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Brown calls Hogan charge on tuition 'ridiculous'

Rebecca Brown, an 18-year-old student at the University of Maryland College Park, waits in line with father Anthony G. Brown to cast a ballot vote at an early voting center in Landover. It was her first general election vote. Her father waited for another day.
Rebecca Brown, an 18-year-old student at the University of Maryland College Park, waits in line with father Anthony G. Brown to cast a ballot vote at an early voting center in Landover. It was her first general election vote. Her father waited for another day. (Photo by Michael Dresser)

Democratic gubernatorial Anthony G. Brown derided as "ridiculous' a charge Thursday by Republican rival Larry Hogan that the lieutenant governor is planning to raise tuition rates at community colleges.

Brown's reaction came as the candidates continued their recent spate of highly questionable allegations against each other, including the assertion that Hogan plans to cut $450 million a year from the state's school construction budget.

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Hogan's latest charge came in a news release saying Brown's plan to cut waste in state government "would involve hiking community college tuition." It follows by a day another charge by Hogan that Brown would cut the state's budget for free breakfasts for low-income public school children.

The Hogan charges rely on a footnote in Brown's $1.5 million referring to a 2010 study for the Florida legislature pointing out different ways that state might save money by operating more efficiently. Brown's plan simply refers to the study as an example Maryland might emulate, without adopting any of its specific proposals as his own.

Hogan's releases essentially take line items in the Florida list and treat them as definitive Brown policy proposals. Thursday's charge refers to a statement in the report that Florida could save $80.8 million by charging students for course hours they take in excess of what they need to earn a degree.

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That idea has been gaining ground in some conservative states as college administrators seek ways to become more efficient.

"Lengthier stays in college before graduation reduce the return on the state's investment in higher education; absorb limited classroom space keeping prospective students out of higher education; and increase the cost of higher education for students and parents," said a report by the Texas comptroller's office.

Visiting an early voting center in Prince George's County to watch his daughter cast her first general election ballot, Brown said the idea he was proposing a tuition increase was "ridiculous."

"We've made college affordable and that will continue in the Brown-Ulman administration," Brown said.

Meanwhile, Brown appeared to back off his campaign's oft-repeated charge that Hogan would slash $450 million from the state school construction budget -- more than the state now spends annually. Hogan has repeatedly insisted that was not his plan, but as recently as Wednesday the Brown campaign held a news conference to trumpet that allegation -- based on a mistake in Hogan's own spending cut plan -- as fact.

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After The Baltimore Sun reported Thursday that political experts were questioning Brown's honesty, the lieutenant governor was asked at a morning event if he was sticking by that charge. Instead of doing so, he dodged the question and talked about his own plan to spend at least $500 million a year on building schools.

Brown's campaign staff, however, was not ready to give up on the charge.

"Larry Hogan unveiled a plan with a $450 million cut to school construction and he has got to withdraw the plan or say it was a mistake," said Brown spokesman Jerid Kurtz,

Erin Montgomery, a spokeswoman for Hogan, defended the charge on tuition, saying Brown had called the Florida plan a "road map" for savings.

"They did the same thing to us with the $450 million," she said.

Sun reporter Pamela Woods contributed to this article.

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