Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan is giving the General Assembly more time, if needed, to resolve differences over a $40.7 billion budget and the amendments he recently made to the spending plan.
Hogan issued a proclamation Monday saying he would extend the session for no more than 10 days if the budget is not finalized by next Monday, the last day of the regular legislative session.
The governor told the Associated Press in an interview that the budget is “a long way” from being resolved.
“Our administration has been working closely with [lawmakers], but, you know, we haven’t agreed on everything, and we’re concerned about some of the things that they’re talking about doing,” Hogan said. “We’re concerned that basically, at this point, we need to send a search party out for our legislative package.”
The General Assembly, which is controlled by Democrats, has rejected some of Hogan’s legislative proposals and significantly watered down others. The first-year Republican governor, in turn, did not include funding for some top Democratic priorities — including additional funding for schools and a pay raise for state workers — in his supplemental budget proposal.
Instead, the supplemental budget includes money for several of Hogan’s tax-relief initiatives, including one that exempts police, firefighters and other first responders from paying income taxes on a chunk of their pensions and another that provides tax credits to companies that donate to private schools.
But Democratic leaders in both chambers did not allocate money for those priorities.
Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said the Senate and House may resolve by Tuesday the minor differences in the budget bills passed by the two chambers. At that point, she said, “we need to bring the governor into the conversation.”
McIntosh said the Senate fenced off $206 million to pay for its priorities, including funding education, and restoring pay raises and some Medicaid programs. The only item in both the Senate plan and the supplemental budget submitted by Hogan was $2 million for addressing heroin addiction.
“Where’s the other $204 million?” McIntosh asked. “He’s got to engage with us [if] he’s serious about this.”
Hogan has said repeatedly that he is committed to providing Marylanders with tax relief — calling it a reason he was voted into office.
“Some folks downstairs haven’t quite gotten that message yet,” Hogan told the Associated Press. “Some of them don’t want to change anything. They want to keep doing the same things they’ve been doing for the past eight years.”
Monday was supposed to be the deadline for the General Assembly to pass the budget, according to state law. But negotiations between the Senate and House of Delegates have routinely pushed a final vote on the spending plan to the last day or two of the legislative session.
It would be rare for the legislature to need an extended session or special session to deal with the budget. It has happened only once in the past two decades, in 2012, when negotiations broke down over proposed tax increases.
Then-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) called a special session, and the General Assembly approved a tax package and other bills.
Under Maryland law, the legislature cannot add money to the budget, but it can make reductions.
The Senate approved two high-profile pieces of legislation late Monday. Senators voted 46 to 1 to tweak some guidelines for charter schools looking to start up in the state, legislation that was originally introduced by Hogan and then heavily rewritten by Democratic senators. And they voted 45 to 2 against issuing permits to energy companies wanting to extract natural gas in Western Maryland through hydraulic fracturing until October 2017
Jenna Johnson contributed to this report.