Md. House Panel Finds Money for Schools, State Employee Pay - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Md. House Panel Finds Money for Schools, State Employee Pay

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A panel of Maryland lawmakers voted unanimously Friday for budget legislation that boosts education funding above Gov. Larry Hogan's initial proposal and maintains a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees.

The House Appropriations Committee voted 26-0 for the $16.4 billion general fund budget with cuts and spending adjustments in order to make room for education and state employee pay. The House of Delegates is expected to vote on the measures late next week to send them to the Senate for more work and additional negotiations with the Hogan administration.

"There's three legs on this stool," Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the committee. "The House, the Senate and the governor, and we really hope to work together with the other two parts of this puzzle."

The Republican governor's budget proposal didn't include as much money as many Democrats who control the Legislature had anticipated for education. Critics of the budget plan say cutbacks in funding formulas for K-12 and reductions in another formula that steers extra spending to areas where education costs more added up to a $144 million reduction in school spending, compared to what school districts had been expecting. The committee action restores about $132 million of that.

Democrats also have been opposed to eliminating a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees. Money also has been found to restore those funds.

Hogan, who campaigned mostly on financial concerns, has been committed to ending a long-running structural deficit in the state. While Maryland has technically had a balanced budget as required over the years with the help of temporary reductions, a deficit has returned with stubborn regularity because the state's revenues don't cover planned spending.

"While this is just the midpoint in a long process, and there are concerns about certain proposals in the committee's recommendations, I believe we are headed in the right direction overall," Hogan said in a statement after the vote.

However, the governor also said he wants to focus more attention on tax-relief measures he has proposed this session.

"Ultimately, the budget process will not be completed without meaningful discussion on the many tax-relief measures our administration has introduced for struggling Maryland families, small businesses, retirees and veterans," Hogan said.

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