Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan Releases FY 2020 Budget

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Gov. Larry Hogan, R, this week released a $44.6 billion state budget for the upcoming 2020 fiscal year, fortifying his objectives for the 2019 General Assembly session — education, economic growth, health, state employees, transportation and the environment — into writing.

The budget grew 4 percent over last year, and includes $19.6 billion for operating expenses.

At a press conference on Thursday, Hogan said he made a record investment of $6.9 billion for Maryland’s K-12 education, and has set aside $438 million in a “Building Opportunity Fund,” a $3.5 billion five-year school construction program.

Maryland senators and delegates said based on the budget highlights, many of the priorities of the legislature were funded as they liked.

Senate President Mike Miller, D-Prince George’s, Charles and Calvert, said a proposed salary increase for state employees and correctional officers, money for retirement relief, and provisions for much-needed facilities in some areas of the state were all good things.

“Obviously there’s going to be changes (to the budget),” Miller said Friday. “But the initial reflections … is that it’s a very positive budget.”

Hogan said he ignored formulaic recommendations to decrease some school funding and instead raised money for all jurisdictions in Maryland.

“Every single penny that every single jurisdiction anticipates from the state for education (will) be funded at 100 percent,” Hogan said Thursday.

The budget sets aside $56.5 million for a tax credit to be given to businesses that expand in “Opportunity Zones,” or low-income areas.

“More businesses are open and more people are working than ever before,” Hogan said.

In addition, he said that Marylanders should be allowed to deduct 100 percent of interest paid on student loans for income tax returns.

Hogan said no new taxes were implemented for the fifth year in a row, and all state employees will receive at least a 3 percent raise, including members of the AFSCME trade union who Hogan said refused to negotiate.

He said these proposals were made with the goal of easing tax burdens on hardworking families and individuals.

Transportation expenditures rose 4 percent, with a total of $3.3 billion funding the state’s transportation network.

$1.7 billion of support went to state highways, $221 million to the Purple Line, and $167 million to improvements for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

Hogan said Program Open Space, a initiative that works to restore the Chesapeake Bay, would return to full funding of $62.6 million.

However, total expenditures for natural resources and the environment fell 5 percent since last year, to about $1.03 billion.

Hogan said “fiscal discipline” and “belt-tightening” have been and will be the priority for his budgets, and warned against reckless spending.

$1.3 billion were put in reserves in the case that the state faces an economic downturn.

“We want to remain vigilant about maintaining savings,” said Hogan. “That is what our budget has once again accomplished.”

Funding for health remained the same at $14.6 billion, with $1.3 billion for the developmentally disabled and about $250 million for those with substance use disorders.

In the budget, revenues across the board are expected to rise an average of 2 percent, though lottery and other special funds are expected to bring in $172 million less.

However, Miller said there was not enough money set aside for the city of Baltimore.

He said the city has a major crime problem, with a lack of funding for police officers and an “embarrassing” response time of 15 minutes.

“People need respect, they need their properties to be protected,” said Miller. “They need their personal lives to be protected, and we’re not doing that in Baltimore City.”

House Majority Leader Kathleen Dumais, D-Montgomery, said she was happy to see the increase in salary for state employees, but said she hopes more correctional officers will be hired.

She said the budget funded many legislative priorities, but that “the devil would be in the details,” after she had read more than just the highlights.

Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore, said the Kirwan Commission — a panel nicknamed for its chairman and charged with developing educational improvements — had asked for $325 million, but only received $200 million.

House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore and Harford counties, had no criticisms of the proposal, and said Hogan presented a balanced budget that fully funds education and other priorities.

“It should diminish partisan rancor over the budget, that is our only constitutionally mandated duty,” said Szeliga.

Here is a look at some additional highlights:
–$1.45 billion was provided to the University System of Maryland, with a focus on S.T.E.M. programs.
–$11.5 billion for Maryland’s Medicaid program
–Correctional officers receive a 4 percent raise.
–Doubles funds available as tax credit for zero-emissions vehicles from $3 million to $6 million.

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