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House, Senate panel approve budget

The Senate Budget & Taxation Committee unanimously approved Gov. Larry Hogan's $40.7 billion budget Thursday with only modest changes from the House version.

The panel found an additional $24 million in cuts to next year's budget beyond those identified by the House Appropriations Committee.  With such cuts, legislators are asking the governor to redirect money toward programs they believe Hogan underfunded.

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The committee agreed with the House's decision to recommend restoration of $179 million to continue state employee raises, education spending and payments to Medicaid providers, among other areas.  The panel urged its additional cuts to increase spending for the Prince George's Hospital Center, nursing home reimbursement payments and mental health services. Under the Senate plan, the money would come from a shift of $15 million in school construction funds from next year's budget to the bond program and smaller cuts in temporary cash assistance to the poor and Program Open Space.

It is up to Hogan to decide whether to restore the spending the General Assembly has identified. But he is not permitted to shift money cut by the General Assembly to other priorities such as tax relief. The House of Delegates gave the budget final approval Thursday night 129-10, with all of the no votes cast by Republicans. The full Senate is expected to vote on its budget proposal next week before the two chambers go into a conference to resolve their differences.

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