Ho­gan touts smaller bud­get, no ‘se­ri­ous’ cuts

Pro­posed 2018 plan es­ti­mated at $17.1 bil­lion

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JA­COB TAY­LOR

ANNAPOLIS — Mary- land Gov. Larry Ho­gan an- nounced that his 2018 bud- get pro­posal in­cludes less spend­ing, in real dol­lars, than last year’s bud­get but in­cludes “no se­ri­ous cuts to any agen­cies or pro­grams” and no new taxes.

The Re­pub­li­can gover- nor said this was ac­com- plished by mak­ing mi­nor cuts to pro­grams that were pro­vid­ing fewer ser­vices and by draw­ing on money ap­pro­pri­ated for the state’s “rainy day” fund.

When asked about the kinds of pro­grams that did lose some amount of fund­ing, De­part­ment of Bud­get and Man­age­ment Deputy Sec­re­tary Marc L. Ni­cole used Mary­land’s Tem­po­rary Cash As­sis­tance Pro­gram as an ex­am­ple. He said the pro­gram, which pro­vides cash as­sis­tance to poor fam­i­lies with de­pen­dent chil­dren, has a de­clin­ing case load, which al­lowed

the gov­er­nor to cut its bud­get with­out re­duc­ing ser­vices.

Del. Tawanna P. Gaines (D-Prince Ge­orge’s) vice chair of the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, told the Univer­sity of Mary­land’s Cap­i­tal News Ser­vice Tues­day that she was look­ing for­ward to see­ing the whole bud­get but that “it’s kinda hard to be­lieve we could spend less when there’s a deficit.”

Ho­gan chas­tised the leg- is­la­ture for adding man- dated spend­ing in­creases dur­ing the 2016 ses­sion, say­ing that Mary­land is al­ready in a po­si­tion where spend­ing is out­pac­ing rev­enue and called for bi­par­ti­san ef­forts to ad­dress over­spend­ing.

The gov­er­nor claimed that much of the bud­get is on “au­topi­lot” due to the amount of spend­ing, ap­prox­i­mately 83 per­cent, that is al­lo­cated by leg­isla- tive man­dates.

He said “ev­ery Mary- lan­der un­der­stands that if you are con­sis­tently forced to spend more than you take in, even­tual- ly, you are go­ing to have a prob­lem.”

Spe­cific fig­ures are not yet avail­able, but the gov- er­nor’s of­fice says this year’s pro­posed op­er­at­ing bud­get to­tals $17.1 bil­lion.

Ho­gan said his bud­get this year would to­tal less than last year’s pro­posal.

The gov­er­nor an- nounced two bills on his agenda de­signed to curb re­quired spend­ing and to man­date sav­ings in the state’s “rainy day” fund.

The Com­mon Sense Spend­ing Act would place lim­its on man­dated spend­ing and en­able the re- duc­tion of man­dates that in­crease spend­ing faster than state rev­enues grow.

The Fis­cal Re­spon­si­bili- ty Act would au­to­mat­i­cal- ly add bud­get sur­pluses to the state’s “rainy day” fund, pre­vent­ing the gov- ern­ment from spend­ing un­pre­dicted sur­plus rev- enue. The fund, for­mally known as the Rev­enue Sta­bi­liza­tion Ac­count, is where the state stores money, of­ten sur­plus rev- enue, for fu­ture use.

Ho­gan said this would help sta­bi­lize spend­ing and rev­enues by en­sur­ing that the fund gets re­plen­ished dur­ing richer years to so that it is avail­able to off­set losses in leaner years.

The gov­er­nor said that debt ser­vice pay­ments are the fastest grow­ing line item in the bud­get and will soon be more per year than the state spends on school con­struc­tion.

Ho­gan called the ris­ing cost of debt ser­vice “dev- as­tat­ing” and laid blame for it on the poli­cies of his pre­de­ces­sor, for­mer Demo­cratic Gov. Martin O’Mal­ley.

Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader J.B. Jen­nings (R-Bal­ti­more, Har­ford) said he thinks “it’s a pretty good bud­get” and that he was not con- cerned about the bud­get draw­ing from the “rainy day” fund. “That’s what the money is there for and let’s be hon­est,” Jen­nings said, ges­tur­ing out the door of the State House where a steady driz­zle was fall­ing, “it’s rain­ing.”

Sen. Joan Carter Con­way (D-Bal­ti­more) said her fo­cus would be on en­sur­ing that ed­u­ca­tion re­mains a fund­ing pri­or­ity. She also said she plans to take a look at the bud­get’s fund­ing for trans­porta­tion and in­fra- struc­ture in Bal­ti­more, but did not of­fer specifics.

At a press con­fer­ence Tues­day morn­ing, Ho­gan touted that the bud­get spends more on Bal­ti­more City than any­where else and funds pro­grams there for which no other area re- ceives state monies.

Ho­gan also said that no fund­ing has been al- lo­cated by the state for re­forms in the Bal­ti­more City Po­lice De­part­ment. For­mer Bal­ti­more Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake re­quested $30 mil­lion for that pur­pose in 2016, but Ho­gan said her re­quest has since been re­scinded and that Bal­ti­more Mayor Cather­ine Pugh has not made a sim­i­lar one.

Ho­gan did not of­fer specifics, but im­plied that cer­tain leg­isla­tively re- quired spend­ing was not in­cluded in the bud­get by say­ing that he would put forth a bud­get rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and fi­nanc­ing act, which would mod­ify the value of cer­tain spend­ing man­dates to cre­ate a bal­anced bud­get.

For ex­am­ple, the gov­er­nor’s 2015 BRFA pro­posed re­duc­tions in dozens of fund­ing items rang­ing from a 25 per­cent re­duc­tion in the cy­ber se­cu­rity tax credit to low­er­ing and slow­ing man­dated fund­ing in­creases for li­braries.

Del. Mag­gie McIn­tosh (D-Bal­ti­more) chair of the House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee, said that “what [Ho­gan] has out­lined is the good news” and that the “bad news” and cuts will be in the gov­er­nor’s forth­com­ing bud­get rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and fi­nanc­ing act.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF CAP­I­TAL NEWS SER­VICE/HAN­NAH KLARNER

Gov. Larry Ho­gan’s de­tailed his bud­get pro­posal for the 2018 fis­cal year in Annapolis on Jan. 18. His bud­get in­cludes a re­duc­tion in con­tri­bu­tions to the state’s re­serve fund.

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