Democratic Gov. Wes Moore’s supplemental budget includes spending to benefit state employees, residents of a state-run veterans’ home and incarcerated women.
Under Moore’s plan for fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1, state employees are now poised to receive approximately $35 million in salary increases aimed at retaining workers who the state has employed for five or more years.
Patrick Moran, the president of the AFSCME Council 3, which represents people working for executive branch agencies, thanked Moore in a statement Monday for working with the union “to make real progress for state workers.” The union blames former Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, for low retention rates and staffing gaps in state agencies.
“Adding additional rungs to the pay scale, along with winning a step increase for state workers with longevity, is critical to retaining the seasoned staff who keep our state agencies going,” Moran said. “This step increase that honors those who have dedicated many years of their lives to serving Marylanders is a much-needed move in the right direction.”
In its announcement Monday of the supplemental budget, the governor’s office also described the allocation of $66 million to address challenges “inherited from previous administrations,” including multimillion-dollar settlements stemming from issues at state prisons and problems at Charlotte Hall Veterans Home, a state-run assisted living and nursing care facility in St. Mary’s County
During a March 15 meeting of the Board of Public Works, Moore, an Army veteran, said he was “personally disturbed” and “professionally enraged to learn of” the treatment of patients there. Moore said that “within hours” of his taking office, his administration was alerted to several cases of abuse and neglect. He noted the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services gave the facility a quality-of-care rating of one out of five stars “with an abuse warning.”
The Moore administration notified Health Management Resources Maryland, a company the state has worked with since 2002 at Charlotte Hall, that the state will end its contract.
Monday’s supplemental budget also included $2 million for the planning and design of a women’s prerelease facility under the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Maryland has dedicated facilities only for male inmates preparing to return to society. A 2020 law requires the state to create a facility specifically for women that offers job training, referrals for housing and other services.
Nicole Hanson-Mundell is the executive director of Out for Justice, an organization that advocates for prison reform. In a text message to The Baltimore Sun, she thanked Moore for honoring his promise to account for the $2 million authorized by the General Assembly in 2022 but noted that it will take over $5 million to fully fund the facility’s planning and design.
“It is the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services’ legal obligation to build the women’s prerelease center, and the Department needs to fund this project fully at $5.3 million and get it moving,” Hanson-Mundell wrote.
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Moore’s supplemental budget lists $15 million to “support costs related to a USDOL audit” of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services. The U.S. Labor Department last year found correctional officers and other employees were deprived of nearly $500,000 in overtime pay from November 2018 to November 2020.
The governor’s supplemental budget also includes $25 million for affordable rental housing and $11 million for the Coordination and Analysis Center, a division under the Maryland State Police that fights violent crime and cyberattacks.
It also allocates funds in anticipation of several bills being passed in the ongoing General Assembly session, including $1 million to cover the costs of burying veterans’ spouses and dependents under Senate Bill 286 and $2.25 million to buy breakfast for public school students, pending the passage of House Bill 514 and Senate Bill 559.
Moore’s first budget of nearly $63 billion, proposed in January, was based on a $820 million balance in the state’s general fund. But on March 2, the state Board of Revenue Estimates reduced that by $477 million, mostly based on anticipated lower income tax revenue. That meant the governor needed to work with the legislature’s Democratic leaders to restructure his plans.
The General Assembly is constitutionally required to pass the budget before it adjourns April 10.
Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Democrat representing parts of South Baltimore, said that the new supplemental budget is a reflection of collaboration.
“The Senate is focused on finalizing a financially prudent budget that reflects investments in Maryland values over the next fiscal year,” said Ferguson. “We balance the state’s immediate needs with savings for the future.”