Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday he would not release $245 million lawmakers earmarked for a variety of projects, costing Anne Arundel County potentially millions for school construction and money for youth and homeless programs.
Hogan cited a $961 million deficit as his reasoning, saying the state couldn’t afford the extra expenses. The county was poised to receive $500,000 for its Workforce Development YouthWorks Program in Annapolis High School and $100,000 for the Light House Homeless Prevention Support Center. The governor made his announcement Wednesday before the Board of Public Works meeting.
“We pledged to bring fiscal restraint to Annapolis and we have,” said Hogan, a Republican. “We must remain vigilant and fiscally prudent and be prepared for volatility in the national economy.”
His announcement was met with disappointment from some county Democrats.
Sen. Sarah Elfreth, D-Annapolis, said lawmakers worked with the governor during the session and found funding for the projects.
Not releasing that money makes it more difficult for the county to handle school construction needs, a rape kit backlog and youth and homeless programs, she said.
Elfreth sponsored the Senate bill that created the grant fund for rape kits. If Hogan doesn’t find available funding, the grant will remain empty until the fiscal 2021 budget.
“We worked hard and well with our Republican colleagues to make it the best product,” Elfreth said. “It is disappointing the governor is not appreciating that and not appreciating this is a partnership.”
The governor’s decision affects $245 million in projects throughout the state. Hogan pledged that some of the projects — such as $3.5 million for rape kit backlogs — would receive funding after finding savings in the budget.
House Minority Leader Nic Kipke, R-Pasadena, said he trusted the governor to make the right call on state funding. Maryland’s governor has significant power over the state budget and can choose not to release funds approved by legislators.
“It gives our state the ability to have an additional check on the legislature to spend only what we can afford,” Kipke said. “I’d love to fund all of it, he is in a very tough position to have to be the grown up in the room and make tough decisions.”
About half of the money — $127 million — would have been used for school construction funding spread throughout the counties and Baltimore City. This money wasn’t targeted for specific projects. Instead it would have been doled out based on each county’s priority list.
Anne Arundel County requested about $54 million and received about $37 million, said Alex Szachnowicz, county schools chief operating officer. The $127 million would have filled the gap between the requested and received money, Szachnowicz said.
Anne Arundel County is still waiting for state funding on the Crofton High School. The county also needs state help for a roof replacement at the Maryland City Elementary School.
The governor did not pledge to find separate funding for the $500,000 YouthWorks program and $100,000 Light House shelter funding.
Elfreth sent a letter in June asking the governor to release the YouthWorks funding. This program would have helped students at Annapolis High School by expanding internship and cadet opportunities with the Annapolis police and fire departments and the Marine Trades Association.
Both Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller and Speaker of the House Adrienne A. Jones released statements rebuking the governor for his decision.
“These aren’t Democratic priorities – these are the people’s priorities: voted on by Democratic and Republican legislators,” Jones said in a statement. “‘Reckless’” is NOT testing rape kits to find rapists. ‘Playing games’ is when you pretend to care about school conditions but then don’t put the money up for new school construction.The House will continue to pass balanced budgets – as we have for my entire 22 year tenure in the legislature – each and every year.”
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Luke Broadwater of The Baltimore Sun contributed to this story.