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Maryland Gov. Hogan touts budget proposal that would increase school funding, give state workers raises

Gov. Larry Hogan pledged to increase funding for public education and give all state employees raises in a $46.6 billion budget he will propose Friday to the General Assembly.

Under the governor’s plan, each of the state’s local school systems would receive more state money in the next fiscal year than in the current year — even though funding formulas used to calculate how much systems should receive would have recommended a decrease for some of them.

The formulas, for example, would have meant $11 million less in state aid for public schools in Baltimore because they take into account factors such as declining enrollment, Hogan said Thursday at a news conference. Hogan said his budget would instead increase funding for the city.

Hogan touted his proposed spending on education, a total of $6.9 billion.

“Once again, we will provide historically high record funding for K through 12 education, our fifth consecutive budget to do so,” Hogan said. “This is the most money spent on education in our state’s history.”

The budget also would include more than $438 million for school construction projects.

The Republican governor said the budget would not raise taxes.

Hogan said he also would put money for at least a 3 percent raise for state employees into the budget.

Each year, the unions negotiate the next year’s wages, and the Hogan administration reached deals with four of the five unions in December.

“One union, AFSCME, refused to even come to the table, choosing instead to play divisive political games at the expense of hard-working state employees,” Hogan said.

Patrick Moran, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 3, said that’s not the case. The union represents more than 20,000 people, ranging from correctional officers to social workers and toll-takers.

Moran said the union took issue with restrictions the Hogan administration wanted to place on the salary negotiations, including an order that would prevent union leaders from discussing them with their members or lawmakers.

“They tried everything they could to restrict union communications with members and impede or deny our members their First Amendment rights,” Moran said in an interview.

AFSCME filed an unfair labor practice complaint in October with the Maryland State Labor Relations Board, and revised it last week. The Hogan administration filed a complaint Dec. 31 against AFSCME. The board has not ruled on the complaints.

Hogan said his proposed pay raise would cover AFSCME members.

“I do not want to punish hardworking state workers because of the failures of these paid political operatives,” he said.

Hogan also stressed that he’s preparing for a possible downturn in the economy, bringing the state’s reserves to $1.3 billion. And he cautioned lawmakers against “unsustainable spending.”

Other components of the governor’s budget proposal include:

  • $248 million in spending on the opioid addiction crisis, including money for treatment programs and funding for the state’s opioid command center. Some of that money will come from federal grants.
  • $378 million over the next five years to design and build a “therapeutic treatment center” attached to the state-run jail in Baltimore.
  • $56.5 million in programs to attract businesses to federally designated “Opportunity Zones” around the state.
  • $50 million in grants for programs that serve victims of crime.
  • $1.4 million to hire 11 employees for a new office that will investigate allegations of misconduct in local school districts.

Hogan plans to meet Friday with General Assembly leaders to brief them on the budget before releasing it publicly at 10 a.m.

Some Democrats were miffed the governor put out so many details — a list of more than 60 items in his budget — before that meeting. Del. Kathleen Dumais, the majority leader in the House, said Hogan broke with protocol in not briefing lawmakers first.

“We were rather surprised to see this released today and a bit frustrated that, after commenting on how he is ‘Mr. Bipartisan,’ that he would simply ignore what is standing tradition,” said Dumais, a Democrat from Montgomery County.

At his second inauguration Wednesday in Annapolis, Hogan called on his audience to “repudiate the debilitating politics practiced elsewhere” and highlighted bipartisan work with legislative Democrats.

Republicans applauded the budget details Hogan released, including a proposal to expand the types of retirement income that aren’t taxed.

Del. Nic Kipke, the House minority leader from Anne Arundel County, said in a statement that the budget continues the governor’s “legacy of making Maryland an affordable place to live, work and do business.”

The legislature must review and approve the budget by the end of its 90-day session in April. Members of the legislature, which is controlled by Democrats, can cut from the governor’s proposal, but they can’t increase spending without his support.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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