Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan withheld money for schools and state employee pay raises in a supplemental budget proposal he released Thursday, a move that puts at risk funding for the two areas that the General Assembly restored in its budget plan.
Hogan (R) instead included money for several tax-relief initiatives that the Democraticcontrolled General Assembly either killed or modified, including one that exempts police, firefighters and other first responders from paying income taxes on a chunk of their pensions.
The supplemental budget is an adjustment to an original spending plan that comes after the budget has been introduced to the General Assembly. Under Maryland law, the legislature cannot add money to the budget, but it can make reductions.
Legislators set aside money for schools and cost-of-living raises for state employees, items that were not in Hogan’s original budget. They expected the governor to include money for the priorities in his supplemental proposal. The General Assembly has to approve the governor’s supplemental budget.
Hogan’s $45 million supplemental plan offers the first glimpse of his governing style and sets the stage for tough budget negotiations with a committee of senators and delegates working to meet a Monday deadline for final budget approval.
“The items in this supplemental budget provide the necessary funding for education, public safety, heroin addiction and tax relief measures that the people of Maryland deserve,” Hogan said in a statement. “We still have much more to do, but as we draw closer to the end of the legislative session, I look forward to working with the conference committee to reach a final budget that addresses the concerns of all hardworking Marylanders.”
Hogan could still provide funding for schools before the General Assembly adjourns April 13, or through a budget amendment after the session ends.
Budget Secretary David R. Brinkley said Hogan’s staff will begin negotiations in earnest now that the committee has the supplemental budget.
He said Hogan’s proposal addresses many of the governor’s priorities that were not included in the budget he had to submit a day after his swearing-in. “Things had to be addressed,” Brinkley said. “We’ll continue the dialogue. . . . We still have a long way to go.”
“We still have a few days left,” said Del. Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said that the General Assembly has set aside the money and that if Hogan doesn’t release it for schools and pay raises for state employees, he cannot spend it on anything else.
“The problem is, if he does not fund that and he doesn’t fund education, then he’s really kind of drawing the line in the sand between the majority in both houses and his role as governor,” Busch said.
The governor’s move — made barely a week after the Senate unanimously passed changes to Hogan’s $40.7 billion budget and Republicans senators spoke in glowing terms about working across the aisle — caught many lawmakers off guard.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) said Thursday that he had not yet read the supplemental budget, and was surprised to hear that Hogan did not include extra funding for schools in more expensive parts of the state, particularly because lawmakers have worked so closely with the governor to compose “a very responsible budget.”
“That would be the worst thing that he can do, to not fully fund education,” Miller told reporters. “Every indication is that he’s going to fully fund it.”
Other stakeholders were disappointed; some were angered.
“When it comes to our public schools, Gov. Hogan still doesn’t get it,” Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, said in a statement. “He began his term by cutting $144 million in school funding only to be met with criticism from educators, parents, students, business leaders, school boards, superintendents, principals, and county officials from both sides of the aisle.”
Education advocates also were upset that Hogan used the supplemental plan to include $5 mil- lion to fund a tax-grant program for corporations that donate to private schools. The program, which is known as BOAST and is one of Hogan’s education initiatives, has not moved in the General Assembly this year. Previous proposals, which have stalled in the House in the past, provided tax credits to companies that donated to both private and public schools.
“Today the governor sends down a very divisive issue . . . business corporate grants or tax credits to support private schools,” said Sean Johnson, assistant executive director for MSEA.
Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery), vice chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said he is curious to see “how the House reacts to this sort of maneuver to get this done in a backdoor way.
“I think that will be an interesting conversation about what that means and where those tax dollars should go — because, certainly, I would not want my tax dollars going to fund a school that would not let my children in it.”
Hogan’s supplemental plan also includes $7.4 million to eliminate personal property taxes for some small businesses and almost $400,000 to pay for a charter- school funding study. The Office of Legislative Services has recommended that the conference committee reject the $7.4 million request for the business property tax exemption and $6.8 million to pay for 100 state troopers because of the department’s high vacancy rate.
Del. Benjamin S. Barnes (D-Prince George’s), a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said it was “appalling and borderline offensive” that Hogan, who challenged lawmakers to find money to support school funding, submitted to the General Assembly a supplemental budget that included “$30 million in what appear to be largely pet projects.”
Del. C. William Frick (D-Montgomery) said Hogan’s initiatives have been evaluated on their merits. He described the governor’s actions as “pathetic, petulant and partisan.”
McIntosh said she also was disappointed that Hogan did not include the money in the supplemental budget, but expects the governor ultimately to provide the funding.
“He can choose not to fund education and state workers and some for the health care needs of the most needy, but I would think that that would be a pretty hard pill for him to swallow,” she said.