Hogan offered highlights of the plan during a news conference Tuesday, but declined to give any details, including the overall dollar amount he will seek from state lawmakers.
“It’s not part of the presentation,” Hogan said, when asked the budget’s total. He said the amount would be available Wednesday, when the budget is fully unveiled.
The proposal does not include a tax increase or layoffs of any essential state workers, Hogan said, adding that the state managed to stave off both with “a little belt-tightening and a bit of luck.”
The state’s fiscal picture is not as bleak as predicted when the pandemic first hit in the spring, because the state’s economy bounced back sooner than expected and financial help from the federal government buffered the impact of widespread shutdowns.
“If you told me last spring, when we faced the prospect of a near-fiscal Armageddon, that we would be able to introduce a budget that provides a billion dollars in immediate tax and stimulus relief for struggling families and small businesses; that makes record investment in education, public health and other key priorities, which is structurally balanced, without any tax increases, furloughs or cuts to services, I would not have believed it was possible,” Hogan said.
According to the budget preview, Hogan wants to spend $7.5 billion for K-12 education. He said his capital budget would include funding for every school construction project in the state that has been backlogged. His budget also includes a recently announced stimulus plan that would waive the state and local taxes on unemployment benefits, offer financial help to those on the unemployment rolls, and give tax relief to small businesses, allowing them to keep up to $12,000 worth of sales tax levied on their customers.
“This budget supports our ongoing response to the pandemic and ensures Marylanders continue to have access to health services,” the governor said, noting that it will fund local health departments, which are on the front lines of the pandemic, above their state grant formulas.
The budget also calls for spending $978 million for mental health and substance abuse programs. Overdose deaths in Maryland jumped just over 12 percent in the first nine months of 2020, compared with 2019. Health experts say the increase is largely due to the emotional toll of the pandemic and limited access to treatment.
The General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, will begin poring over the budget Wednesday.
“We look forward to reviewing the details, but the Governor’s high-level overview sounds promising,” Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said in a statement. “We will continue our unified, bipartisan focus on getting targeted resources to the most vulnerable Marylanders for this once in 100 year pandemic.”