Republicans who opposed the measure argued that it was not fiscally responsible to pass a bill that could cost the state as much as $4 billion a year in 2030, given the uncertainty in the state’s economy over the coronavirus outbreak.
Democrats, who have worked on the legislation for three years, gave each other congratulatory high-fives after the vote.
A spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said the governor will review the bill when it reaches his desk.
The action on the Democratic-controlled legislature’s top priority came as the General Assembly rushes swiftly toward an early adjournment Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, the House approved a $47.9 billion budget for fiscal 2021 that includes $100 million for Hogan to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.
In the past three days, the General Assembly, which will leave Annapolis on Wednesday, has worked at a rapid pace to pass more than 200 pieces of legislation, including a measure that makes it a hate crime to place a noose or other hate symbol on a person’s property to a bill that expands access to telehealth.
Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) and House Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore) announced on Sunday that the General Assembly would adjourn early — the first time that has happened since the Civil War.
Lawmakers are expected to only pass a small fraction of the more than 2,700 bills that were introduced since January.
The General Assembly’s main constitutional responsibility is to pass a budget. With final action on the budget undone earlier this week, presiding officers said, the legislature had to remain in session to complete its work on the state’s spending plan.
The 188-member legislature, which has met despite a ban on gatherings of 50 or more, will adjourn on Wednesday, 19 days before Sine Die, its scheduled end on April 6.
“Each session we are faced with a different set of circumstances dictating how we achieve the goal of providing a balanced budget that meets the needs of our state,” said Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City). “It is safe to say that the challenges we currently face are unlike any we have experienced before.”
In the budget, the General Assembly gave Hogan (R) access to $100 million in the state’s rainy day fund to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, twice as much as Hogan initially requested March 4. At the time, the state had no confirmed cases of the virus. On Tuesday, the state reported 57 cases, a 54 percent jump overnight.
The budget, which is expected to be given final approval in the Senate on Wednesday, includes $230 million in education aid, funding that is needed for the top-to-bottom overhaul of the state’s public education.
The Senate this week dramatically amended the education bill, changes that the House accepted Tuesday night.
Worried about economic uncertainty, the Senate included an economic trigger that would slow funding for the program if state revenue drops as a result of the pandemic.
Under the change, the per-pupil increases would be limited to the rate of inflation if the state’s revenue estimates in December fall 7.5 percent or more below the estimate made in March. The funding decision would be made annually.
The Senate also included an amendment that would halt the reforms if students do not meet academic thresholds.