Two leading General Assembly Democrats, expressing concern that Gov. Larry Hogan might be planning to veto a bill intended to make college more affordable, urged him Monday to sign the legislation without delay.
Del. Adrienne Jones, speaker pro tem of the House of Delegates, and Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., vice chairman of the Budget & Taxation Committee, held a news conference outside the State House in Annapolis to call for the bill's approval. The lawmakers were joined by a half-dozen students at Maryland universities.
The legislation would provide a matching state contribution of $250 a year for families that put money in a state-created college investment plan. The required individual contributions would vary by income, but couples making less than $75,000 in taxable income would have a minimum contribution of only $25.
The measure also provides a refundable tax credit of $5,000 for people who have piled up $20,000 or more in undergraduate college loan debt and who have at least $5,000 still outstanding. The legislation also takes a series of other steps to lighten the burden of student loans.
The legislation includes spending mandates of the type Hogan has opposed. By 2021, it would require the governor to provide annual funding of $10.3 million in addition to the $5 million in revenue lost because of the tax credit.
Hogan spokesman Matthew A. Clark said the administration is still reviewing the bill. The governor will hold his final bill-signing ceremony of the year Thursday, but has until May 31 to decide whether to veto a bill or let it become law.
Madaleno, who represents Montgomery County, said it's important that the governor not veto the bill. Even though it passed by a veto-proof majority in both houses, Madaleno noted that the governor's disapproval would delay the legislation's effect for a year.
"This bill encourages Marylanders to do exactly what we want them to do -- save and go to college," he said.
Jones, who represents western Baltimore County, said high levels of debt remain a significant problem in Maryland. She said that in 2014, 58 percent of graduates from Maryland public colleges and universities left school carrying student debt averaging more than $27,000.