Ho­gan’s $61 mil­lion in state bud­get cuts are ap­proved

Fran­chot, Kopp ad­just with gov­er­nor from pre­vi­ous trim­ming pro­pos­als

The Enterprise - - News - By JULIE DEPENBROCK

The Mary­land Board of Pub­lic Works voted unan­i­mously Wed­nes­day to ap­prove $61 mil­lion in bud­get cuts from Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R) af­ter aban­don­ing a pro­posal to level aid in lower-in­come ju­ris­dic­tions.

State Trea­surer Nancy Kopp (D) said the board heard the pub­lic’s re­sponse to the orig­i­nal bud­get cuts — to­tal­ing $67 mil­lion — and made changes ac­cord­ingly, post­ing them the morn­ing of the meet­ing. Demo­cratic law­mak­ers had ar­gued the pre­vi­ous pro­posal took fund­ing from cash-strapped dis­tricts like Prince George’s County and Bal­ti­more city.

The up­dated cuts, the board said, are part of an ef­fort to de­crease spend- ing ahead of an ex­pected short­fall of $742 mil­lion.

“This pat­tern of over­spend­ing is sim­ply un­sus­tain­able,” said David Brink­ley, Mary­land’s sec­re­tary of bud­get and man­age­ment.

“We can’t for­get the fact that we con­tinue to live in very un­cer­tain fi­nan- cial times,” Comptroller Peter Fran­chot (D) said. Fran­chot and Kopp serve on the three-mem­ber Board of Pub­lic Works with Ho­gan. The board is avail­able, when the Gen­eral Assem­bly is not in ses­sion, to rein in state spend­ing, said Sheila McDon­ald, the board’s ex­ec­u­tive sec­re­tary.

The gov­er­nor, by law, is not per­mit­ted to re­duce any ap­pro­pri­a­tion by more than 25 per­cent. His big­gest cut, per­cent-wise, would have been a 3.6 per­cent re­duc­tion to a type of lo­cal aid known as dis­par­ity grants. He re­scinded about $6 mil­lion of th­ese planned dis­par­ity grant cuts this week.

In­stead, all bud­get cuts now hover be­tween 0.1 and 2.5 per­cent. The $61 mil­lion in cuts rep­re­sent a tiny frac­tion of the state’s $43.5 bil­lion bud­get.

The largest dol­lar re­duc­tion — $22 mil­lion — hits the Mary­land Depart­ment of Health. But close to half of that num­ber, Brink­ley said, comes from $10 mil­lion in Med­i­caid sav­ings due to shorter hos­pi­tal stays.

In ad­di­tion, 30 va­cant po­si­tions at pub­lic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties are be­ing elim­i­nated, sav­ing $8 mil­lion, while another $8 mil­lion is be­ing cut from the Mary­land Depart­ment of Pub­lic Safety and Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices.

Though aid to K-12 pub­lic schools is not im­pacted by the cuts, a planned in­crease in fund­ing to pri­vate col­leges un­der the Sellinger Pro­gram, a state for­mula to dis­trib­ute aid to pri­vate, non­profit col- leges, has been sliced in half — from $4 mil­lion to $2 mil­lion, although the pro­gram it­self is still get­ting $48 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to the Depart­ment of Bud­get and Man­age­ment.

State of­fi­cials will likely re­lease a fore­cast of Mary­land’s fi­nances in late September, when the Board of Rev­enue Es­ti­mates gives its re­port on tax col­lec­tions. That fore­cast of­ten in­flu­ences bud­get de­ci­sions in the Gen­eral Assem­bly when the leg­isla­tive ses­sion re­con­venes in the win­ter.

CNS PHOTO BY JULIE DEPENBROCK

Gov. Larry Ho­gan (R), and Comptroller Peter Fran­chot (D) take a breather as the Mary­land Board of Pub­lic Works meet­ing comes to an end Wed­nes­day in An­napo­lis.

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