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Maryland House committee approves budget bill, companion measure

The House Appropriations Committee revised Hogan's budget proposal.

The House Appropriations Committee approved Gov. Larry Hogan's $43.5 billion budget Friday, along with a companion measure needed to bring it into balance.

The measure will go to the House floor Monday, with the first votes on proposed amendments expected Wednesday. The legislation is expected to pass by the end of the week. It will then go to the Senate.

In its first first revision of the budget, the Democratic majority cut back on — but did not entirely eliminate — its less-than-successful tactic of "fencing off" funds it cut from some areas of Hogan's budget and suggesting he spend them in other ways.

Hogan refused to spend $80 million in fenced-off funds last year. This year, the committee left an unspent fund balance of more than $137 million that Hogan can propose to spend on other items if he chooses.

The committee trimmed $268 million — two-thirds contingent on other legislation passing — from Hogan's $17.3 billion in discretionary spending.

In a contested vote, the committee slashed the governor's $6.8 million appropriation for the BOOST program, which provides low-income students with scholarships to private schools, by more than two-thirds. The move would preserve the scholarships for students who moved from public to private schools with the help of the scholarships, but cut them back for students who were previously enrolled in private schools.

Meanwhile, Democrats dropped from the companion bill many of Hogan's proposals for relief from required spending.

Del. Maggie McIntosh, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the committee, predicted the cut would be a subject of lively discussion in conference committee with the Senate, which has taken a more favorable view of private school aid than the House.

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