Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday released a list of legislation he vetoed as a cost-cutting measure amid the coronavirus pandemic, which he deemed necessary with the state on pace to lose nearly $3 billion in revenue and spending almost $2 billion to combat the virus.
One of the main items Hogan vetoed was the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future education plan, which Democratic lawmakers, educators and advocates praised as the best way to “level the playing field.”
But Hogan, who in the past has derisively referred to the group that presented the plan as the “Kirwan Tax Hike Commission,” said the costs created by the proposal were no longer tenable.
“It is increasingly clear that we will be facing significant fiscal and economic challenges for the foreseeable future as we recover from this global pandemic and the massive economic crash it caused,” the governor wrote. “The economic fallout from this pandemic simply makes it impossible to fund new programs, impose any new tax hikes [or] adopt any legislation.”
The annual $3.8 billion education plan came from recommendations instituted by the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education. The group — nicknamed the Kirwan Commission after its chair, former University System of Maryland Chancellor William E. “Brit” Kirwan — established the plan to expand early childhood education, increase teacher salaries and offer counseling and mental health services in schools with a high concentration of poverty.
Although Hogan vetoed a plan the commission worked on for about three years, the Democratic-controlled General Assembly can override the veto when lawmakers reconvene in January.
Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, said if no special session can happen this summer, she remains confident the state’s presiding leaders — House Speaker Adrienne Jones and Senate President Bill Ferguson — will lead the effort to override Hogan’s veto.
“Unfortunately, Gov. Hogan has not been a supporter of public education,” Bost said. “Each year of the Kirwan Commission, he has not sat down with them once. It’s just devastating the governor is not supporting the children of Maryland.”
Maryland leaders also expressed displeasure with Hogan’s decision.
“While we are in the midst of a public health and economic crisis of an extraordinary magnitude, stopping progress on education and school construction puts us even further behind,” Jones said in a statement. “We know that there are students across this state that are losing millions of hours of learning. The result of this short-sighted action is Maryland will continue to graduate students that are not ready for the real world.”
“The governor had a choice today to reject traditional politics and work together to adjust shared visions and build a strong future after this crisis,” he said in a statement. “Instead, he chose to foreclose hope, leaving Maryland families and historically Black colleges and universities with an open question for the future.”
Hogan also vetoed legislation that would provide $577 million for the state’s four historically Black colleges and universities. The amount, which was to be distributed over the next decade, equaled a settlement figure in a more than 13-year-old lawsuit agreed to by the plaintiffs, Maryland HBCUs Matters Coalition, alumni and other advocates.
The bill, pushed by the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, would have provided $24 million for Morgan State University, $16.7 million for Bowie State University, $9.6 million for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and $7.2 million for Coppin State University.
“Clearly we are frustrated and disappointed that our work was responded to with the governor’s veto,” Del. Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro, who chairs the caucus, said in a statement. “Allowing the bill to become law would have leveled the playing field for our HBCUs. We will continue to work on this important issue in this upcoming session.”