The Maryland Board of Public Works voted unanimously Wednesday to cut $82 million from the current fiscal year budget to help close what could amount to a $250 million gap in the state’s $42 billion budget.
Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) said the action by the three-member panel underscores the fiscal challenges the state continues to face and the “need for caution and fiscal prudence” moving forward. Maryland’s fiscal 2017 began July 1 and continues through June 30.
The University System of Maryland will see an $18.3 million cut, one of the largest reductions under the supplemental fiscal 2017 budget presented to the panel by Budget Secretary David R. Brinkley.
A university system official said the system will eliminate 101 positions, 41 of which are currently filled, to reduce spending.
Both Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) raised concern about the jobs that will be eliminated and the possibility of layoffs. The university system’s chancellor, Robert L. Caret, said the positions would be eliminated through attrition.
Brinkley said the state will use $20 million from the cigarette restitution fund balance for Medicaid spending, instead of using money from the general fund. He said the other budget adjustments are the result of declining caseloads or are reductions to increases provided in the 2017 budget.
For example, the state cut $4 million from its allocated disparity grants, including $3.5 million of a $7 million funding increase that had been allocated to Prince George’s County. It trimmed $9.1 million from juvenile services and $3.7 million from Temporary Cash Assistance payments. The number of out-of-state placements for juvenile services has dropped, officials say, and the number of welfare caseloads declined an average of 6 percent over the past three years.
The unanimous vote to accept the cuts came after a short back-and-forth between Kopp and Gov. Larry Hogan (R), which began when Hogan hinted that the trims were needed because the General Assembly has not reined in spending.
Hogan patted himself on the back for refusing to spend $80 million the state legislature set aside for certain programs, arguing that the fiscal outlook would be worse if he had agreed to use that money. He said the legislature’s own analyst has even suggested that the General Assembly “get real” and take a hard look at spending.
“The state has been spending more than it takes in,” Hogan said, adding that his administration “from day one” has been trying to rein in spending to address the “chronic problem.”
Kopp countered that the trims approved Wednesday were needed because revenue is coming in short of state estimates.
“I wouldn’t want people to think that the problem is due to excessive spending,” Kopp said. “I hope that we deal with the problem and not turn this into a ‘Who struck John?’ ”