Blueprint for Maryland’s Future would get $900 million boost under House-passed budget plan

Maryland’s landmark education reform plan would get hundreds of millions of dollars more than anticipated, while reserves for future unspecified transportation projects would diminish under a state budget plan advanced by lawmakers Friday.

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future would get a $900 million boost — $400 million more than Democratic Gov. Wes Moore proposed in January — in next year’s roughly $62.5 billion state spending plan.


At the same time, the amended budget passed by the House of Delegates would eliminate $500 million the new governor proposed to keep aside for future roads, bridges and transit costs.

“One of the best things we can do to end child poverty is do a down payment on our Blueprint,” House Appropriations Committee Chair Ben Barnes said Friday on the House floor. “For generations and generations, when times got tough, these populations that we’ve talked about have had their backs turned on them … We are going to stand by them.”


Lawmakers have until the annual 90-day session ends April 10 to pass a budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1. The governor and leaders in both the House and Senate — all Democrats for the first time in eight years — largely have aligned on priorities both in the fiscal plan and on legislation.

But negotiations are ongoing over differences in the budget.

A Senate committee began advancing a different amended version of the budget Friday that would set more money aside for transportation projects and make other changes, like reversing cuts Moore made to a scholarship program that sends students from low-income families to private and parochial schools.

The Senate is schedule to vote next week on that version of the budget, and then both chambers will work out a final plan.

Eric Luedtke, the governor’s top legislative liaison, said conversations with the General Assembly have been productive. They’ve also had “a lot less tension” than in previous years, said Luedtke, who was the House majority leader while Republican Gov. Larry Hogan was in office.

Though Moore’s office does not have concerns about moving forward with transportation projects in light of the proposed reductions, Luedtke said the administration is “still pushing to try to make sure we have enough transportation funding,” especially to match federal grants that may be made available through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed by President Joe Biden in 2021.

While the House removed the original $500 million, it added $100 million for future grant awards and potential environmental studies for projects such as the Red Line in Baltimore and Southern Maryland Rapid Transit, connecting the Washington Beltway to Waldorf, to the budget bill (House Bill 200).

The Red Line, an east-west Baltimore light rail route Hogan canceled when he took office, did not have specific designated funding in Moore’s proposed budget, though the governor has said he’s committed to restarting work on the project.


Ferguson said the Senate version (Senate Bill 181) provides an $100 million more for “some additional flexibility for investments that may be possible, particularly competitive grant agreements that we could enter into with the federal government.”

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“That’s where the Senate has landed and I’m sure we’ll have productive conversations with the House,” Ferguson said.

Because of that difference between the chambers, the Senate’s proposal for the Blueprint, at $800 million, is slightly less than the House’s. Either way, the funding would be “sufficiently above” the amount legislators are required to fund, Ferguson said.

“We are putting money away for future years, so that in the case of any type of downturn, we can make sure that our No. 1 value of protecting public education is front and center.”

Lawmakers and the governor are working under darker economic forecasts compared to earlier this year. While state revenues still are expected to increase in the 2024 fiscal year, the Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates last week lowered revenue projections by $400 million. The drop was mostly due to a “sharp decline” in personal income tax payments and Maryland’s underperformance compared to the national economy, the board said.

Officials are planning on setting aside more than $3 billion in case of further downturns in the economy. In the House-passed budget plan, those reserves include keeping $2.5 billion in the rainy day fund and planning for a $670 million surplus in the general fund.


Plans from both the House and Senate included dozens of other reductions or additions compared to the governor’s original budget — from technical fixes that reduced spending to new appropriations for local projects. Among those: $25.7 million in additional funding for the Baltimore Convention Center in the House’s budget and $2 million more for the Broadening Options and Opportunities for Students Today, or BOOST, scholarship program in the Senate’s plan.

Moore, arguing public money shouldn’t go to private schools, had reduced the budget for the BOOST scholarships from $10 million to $8 million. The House kept that reduction, rejecting Republican-sponsored amendments to add it back in. But the Senate Budget and Tax Committee added the $2 million into its version after some senators, including Ferguson, said they’ve seen it benefit students in their districts.