Maryland Budget Receives Preliminary OK in House - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Budget Receives Preliminary OK in House

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A Maryland budget plan restoring education funds and state employee pay that had been scaled back in Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's budget proposal advanced in the House of Delegates on Wednesday.

The House, which is controlled by Democrats, gave initial approval to legislation containing the state's $40.7 billion budget. The House is scheduled to work on a companion bill needed to balance the budget Wednesday evening.

"We restored our priorities: education, taking care of our state workers and critical, critical social and health needs that our Maryland citizens deserve," said Del. Maggie McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Committee. "We did this without raising taxes."

Changes made by the House mean the legislation won't eliminate Maryland's long-running structural deficit, as Hogan's budget did in one year. Instead, it resolves about 74 percent of the state's structural imbalance. That means while the budget lawmakers are now working on for the next fiscal year would be balanced, a shortfall will return when lawmakers come back next year, because the state is slated to spend more revenue than it is projected to collect.

Part of the House budget includes changing the state's pension funding system, enabling the state to pay about $75 million less into it. Hogan has expressed willingness to negotiate with lawmakers on education funding and state employee pay, but he has expressed concern about diverting contributions away from the state employee pension system.

The House has eliminated 100 vacant state jobs to save money: 50 from corrections and 50 from the state police. Democrats say the cuts are designed to help with 2 percent across-the-board cuts to state agencies that Hogan included in his budget plan. However, he did not define them. Democrats say it's better to save money by cutting vacant jobs then risking the loss of jobs currently filled. Republicans, however, opposed the idea, saying the provision took too big a toll on public safety.

"We're going in the wrong direction when we're taking away public safety from the state of Maryland," said Del. John Cluster, R-Baltimore County.

The House is expected to vote on the budget measures this week. The Senate will then work on the legislation.

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