Mary­land’s gov­er­nor pitched a bud­get re­vi­sion that would fur­lough work­ers, sell air­craft and elim­i­nate 92 va­cant jobs to help ad­dress a short­fall.

$1.45 bil­lion in cuts in Md. in­volve fur­loughs, ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing trims

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY ERIN COX AND OVETTA WIG­GINS

Mary­land Gov. Larry Ho­gan has pitched an enor­mous re­vi­sion to the state’s spend­ing plan that would put gov­ern­ment work­ers on fur­lough, sell off air­craft to raise cash and elim­i­nate 92 va­cant jobs to help ad­dress the fund­ing short­fall caused by the coro­n­avirus shut­down.

State fore­cast­ers say as much as $1.2 bil­lion of state rev­enue could evap­o­rate amid the eco­nomic cri­sis trig­gered by the pan­demic. To mit­i­gate that, Ho­gan (R) out­lined $1.45 bil­lion worth of cuts to Mary­land’s $19.5 bil­lion gen­eral fund, part of the $47.9 bil­lion bud­get that takes ef­fect Wed­nes­day.

He left it up to the Demo­crat­ic­ma­jor­ity Gen­eral Assem­bly to im­ple­ment most of the cuts when it re­con­venes next year. But Ho­gan asked the Board of Pub­lic Works to im­ple­ment $672 mil­lion of his plan im­me­di­ately. The board, which Ho­gan chairs, over­sees all state con­tracts and bud­get cuts when the leg­is­la­ture is not in ses­sion.

Among other ac­tions, the cuts would erase pay raises and ex­tra pen­sion con­tri­bu­tions for state em­ploy­ees, trim re­bates for child care, re­duce grants for state univer­si­ties and com­mu­nity col­leges by $186.8 mil­lion and pare back spend­ing on the state’s opi­oid re­sponse.

A vote by the three-mem­ber

panel is sched­uled for Wed­nes­day. The of­fice of Comptrolle­r Peter Fran­chot (D), who sits on the board along with Trea­surer Nancy K. Kopp (D), said the $672 mil­lion pro­posal is the largest sin­gle-day set of cuts the board has been asked to make dur­ing Fran­chot’s 13-year ten­ure.

“Th­ese are tough times, and tough de­ci­sions need to be made,” said Ho­gan spokesman Michael Ricci, adding that the state gov­ern­ment could be forced to lay off 25 per­cent of its work­force to close the bud­get gap.

Mary­land union and ad­vo­cacy group lead­ers de­scribed Ho­gan’s over­all $1.45 bil­lion plan as dra­co­nian.

“This is go­ing to be dev­as­tat­ing to peo­ple’s pock­et­books and the com­mu­ni­ties that they live in and con­trib­ute to,” said Pa­trick Mo­ran, pres­i­dent of AFSCME Mary­land Coun­cil 3, the largest union rep­re­sent­ing Mary­land pub­lic em­ploy­ees.

Mo­ran noted that many union mem­bers have con­tin­ued to work dur­ing the pan­demic, mak­ing the bud­get cuts akin to “cutting the fire de­part­ment in the midst of a wild­fire.”

State and lo­cal gov­ern­ments across the coun­try have seen rev­enue nose-dive from shut­downs de­signed to slow the spread of the virus, while rack­ing up huge bills re­spond­ing to the pan­demic. Many have im­ple­mented fur­loughs of pub­lic work­ers and sus­pended in­fra­struc­ture projects. Some are now seek­ing tax in­creases to avoid deeper cuts.

In Vir­ginia, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has said he will call a spe­cial ses­sion, prob­a­bly in Au­gust, to ad­just the state bud­get to re­flect the covid-19 cri­sis. This week, the D.C. Coun­cil is por­ing over a pro­posal by Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) to cut $1.5 bil­lion in city spend­ing over two fis­cal years.

In Mary­land, em­ployee and is­sue-ad­vo­cacy group lead­ers said Ho­gan’s plan would de­crease fund­ing to some agen­cies that need the most fi­nan­cial help as a re­sult of the pan­demic. The cuts that will be voted on Wed­nes­day in­clude $110 mil­lion to ed­u­ca­tion, mostly to teacher pen­sions. But they also in­clude $12.4 mil­lion to poorer school dis­tricts and $25 mil­lion that cov­ers some child-care sub­si­dies and part of the state’s Healthy School Fa­cil­ity

Fund, which fixes pub­lic school build­ings that have prob­lems such as mold and faulty plumb­ing or heat­ing.

Ch­eryl Bost, the pres­i­dent of the Mary­land State Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, said the pro­posed re­duc­tions were “un­con­scionable” and could en­dan­ger the health of teach­ers and stu­dents.

“Cri­sis dis­tance learn­ing this spring has deep­ened in­equities and achieve­ment gaps among our stu­dents — and the gov­er­nor’s cuts would only make them far worse,” she said in a state­ment.

Mean­while, Ho­gan an­nounced Mon­day that he would spend $210 mil­lion of the state’s fed­eral Cares Act dis­tri­bu­tion to help lo­cal school sys­tems pro­vide tu­tor­ing for at-risk stu­dents, plus lap­tops and other de­vices to ac­com­mo­date stu­dents dur­ing dis­tance learn­ing. Ricci said the Cares Act money — like the rest of the nearly $1.3 bil­lion Mary­land has re­ceived from the fed­eral coro­n­avirus re­lief fund — can be used only for pan­demic-re­lated ex­penses, not for the ex­penses the gov­er­nor sug­gested cutting.

In his role as chair of the Na­tional Gov­er­nors As­so­ci­a­tion, Ho­gan has lob­bied Congress and the White House to in­clude a $500 bil­lion rescue pack­age for states in the next round of fed­eral coro­n­avirus fund­ing. Gov­er­nors have asked for much of that cash to be un­re­stricted, en­abling them to stave off cuts such as those Mary­land is weigh­ing.

Ho­gan said he pressed the is­sue Mon­day on a call with the White House, ar­gu­ing that state gov­ern­ment bud­get cuts would rip­ple into the econ­omy and could elim­i­nate sev­eral mil­lion ad­di­tional jobs na­tion­wide.

As of Mon­day af­ter­noon, 21 ad­vo­cacy groups rep­re­sent­ing ed­u­ca­tion, en­vi­ron­ment and work­ers’ rights signed a joint state­ment say­ing that Ho­gan’s pro­posed cuts “would hurt pub­lic schools, col­leges, pro­grams serv­ing peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties, ef­forts to mit­i­gate the cli­mate cri­sis, and be­hav­ioral health pro­grams.”

“We can’t af­ford to fur­ther hurt peo­ple dur­ing a pub­lic health cri­sis and in­hibit our eco­nomic re­cov­ery,” the state­ment said.

The groups en­cour­aged Ho­gan to keep lob­by­ing for fed­eral help and to “con­sider ad­di­tional rev­enue op­tions” such as taxes.

Ho­gan’s plans in­clude sell­ing a Mary­land State Po­lice he­li­copter and elim­i­nat­ing the en­tire avi­a­tion pro­gram within the Nat­u­ral Re­sources Po­lice, which Ho­gan re­vived in 2016.

The pro­gram had been elim­i­nated in 2009, dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of then- Gov. Martin O’mal­ley (D), amid cost-cutting to grap­ple with the Great Re­ces­sion. Dur­ing that fis­cal year, the Board of Pub­lic Works cut $956 mil­lion in state spend­ing in three tranches spread out over four months, ac­cord­ing to data from Fran­chot’s of­fice.

“This is go­ing to be dev­as­tat­ing to peo­ple’s pock­et­books and the com­mu­ni­ties that they live in.”

Pa­trick Mo­ran, pres­i­dent of the largest union rep­re­sent­ing Mary­land pub­lic em­ploy­ees

BRIAN WITTE/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

JOHN MC­DON­NELL/THE WASHINGTON POST

The three-mem­ber Board of Pub­lic Works, top, with Comptrolle­r Peter Fran­chot (D) at right, is to vote Wed­nes­day on cuts to­tal­ing $672 mil­lion. The over­all plan would sell a state po­lice he­li­copter.

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