Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan released his first budget of his second term Friday — a $46.6 billion proposal that would boost money for public education and give raises to all state employees.
Here are five takeaways from the spending plan for the fiscal year that starts July 1:
Democrats generally like it
Based on their initial reactions, the Democratic leaders of the Maryland General Assembly praised the GOP governor’s spending proposals.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller hailed the governor’s plan — calling the budget “very positive” — as did the House of Delegates’ Appropriations Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore.
“For education, for health, for public safety, it’s a great document,” McIntosh said Friday.
Some objected to what they saw as Hogan taking credit for merely funding what Democrats in the legislature required him to do.
“He’s a master of taking credit for other people’s work,” said Del. Eric Luedtke of Montgomery County. For example, Luedtke said, the governor touts record education funding, but that’s largely driven by funding formulas established by the legislature.
On Twitter, the Democrats in the House of Delegates wrote: “We are happy Gov. Hogan has included in his budget much of what the legislature has required him to fund. We will continue to advance our Caucus priorities and make changes needed to strengthen MD’s middle class families.”
But is there enough for fighting crime in Baltimore?
Hogan said he is funding a “comprehensive set of initiatives” totaling nearly $13 million to address violent crime in Baltimore, but Miller said he didn’t see enough money to bolster the city’s police department.
Miller said he wanted to see funding for a second police training academy at Coppin State University and hiring 500 city officers.
“When Baltimore city hurts, our entire state hurts,” Miller said. “There is a major crime problem in Baltimore city …The mayor put forward her proposals. The governor, for whatever reason, didn’t fund the proposals in his budget, so we’re going to make sure they're included in ours.”
Where’s the funding highest for teaching students?
Hogan wants to increase public school funding for every jurisdiction in the state — even sometimes above what legislative formulas require.
The formulas, for instance, could have meant $11 million less in state aid for public schools in Baltimore, due to declining enrollment. But Hogan proposes keeping funding for city schools at last year’s level.
Somerset County, the state’s poorest jurisdiction, would receive the most funding per pupil with nearly $14,000 in state aid, while Baltimore would receive the second most per pupil at nearly $13,000.
“It was a pleasant surprise to see the administration’s effort to hold the city schools harmless under the existing formula,” said state Sen. Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat.
Whose priorities will rule on paying to reform education?
Democrats also are searching for $125 million more to fully fund the first year of proposals from the Kirwan Commission, which is recommending greater funding for schools to boost Maryland’s system to “world-class” status.
On Friday, the commission recommended a series of proposals — overhauling curriculum, increasing professional standards for teachers and expanded preschool, among them — which eventually would cost $3.8 billion per year.
Hogan has signed off on more than $200 million in increased funding, while the commission recommends $325 million.
“We’re going to have to decide between his priorities and our priorities,” McIntosh said. “That’s going to be difficult to do.”
Bond bill benefits: Hogan includes money for community construction projects
Hogan’s budget includes $15 million for local projects traditionally known as “bond bills.”
State lawmakers can seek financial assistance for local projects, such as building community centers or renovating museums, through the budget process. The amount available varies each year and Hogan put in $15 million into his proposal.
All 141 lawmakers will compete for money for projects in their district. Community groups and nonprofits hoping to snag this financial help will need to trek to Annapolis on a Saturday to make their case before a joint meeting of the House and Senate budgeting committees.
Last year, lawmakers submitted 240 requests for nearly $63 million. The final budget provided $16 million in funding.