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Hogan proposes using $1.9 billion in casino funds for school construction over 5 years

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) (Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Tuesday proposed putting $1.9 billion from casino gambling revenue toward school construction over the next five years.

Voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot question Nov. 6 that mandated using all tax revenue from the state’s six casinos to supplement spending on K-12 education. The creation of the “lockbox,” which was backed by Hogan and had bipartisan support in the Democratic-majority General Assembly, will generate an additional $4.4 billion in school funding over the next 10 years.

As in many other states, billions of dollars in school-
construction needs have long frustrated Maryland residents, especially in districts with decades-old infrastructure and overcrowded classrooms.

Sweltering heat this September forced schools with air-
conditioning problems in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City to dismiss students early. Last winter, Baltimore schools attracted attention because of classrooms without working heat.

The governor spoke at a news conference at Highland Park Elementary School in Landover, Md., accompanied by Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks (D).

Hogan said his proposal — which he will submit to the legislature in January — is separate from recommendations that will be made by the Kirwan Commission, a state group studying education spending. The commission last week released preliminary recommendations to increase state and local revenue for K-12 schools by $4.4 billion annually.

The governor noted that state lawmakers will have their own ideas on the Kirwan Commission recommendations and how to spend casino revenue. The debate will play out during the 90-day legislative session that begins Jan. 9.

When Marylanders approved constitutional amendments allowing slot machines and table games, lawmakers promised tax revenue from those endeavors would go toward education. But there was no legal requirement that the money be spent that way, and over the years, nearly $2 billion was redirected to other priorities.

Hogan said the construction projects funded by his proposal would create more than 27,000 jobs over a five-year period.

He said he plans to announce additional details soon about plans to increase accountability measures in the school system to avoid waste and corruption as spending increases.

“We don’t want to interfere or usurp the authority of local school systems, but we want to make sure those dollars are getting into the classroom,” Hogan said. “Just investing record amounts of money doesn’t necessarily solve all the problems we have.”

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