Md. board ap­proves $82 mil­lion cut in state spend­ing

Maryland Independent - - News - By VICKIE CON­NOR AND ROB­BIE GREENSPAN Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice

AN­NAPO­LIS — The Mary­land Board of Pub­lic Works voted unan­i­mously in fa­vor of $82 mil­lion in cuts to state spend­ing Nov. 9 in An­napo­lis.

Repub­li­can Gov. Larry Ho­gan and Demo­cratic board mem­bers Comp­trol­ler Peter Fran­chot and Trea­surer Nancy Kopp agreed on the is­sue after the Mary­land Board of Rev­enue Es­ti­mates pre- dicted last month that rev­enues for the cur­rent fis­cal year would be $365 mil­lion less than ex­pected.

The big­gest cuts are ex­pected to take place in the Uni­ver­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land, the Department of Health and Men­tal Hy­giene, and the Department of Ju­ve­nile Ser­vices.

The Uni­ver­sity Sys­tem of Mary­land’s bud­get was re­duced by $18.2 mil­lion, in­clud­ing $11.5 mil­lion from 100 cut po­si­tions — 41 filled and 60 va­cant.

The re­duc­tions trim $20.8 mil­lion from the Department of Health and Men­tal Hy­giene, but $20 mil­lion will be cov­ered by the Cig­a­rette Resti­tu­tion Fund, money re­ceived from a 1998 set­tle­ment with the to­bacco in­dus­try.

The Department of Ju­ve­nile Ser­vices is fac­ing $9.1 mil­lion in re­duc­tions.

Au­dra Har­ri­son, a spokes­woman for the Department of Ju­ve­nile Ser­vices, said the new bud­get should not af­fect their operations.

“Be­cause there are few- er youth in the ju­ve­nile sys­tem to­day, the department can ab­sorb the re­duc­tions with no im­pact to pub­lic safety nor to ser- vices for youth.”

Fran­chot said that while th­ese trims will make a dif­fer­ence, they are not as large as past cut­backs.

“This is a very mod­est cut com­pared to what we did in the pre­vi­ous ad­min­is­tra­tion, where we cut over $2 bil­lion, [over] 10 or 11 dif­fer­ent oc­ca­sions,” he said. “That’s a huge dif­fer­ence than what we did to­day.”

David Brink­ley, sec­re­tary of the Department of Bud­get and Man­age­ment, stressed de­part­ments are still re­ceiv­ing in­creases in spend­ing over the pre­vi­ous fis­cal year, just less than orig­i­nally an­tic­i­pated.

“What we are do­ing is re­strict­ing some of the spend­ing based on lower es­ti­mated us­age,” he told the Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land’s Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice.

Last month, of­fi­cials said Mary­land’s rev­enue es­ti­mate short­fall is due largely in part to the state’s con­cen­trated job growth in low-wage po­si­tions. The bud­get re­lies heav­ily on the state’s rev­enues.

“We are cre­at­ing jobs that are highly con­cen­trated in in­dus­tries that pay be­low state av­er­age,” An­drew M. Schaufele, direc­tor of the Bureau of Rev­enue Es­ti­mates, said last month.

Brink­ley re­stric­tions said bud­get came out now to give de­part­ments the most time to adapt to them with eight months left in the fis­cal year.

“Our ex­pec­ta­tion is by do­ing this early, the de­part­ments them­selves can in­te­grate into the re­duced in­creases and not have any in­ter­rup­tions of ser­vices.”

Ho­gan pointed to Mary- land’s Demo­crat-con- trolled leg­is­la­ture for the state’s mon­e­tary is­sues.

“Un­for­tu­nately, due to un­sus­tain­able forced in- creases in spend­ing, the state has sim­ply been spend­ing more than it takes in,” Ho­gan said. “Even the leg­is­la­ture’s own bud­get of­fi­cer, War- ren Deschenaux, is rais- ing se­ri­ous con­cerns.”

Last week, Deschenaux spoke at the Department of Leg­isla­tive Ser­vices’ Spend­ing Af­ford­abil­ity Briefing to mem­bers of Mary­land’s Gen­eral As- sem­bly. He urged state law­mak­ers to be re­al­is­tic in spend­ing in or­der to help stop a re­cur­ring bud­get gap.

“How much we pay for things is within our dis­cre­tion to some ex­tent, how we struc­ture our pro­grams is in our con­trol,” Deschenaux said.

Kopp on Wed­nes­day pointed out that the bud­get the leg­is­la­ture passed was “struc­turally bal­anced.”

“I wouldn’t want folks to think that the bud­get was passed in deficit or that the prob­lem we face to­day at the mo­ment is due to ex­cess spend­ing,” Kopp said.

“The rev­enue es­ti­mates came in low,” she said about the $365 mil­lion — or 2 per­cent — cut in the rev­enue es­ti­mates pre­dic­tion from last month. “A small per­cent­age in a very large bud­get is a good amount of money.” Mary­land’s fis­cal 2017 op­er­at­ing bud­get was $17.1 bil­lion.

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