Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan proposed Monday giving $1,000 bonuses to all state government employees.
The bonuses would cost the state $74.1 million, which the governor said the state has on hand due to budgetary belt-tightening done early in the pandemic.
The Republican governor sent his proposal Monday to the General Assembly in the form of a supplement to his proposed budget, which lawmakers are scrutinizing.
If the bonuses are approved by lawmakers, Hogan said workers would see the money in April.
Hogan said in a statement that the bonuses would recognize the hard work of state employees “who have overcome significant challenges to deliver essential services to Marylanders during this public health emergency.”
Sen. Guy Guzzone, who chairs the budget committee in the state Senate, said state workers deserve the bonus.
“If there ever was a group of individuals who really stepped up during the pandemic, it’s our state employees,” said Guzzone, a Howard County Democrat.
Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, called the bonus “fantastic” for workers who have been on the front lines of the pandemic.
“I have thought for a long time that we need to, short term and long term, do more to help our state employees,” she said.
But the largest union for state employees said while its members welcome the bonus, it is insufficient, given their struggles these past 12 months.
“This one-time bonus is not enough to compensate our members who are still waiting for access to the vaccine and risking their health and their family’s health by reporting to work every day,” read a statement from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Maryland Council 3.
AFSCME has raised concerns that front-line workers — including those at prisons, state hospitals and state universities — lacked adequate masks and other pandemic supplies, and that the state did a poor job with contact tracing and informing employees of potential virus exposure.
Last spring, as the coronavirus swept through Maryland and most activities were shut down, there was significant uncertainty about how government finances would be affected. Early on, one forecast predicted the state could lose as much as $4 billion of expected taxes and other revenues.
But those predictions have not come true. The state government has weathered the pandemic-induced recession better than expected in part because the state’s high earners still are paying taxes.
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Lower-wage earners who have been more affected by the pandemic have been helped by enhanced unemployment benefits and stimulus payments. And the state has gotten billions from the federal government to help with the pandemic response.
Updated financial forecasts are scheduled to be released Tuesday.
Facing dire forecasts last June, Hogan floated the idea of layoffs and pay cuts for state employees, but did not carry them out.
Hogan remains in a contract dispute with AFSCME, after they failed to reach an agreement on a labor contract before a New Year’s deadline.
According to the union, the Hogan administration’s final offer was a 1% raise, but it was contingent on the state exceeding revenue projections by $200 million. One union negotiator called the offer “a slap in the face.”
AFSCME officials said the offer of bonuses shows that the state is on solid financial footing and can do more for workers.
“Up until the last days of December, negotiators for the governor were still proposing furloughs and pay cuts to our members,” AFSCME President Patrick Moran said in a statement. “We rejected these offers because our members deserve more for the dangerous but necessary work they do every day.”