package has been proposed to help keep Marriott International in Maryland. That deal includes tax breaks and $20 million in forgivable loans from the state’s Sunny Day fund.

Meanwhile, the resignation of Maryland Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene Van T. Mitchell comes less than a month before the start of the 2017 General Assembly session and amid pressure for the department to more promptly care for criminal defendants waiting for court-ordered psychological evaluations for possible commitment or to determine their competency to stand trial.

Sears broke the story of the secretary’s resignation on Thursday after Mitchell emailed his staff with the news but few details concerning the reasons or the timing of his departure. The governor’s office only added a blanket statement, saying Mitchell was “leaving his position in the administration to pursue opportunities in the private sector after two years of service to the state.”

Adding to the mix was the selection of Dennis Schrader as Mitchell’s replacement. Schrader has served as the governor’s appointments secretary and as deputy transportation secretary, but lacks Mitchell’s background in health care policy.

Hogan administration officials defended Schrader’s selection, saying he has decades of experience delegating responsibilities in running a large, complex agency through his time in executive positions at the University of Maryland Medical System Corporation from 1987 to 2003, as Maryland’s homeland security director and as an elected official in Howard County.