Hogan Not Spending $80M Set Aside by Maryland Legislature - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Hogan Not Spending $80M Set Aside by Maryland Legislature

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (Photo credit: MPT live stream) Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (Photo credit: MPT live stream)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP)- Gov. Larry Hogan won't spend $80 million that Maryland's legislature had fenced off in the budget, his budget secretary said Wednesday while citing concerns about softening state revenues.
    
David Brinkley said administration officials will look for savings to help pay for some of the items later in the fiscal year.
    
"We're trying to shore up the bottom line so that we can deal with any type of revenue revisions that we might be facing and, again, we don't know the severity of those that we're coming up with," Brinkley told reporters in a conference call.
    
The decision not to spend the money is the latest chapter in budget wrangling between the Republican governor and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly. The legislature specifically designated how the $80 million would be spent in an all-or-nothing arrangement, and the governor had the final say on whether to approve the spending. Administration officials criticized the legislature's method of fencing off the money.
    
"Governor Hogan has repeatedly said he would not play politics with budget items and that the legislature's tactic of fencing off dollars for critical programs like public safety, lead remediation, addiction services and state highway funding are the kinds of stunts that Marylanders have come to resent," said Matt Clark, the governor's spokesman.
    
House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, noted that the legislature passed the budget on a strong bipartisan vote, unanimously in the Senate and 130-7 in the House.
    
"The governor's refusal to release money for critical public safety and education projects is another example of his administration's inability to compromise with the General Assembly to help middle-class Marylanders across our state," the speaker said in a statement. "Maryland is a democracy, not a monarchy."
    
The head of the state's teachers' union said it was the governor who was playing politics by withholding added education spending.
    
"The change that Gov. Hogan has brought to Maryland is an increasing record of looking for every opportunity to shortchange our students and the hard-working educators who help them learn every day," said Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association.
    
A significant portion of the money that won't be spent includes $19 million to provide additional one-time funding to local education agencies to support a portion of their share of pensions for teachers. "That's something that principally benefits very wealthy jurisdictions," Brinkley said.
    
Another big part of the fenced-off money includes $13.2 million for medical care provider reimbursements to increase primary and specialty physician evaluation and management rates to 96 percent of Medicare. Brinkley said the health department will look for savings elsewhere to find about $7 million to raise the rates to 94 percent.
    
Asked whether revenue concerns will wipe out plans the governor may have to seek tax relief in next year's legislative session, Brinkley said the administration is focusing on potential short-term fiscal challenges.
    
"Right now, certainly the governor would love to see additional tax relief in addition to what, you know, he had supported in the past, but we have to deal with that as a long-term goal," Brinkley said.
    
The state had a projected budget surplus of about $360 million for the current fiscal year, which began July 1, but budget officials say it will end up being less than that due to the softening revenue collections. The state also has a rainy day fund of about $1 billion.

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