Hogan says record school funding, no tax increases in final budget of term

Erin Cox
Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan previewed the final budget of his four-year term on Tuesday, highlighting that the $44.4 billion plan includes no tax increases, record money for K-12 education and holds tuition increases at Maryland public colleges to 2 percent.

The governor declined to say how much aid he would send Baltimore to help stem its record homicide rate, but he listed a series of economic development programs that would receive millions more next year to continue their missions.

Hogan said his spending plan, which will be released in full Wednesday, spends $15.2 million more on schools than called for in state formulas, which dictate roughly $6 billion be spent on K-12 education each year. Under his plan, Baltimore schools will receive the lion’s share — $11.1 million — of that extra money.

“Over the next few days, as they do every year, members of the legislature, I’m sure, will find things in our budget that they don’t agree with, or something that they feel is missing, or that should be increased,” Hogan said. “Our proposal is simply the first step.”

The governor also drew attention to putting $11.5 million more into child-care subsidy program that for years has had a long wait list and $61.5 million into tax credits and business incentive programs.

Hogan will share his spending plan with the leadership of the Democrat-controlled General Assembly on Wednesday morning before releasing it to the public. The legislature can cut Hogan’s budget, but they can not increase state spending without his support.

Hogan said he intended to use that dynamic to persuade lawmakers to replenish a public financing fund candidates can use to run for governor.

Hogan used the fund in 2014 when he ran for governor on a platform that focused on reining in state spending and rolling back tax increases.

“We have done exactly what we said we would do,” Hogan told reporters. He said that the state’s finances “are in much better shape today than we otherwise would have been.”

The governor said he will again ask lawmakers to stop passing laws that mandate how state revenue can be spent, saying that 84 cents out of every dollar in state tax revenue is spoken for by spending mandates passed by the legislature.

Hogan pushed a similar initiative last year to permanently curtail the General Assembly’s power to do that. It did not pass.

The governor said he hoped election year politics might help smooth passage of a plan to prevent spikes in state tax bills caused by changes to federal tax law. Hogan predicted that unless the state changes its tax code, Maryland residents will face up to $1 billion in higher tax bills.

Earlier Tuesday, more than 60 Democrats presented a three-part plan to make sure the inadvertent tax increases don’t take effect. Hogan said he was “thrilled” they presented an idea. His spokesman later added the governor would submit his own plan to rewrite Maryland’s tax code in order to avert a tax increase.

“Our goal will be to leave all of that money in the pockets of hard-working Marylanders,” Hogan said.

ecox@baltsun.com

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