The General Assembly has left town, but bitterness lingers at the State House from the budget dispute that roiled the legislative session's final days.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan, presiding over the biweekly meeting of the state's spending board, complained that the Democrat-dominated legislature "knocked our budget out of whack," making it harder to close a structural deficit.
Hogan then thanked Comptroller Peter Franchot, another member of the three-person Board of Public Works, for siding with him in criticizing Democratic lawmakers for "robbing" state workers' pensions, as Hogan put it. Franchot, a Democrat, responded that he'd been approached by "one teacher after another" to thank him for speaking against lawmakers' diversion of a portion of the funds Hogan had proposed for shoring up the state's pension system.
The legislative session began in January with pledges of bipartisanship, but ended Monday night with Democratic lawmakers and Hogan at odds over the state budget. Legislators had cut $200 million from the new governor's $40.5 billion spending plan - reducing state pension contributions. among many other cuts - and urged him to spend it instead on public schools, state workers' pay and health care.
Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, a former Democratic legislator and the third spending board member, defended lawmakers' moves on the pension system. She noted they had taken other steps to put it on a sounder financial footing. She appealed to Hogan to spend the funds set aside by the legislature to restore state workers' pay cuts.
Later, near the end of the two-hour meeting, as board members reviewed an emergency communications system contract, Hogan said he was still committed to reopening a State Police barracks in Annapolis. The governor had proposed funding for that late in the session, but the Assembly declined to include it in the budget.
Hogan vowed Wednesday to find a way to do it anyway, despite what he called the "petulant" decision by House Speaker Michael E. Busch not to let his chamber even consider his supplemental budget proposal that included the police barrack.
Kopp spoke up then to say she regretted how the meeting had become a forum for partisan rhetoric. She attributed the budget dispute to "different priorities." And she renewed her plea to Hogan to consider the needs of older people, schoo lchildren and pregnant women whose services are at risk if the funding lawmakers reserved is not spent.
"We're doing everything we can for them," Hogan replied.