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Hogan pitches $750 stimulus checks for Maryland’s poorest families

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R). (Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post)
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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Monday proposed a stimulus package exceeding $1 billion, suggesting the state’s poorest families should get $750 payments as soon as possible to help buffer the economic calamity of the coronavirus pandemic.

His proposal, which requires General Assembly approval, would also effectively send more cash to the state’s 709,000 unemployed people by waiving state and local taxes on unemployment benefits and entitling them to a big tax refund.

Another piece of his coronavirus relief plan would let small businesses keep up to $12,000 worth of sales tax levied on their customers, and implement other changes to reduce tax bills.

The Maryland General Assembly convenes Wednesday for its annual legislative session, and Hogan urged lawmakers to approve the aid quickly.

“I could not imagine anything that could possibly be more important for the legislature to pass,” the governor said in an Annapolis news conference. He said swift action was necessary to “immediately get these much-needed dollars out the door.”

Hogan and the General Assembly’s Democratic leaders have conferred for months on a potential stimulus package but have developed their own proposals.

In transformed State House, Md. lawmakers will debate how much pandemic aid — and for whom

House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) and Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) said that Hogan’s plan incorporated “our priorities” but that Democrats in the legislature also have additional goals. Those include sending more aid to nursing homes and essential workers, fixing the state’s broken unemployment system and giving schools more money to help get children back to in-person learning.

They did not commit to passing Hogan’s proposal quickly.

“We look forward to the Governor working with us to accomplish these goals and demonstrating for the country what the true value of bipartisanship can be,” their joint statement said.

Hogan repeatedly described his plan as “targeted.”

The proposed stimulus checks would go only to residents who qualify for the state’s earned income tax credit. Eligibility is determined on a sliding scale by annual income and family size, capped at $15,820 for a single person and $56,844 for a family with three or more children. In Maryland, which has one of the nation’s highest median incomes, more than 400,000 people qualify for the tax credit and would get checks under Hogan’s proposal.

Money would be distributed in two tranches. Individuals would receive $450 total, while families would get $750.

“Every day that goes by without passing a stimulus and tax relief package means more jobs that will be lost, more families will lose their homes, more busi­nesses who will go out of business, and more people that suffer,” Hogan said. “Struggling Marylanders and small busi­nesses who are barely hanging on cannot afford the kind of partisan bickering and needless delay that we have seen in Washington.”

A bipartisan friendship: Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot

The proposal falls far short of one pushed by a frequent Hogan ally, Comptroller Peter Franchot, a Democrat who is running for governor in 2022. For weeks, Franchot has publicly and privately called on the governor to send $2,000 checks to state residents, an action he says the governor could take unilaterally.

Hogan said that spending that much money would be an “irresponsible” action and that he could not do it without legislative approval.

Franchot accused Hogan of “passing the buck.”

“The thousands of Marylanders who are on the verge of homelessness, who are going to bed hungry every night, and who are accruing unsustainable debt cannot — and should not — wait one more day until their state government provides the help they desperately need,” Franchot said in a statement. “His plan doesn’t include assistance to struggling families and small businesses NOW.”

Hogan said he would pay for the plan by using $100 million from the state’s rainy-day fund; cash the state accumulated because the economy rebounded better than expected from the pandemic-triggered recession; and money stashed away by the Board of Public Works in July during an unprecedented round of early budget cuts.

Meanwhile, Maryland’s largest public employee union called Monday for legislation that would create workplace protections for workers during the pandemic, including a right to refuse dangerous work, free testing and reporting of positive tests, and an additional $3 an hour for hazard pay.

The union, AFSCME Council 3, is at an impasse with the Hogan administration over pay for the upcoming year.

Ovetta Wiggins contributed to this report.

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