The House of Delegates gave initial approval to Gov. Larry Hogan's $40.7 billion budget Wednesday, setting the stage for final passage this week before the measure heads to the Senate.
The new Republican governor campaigned on a promise to curbing state spending, and both Democrats and Republicans agree the budget delivers on that pledge.
But the plan is not without significant changes by the Democrat-controlled legislature, with likely more to come.
The House restructured several hundred million dollars of state spending in order to send more cash to schools, increase the rates paid to Medicaid doctors and reinstate pay raises Hogan had proposed cutting.
"We restored our priorities," said Del. Maggie McIntosh, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the approprations committee.
The spending plan also reduces the state's $750 million annual structural deficit by about 75 percent, more than recommended by a legislative panel but less than Hogan had originally proposed. McIntosh told her colleagues "we overshot" the legislative goal.
Hogan has called the plan a "headed in the right direction overall," but has not publicly promised to concede to all House changes.
In a nearly three-hour debate on the House floor, Republicans questioned and opposed some of the Democrats' plans to cut vacant jobs from the Maryland State police and the Department of Public Safety, which oversees Maryland prisons and the Baltimore City Detention Center. The city jail was mired in scandal last year after prison guards and gang members were indicted in a smuggling ring.
"This is one that [Hogan] didn't ask for, and I have great concerns," House Minority Leader Nic Kipke said. Added Republican Del. Robert L. Flanagan of Howard County: "Our state has a terrible record in managing its prison system."
Democrats responded that they were trying to accommodate Hogan's call for a 2 percent across-the-board cut to all state agencies, and reiterated that all of the eliminated jobs were vacant. The Department of Public Safety, for instance, there were 726 vacant posts as of Jan. 1. The budget cut would permanently eliminate 50 and leave 676 still unfilled.
Two Republicans, Del. Pat McDonough of Baltimore County and Deborah C. Rey of St. Mary's County, offered amendments to to forbid Medicaid from paying for abortions for poor women. The measures were defeated.
]The House also gave initial approval to a companion bill where Hogan had proposed longer term cuts that have stirred controversy in Annapolis.
Hogan had suggested tighter caps on spending for K-12 education, community colleges, private colleges and other items, but Democrats have objected. Such spending mandates account for roughly 80 percent of the state's budget.
Hogan has said reducing mandates are key to the state's long-term fiscal health, but top legislative leaders contend that an improving economy will eliminate the need for long-term cuts.
Republicans tried to reverse a Democratic proposal to pay $75 million less into the state's pension system but were unsuccessful.