Maryland Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D) repeatedly said during a gubernatorial debate Tuesday that his Republican opponent, Larry Hogan, would cut $450 million from school construction funding if elected governor.
“I also support investments in school construction,” Brown said during the debate in Baltimore. “Mr. Hogan opposes that as well. In fact, in his most recent so-called savings plan, he calls for a $450 million cut to school construction. That would set us back years.”
Hogan said that Brown was “confusing the facts,” but he did not directly dismiss the accusation. After the debate, Hogan told reporters: “I don’t know what he’s talking about. We’ll have to look at that.”
Later in the day, Hogan released a statement saying that he has never called for a $450 million cut to school construction. His campaign called the accusation a “whopper” and Brown’s “tallest tale yet.”
“Lt. Gov. Brown cannot pull numbers out of thin air and attach my name to them,” Hogan said in the statement. “It’s just another example of how this career politician will say and do anything to get elected.”
So where did this number come from?
One of Hogan’s leading campaign promises has been to save the state more than $1.75 billion by finding and cutting waste and fraud in state government. He and his staff studied 300 routine state audits and found dozens of suggestions for places to make those cuts.
The Baltimore Sun reviewed 52 of those audits and reported Saturday that Hogan’s math doesn’t add up. One example cited: A 2013 audit found that the state agency that distributes school construction funding did not adequately track 126 projects that cost $450 million, although the problem was quickly fixed.
“Though there was no suggestion that $450 million was misspent, the Hogan campaign counted the sum as waste, fraud and abuse,” the article states. (This weekend the Brown campaign released its own critique of Hogan’s cost-cutting plan, which also included this example.)
On Saturday, Hogan told reporters that he “absolutely” stands by the numbers in his plan. His campaign has since said that there are clearly calculation problems, but the overall issue of fraud and waste in state government continues to exist.
On Monday, the Brown campaign put out a news release about the Sun article that stated: “Furthermore, Hogan’s plan features a proposal to cut $450 million in school construction funding.” Maryland’s largest teacher’s union, which endorsed Brown, sent out a news release the same day titled: “Larry Hogan’s Massive School Construction Cuts Hurt Students: $450 million cut would result in overcrowded classrooms and students in trailers.”
“Larry Hogan’s budget math should send him straight to the back of the class,” Maryland State Education Association President Betty Weller said in a statement. “Since Hogan refuses to back away from his fuzzy math, the only way he keeps his budgetary promise is by slashing school funding and the services that Marylanders depend on every day. How can we trust Larry Hogan to manage a budget that he clearly doesn’t even understand?”
During the debate on Tuesday — as Hogan passed up several opportunities to clarify his position on school construction funding — Brown’s team sent out another release that was headlined: “Larry Hogan’s plan would slash school construction by $450 million.”