ANNAPOLIS — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday he doesn’t plan to release more than $245 million of projects lawmakers added earlier this year to the next fiscal budget that went effect Monday.
Hogan cited a $961 million deficit as the reason for withholding the money the legislature “fenced off,” or restricted to be used for items such as school construction, programs at historically Black colleges and universities and local neighborhood initiatives.
“The legislature … made false promises to special interest groups which they knew would not and could not be fulfilled,” Hogan said Wednesday at the Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis. “We must remain vigilant and fiscally prudent and be prepared for the volatility of the national economy.”
For instance, Hogan said lawmakers cut $90 million from a rainy-day fund and $50 million from the pension day fund.
In terms of school construction, the governor will resubmit a plan on school construction when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.
State law allows the governor to not withdraw the money.
Although lawmakers approved a $46 billion budget, they deleted programs Hogan proposed and implemented their preferred spending measures.
However, the Republican governor will instruct his agencies to find savings within the existing budget and not from the legislature to pay for certain program such as $3.5 million rape testing kits the legislator did put in the budget. Other measures include $1.3 million in hepatitis C treatments; $125,000 each to fund new positions in the state’s attorney offices in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City, and $100,000 grants for local health departments to combat tuberculosis.
“We will not allow critical public safety and health needs to go unmet,” he said.
Potential initiatives that may not get funded this year include $1.6 million for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, $1 million for a physician assistant program at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, $750,000 creation of a prescription drug affordability board and $300,000 for Prince George’s Community College.
Treasurer Nancy Kopp, who also serves on the Board of Public Works with Comptroller Peter Franchot, said Hogan is blaming the Democratic-controlled legislature.
“Governors never like legislators putting their imprimatur on the budgets,” Kopp, a Democrat, said. “It’s not the governor’s budget. It’s not the legislature’s budget. It’s the state budget. I for one, am very sorry to hear that you’re not going to be funding these very good programs.”
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. expressed disappointment in Hogan’s decision, but said he will continue discussions with the governor to hopefully change his mind.
“The bipartisan budget passed by the legislature was balanced and did not alter the structural deficit any differently than in the Governors originally proposed budget,” Miller said in an issued statement. “While the governor has made his announcement today, he is certainly allowed to change his mind. … I urge him to do so and decide that priorities including school construction, rape kit testing, youth jobs, funds to our HBCUs and other projects are worth funding.”