Maryland Governor, Legislature Remain in Budget Standoff - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Governor, Legislature Remain in Budget Standoff

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Maryland's Democratic-led Legislature were in a standoff over the state's budget on Monday hours before the legislative session was scheduled to end, with most of the contention centered on about $200 million lawmakers want for education, employee pay and health care programs.

    

Hogan told reporters late Monday afternoon that the budget lawmakers were about to approve was "irresponsible." As the budget stands now, Hogan said he likely would not spend the roughly $203 million that Democratic lawmakers added to the $40 billion budget plan he sent them.

    

"If they pass this irresponsible budget, it's very unlikely that any of that fenced-off money will be spent on anything other than fixing the huge hole that they created for next year," said Hogan, who ran on making state government more fiscally responsible.

    

The Legislature, which passed the budget bill shortly after Hogan's news conference, restored funding for education, a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees and health care programs that were not included in Hogan's initial budget plan in January, when he addressed a $750 million shortfall on entering office.

    

The state will have a balanced budget for the next fiscal year under the plan, but Hogan won't have to spend the $203 million. Democrats turned down a compromise proposed by Hogan over the weekend that didn't restore as much education and health care funding as they were seeking.

    

"We cannot pick and choose amongst our constituent group - our state employees, our most vulnerable adults and our public school children - which we're going to cut. We have fully funded. We have done our job. We're asking the second floor to do its job as well," Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, said at a morning news conference.

    

House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, noted his chamber was ready to vote on three of the governor's priority initiatives Monday. They included a bill to increase the flexibility of charter schools, and a measure to end state-mandated stormwater management fees, derided as a "rain tax" whose repeal was a key campaign goal of Hogan's. The House also was scheduled to vote on a tax break on military pensions for people over 65. But action had not been taken on them with a few hours left in the session.

    

The Senate tried to make up for the cut in education funding by voting 32-15 for a separate bill late Monday. It would require the state to fully pay for a fund that directs money to parts of the state where education costs more. Hogan only funded it at 50 percent in his budget plan, and part of the budget dispute stemmed over full funding. The measure would not take effect if Hogan funded the Geographical Cost of Education Index for the next fiscal year. The House has yet to pass the bill.

    

A main point of contention between Hogan and Democratic leaders rested on a $150 million extra payment to the state's pension system to help address unfunded liabilities. Democrats chose to use about $75 million of it to make more room in the budget for education, state employee pay and health programs. But Hogan opposed the move, making his compromise contingent on restoring the full payment.

    

The House of Delegates voted 90-49 along party lines late Monday afternoon on budget legislation approved by a panel of House and Senate negotiators. Critics said the revisions by negotiators created a budget imbalance in future years that they could not support.

    

"The actions of the conference committee are simply unacceptable in this area," said Del. Kathy Szeliga, R-Baltimore County. "They inflated the structural deficit by hundreds of millions of dollars."

    

The Senate voted for the budget legislation Monday evening, 33-13, also along partisan lines.

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