ANNAPOLIS — Nearly 40 minutes before a work group got started on its agenda Thursday, a few members spoke out against comments Gov. Larry Hogan made from last week’s Maryland Association of Counties summer conference.
In regard to the ongoing work of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education commission, Hogan said the possible expenditures to revamp the state’s public education system are too expensive.
“These well-meaning but half-baked and fiscally irresponsible proposals will cause an $18.7 billion state budget deficit over the next five years, and will force a crushing $6,200 tax hike on the average Maryland family,” he said at the conference Saturday in Ocean City.
Sen. Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City), who serves on the 25-member commission and funding formula work group, took exceptions to Hogan’s remarks.
“To suggest that this is half-baked is not only insulting to every member in this room … it’s a disservice and disbelief of the potential in the people of the state of Maryland,” he said. “Fundamentally, we have one constitutional [creed] and that is to provide a system of free public schools that allows every single child to maximize his or her potential. This is a moment I invited the governor to be a part of the solution.”
David Brinkley, the governor’s secretary of budget and management, said Hogan has and remains a partner in improving public education. Brinkley said the governor’s remarks are from estimates it could cost to restructure the public school system: 39 percent increase in the personal income tax; 89 percent increase in the sales tax; and 535 percent in property taxes.
“I urge caution and my concern and a public that has certain false expectations,” said Brinkley, who serves on the commission and funding group. “No one has looked at the camera and said, ‘How will this be paid for?’”
Hogan spokeswoman Kata Hall criticized some of the lawmakers on the commission for attacking the governor, whom she said is “the only one being honest with Marylanders about the true price tag.”
“We have heard nothing today from partisan legislators to suggest that they have a real plan, a strategy, or even an inkling of how to fund the Kirwan blueprint,” Hall said. “Gov. Hogan will continue to express the serious concerns of citizens and county leaders about these tax increases, even if it means some bruised egos along the way.”
One of the group’s responsibilities will be to estimate how much money would be divided between the state and local school systems to pay for expansion of pre-kindergarten, increasing teacher salaries, hiring additional mental health providers and other services and resources.
According to proposed estimates reviewed Thursday, it could cost $3.8 billion to implement the recommendations through fiscal year 2030. However, the state could save slightly more than $2 billion during that same time frame.
A proposed recommendation would be provided later this year before the General Assembly convenes in January.
Monique Davis, a member of the funding formula group and regional superintendent in Anne Arundel County public schools, said one word and picture didn’t get mentioned: children.
“We don’t have one picture of a child in this room. There is no child in the audience,” said Davis, who’s married to Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-District 25) of Mitchellville. “It’s our duty to ensure that every child in the state of Maryland has the same opportunities that our children have. That’s all I ask.”
William E. “Brit” Kirwan, who chairs the commission, allowed Davis to have the final comments and funding work group delved into the agenda at 10:46 a.m. and continue to hear various presentations today.