Gov. Larry Hogan’s explanation for his decision to fund some of the General Assembly’s budget priorities and not others is the biggest load of malarkey we’ve seen in Annapolis in a long time. The governor was, apparently, loath to deny funding for things like providing technology upgrades for the beleaguered Baltimore Police Department, but he was also determined to make sure the Democrat-led General Assembly somehow got blamed for pushing him to do it. We suppose his press release might make some sense if you have no idea how the state budget works, but we do, and we’re going to have to call bull on this one.
A brief recap: After Governor Hogan submitted his budget plan in January, members of the legislature made cuts to some elements of his proposal to free up money for items that were important to them, mainly school construction but also things like additional assistance for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The end result was that the budget they passed — even accounting for the items they sought to add — was smaller than the one Mr. Hogan introduced.
The legislature can’t force the governor to spend money it has fenced-off; it can just authorize him to spend it in the manner of its choosing and prevent him from spending it on anything else. This morning, at the Board of Public Works and in a subsequent press release, Governor Hogan explained his decision. Here’s what he said:
“At a meeting of the Board of Public Works today, Governor Larry Hogan announced funding for critical public safety and health programs. The administration will fund these essential programs through savings within the existing budget, rather than allow extra ‘fenced-off’ spending by the General Assembly.
“’The legislature continues to spend recklessly, and has jeopardized funding for a number of worthwhile programs it cut from our budget to pay for its own wish list,’ Governor Hogan said. ‘Despite the fiscal challenges that the legislature’s out-of-control spending have caused us, we cannot allow critical public safety and health needs to go unmet. Our administration will work within the existing budget to fund these critical public safety and health programs.’”
In other words, items on the legislature's “wish list” are, by the governor’s own admission, also addressing “critical public safety and health needs.” But giving the Democrats in the legislature credit for anything would, of course, be a non-starter. So, Governor Hogan is going to cut even more from the other “worthwhile programs” he claims the legislature is “jeopardizing” just so he can have the pleasure of pretending the General Assembly is being profligate.
It’s not. Remember, the “extra ‘fenced off’ spending by the General Assembly” is not extra at all. It is merely a replacement for spending Governor Hogan proposed. And if the legislature’s spending is “out of control,”Mr. Hogan’s budget was more so.