An hour before Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) gave a “State of the State” speech touting bipartisanship on Wednesday, Democratic leaders from the state’s largest jurisdictions came together in Annapolis to criticize the governor’s budget, saying it neglected major education, infrastructure and transportation priorities needed by 3 million residents in those areas.
Democratic state lawmakers from Prince George’s, Montgomery and Baltimore counties and the city of Baltimore crowded together behind a microphone to ask why their jurisdictions had not received the level of funding they say they deserve as home to the state’s biggest blocs of taxpayers.
“Today, the governor will tell us that the state of the state is good,” said Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D). “What the governor won’t tell you is that his budget leaves out funding that impedes counties like Prince George’s County from continuing to make progress.”
The Baker administration is frustrated by the governor’s refusal to pay a $15 million operating subsidy that county officials say is critical to sustaining their transitioning hospital system. Prince George’s is currently seeking state clearance to build a $651 million regional hospital near the Largo Town Center Metro station.
If the governor, who withheld the same subsidy in fiscal 2016, does not supply the dollars, Baker said, the county’s existing health-care system could collapse — and take the plans for the regional hospital with it.
Hogan is “not helping us, they are holding us up,” Baker said.
Hogan administration officials say an agreement to pay the money expired last year.
A spokesman for Hogan said the governor is working closely with local leaders and included billions of dollars in infrastructure projects for Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in his budget proposal.
“At $1.34 billion this year, including $1.2 billion in local education aid, Prince George’s County receives more funding from the State than any other jurisdiction in Maryland,” the statement by communications director Matt Clark said.
The Washington suburbs and Baltimore city receive “almost $3 billion in education funding, or about half of the state budget for K-12 education,” the statement said. “The three jurisdictions also receive about half of the total aid to local government ($3.51 billion out of $7.37 billion).”
Baker countered that Prince George’s is entitled to much of the funding it is getting based on formulas for the county’s share of Maryland’s low-income students. The $185 million for a Beltway interchange in Greenbelt is part of the state effort to lure the FBI headquarters to the county, he added.
“You can’t come back to me and tell me how much I get — it’s our money, it’s our tax dollars,” Baker said.
Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) said he believes in the governor’s push to expand the tax base and create jobs, “but you cannot do that without the proper investment.”
Leggett said he wants Hogan to reverse his decision not to include the Interstate 270 Watkins Mill interchange transportation project in the budget, saying the project is crucial to job creation in that part of the county.
About seven hours after the news conference, Hogan’s communications team fired back at the criticism, in the form of a mass email titled, “A funny thing happened on the way to the state house ...”
The email from Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer reiterated that Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore -- Maryland’s biggest localities -- get the lion’s share of state funding, and offered what it called “a very direct and comprehensive review of the facts and the major investments being made in these respective jurisdictions.”
The complete text — minus a pie chart and list of data points -- is pasted below:
Good evening -
This morning, less than an hour before Governor Hogan gave his second State of the State address (one completely focused on bipartisanship and compromise), County Executive Rushern Baker, County Executive Ike Leggett, and Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake held a press conference attacking the Hogan administration over what they claim is a lack of funding for their priorities.
The County Executive from Baltimore County was there as well.
Instead of launching into partisan, counterproductive, and flat-out misleading attacks, like many of the press conference participants did this morning, below is a very direct and comprehensive review of the facts and the major investments being made in these respective jurisdictions.
The main takeaway being this - Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, and Baltimore City represent either the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd highest level of funding in terms of direct local aid and in direct aid for K-12 education.