When Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan wrote a letter in January about the prospects of a proposed $49 billion fiscal year 2022 budget, he raised the prospects of deficits, spending freezes and cuts to programs as the state continues to battle the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Nearly three months later, lawmakers approved a $52.4 billion budget Friday that will boost the state’s unemployment system, enhance broadband internet access as students continue virtual learning and capital projects to renovate parks and other buildings.

Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore City), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, called the budget bill “the recovery act” that includes $2.1 billion in cash reserves.

The House approved the budget 125-8.

“We leave here this year [with] the budget not only fully balanced, but it erases any deficit for this year and next year. It gives us a path to recovery,” she said on the House floor. “It still helps those who need our help.”

Besides an expected positive economy, the state received $3.9 billion in federal aid as part of the American Rescue Act.

About $1 billion will be used in this year’s budget from the Maryland RELIEF Act lawmakers passed in February. The money provided stimulus payments for low-income residents and tax relief for small businesses.

About $100 million will support state employees in essential jobs such as health care and public safety. Some workers will receive “response pay” retroactively the state stopped providing in September.

After the House voted on the spending plan, the Senate gave unanimous approval.

“Of all the crazy things that have been happening, this is a huge deal,” said Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City). “This is a good budget for the people of Maryland. It’s going to get people back to work.”

In Prince George’s County, state funding will go toward roads projects such as $18.3 million to finish an overpass at Kerby Hill and Livingston roads at Route 210 in Oxon Hill.

According to a supplemental budget submitted by Hogan last week, other state money for the county includes:

– $45.1 million to design and construct a chemistry wing at the University of Maryland in College Park.
– An additional $4.4 million in disparity grants to assist the county government not receiving enough revenue in income taxes.
– About $1.5 million for the District Court building in Hyattsville.

Spending for Mental Health, Reopening Schools

One of the biggest budget items totals an estimated $255 million toward the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, a decade-long $3.8 billion education plan for mental health services, summer school instruction and money to reopening schools safely for in-person instruction.

Prince George’s anticipates receiving the most money because it ranks near the top among the number of disabled students, students on free and reduced lunch and English-language learners.

“I’m so glad we moved the Blueprint because that’s critically important,” said Del. Jazz Lewis (D-District 24) of Glenarden.

Hogan vetoed the plan last year because he deemed it too expensive. Lawmakers overrode his veto in February, but approved a revised Blueprint plan last month.

On Friday, Hogan wrote a letter to Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones that the bill labeled “Kirwan 2.0” will become law without his signature.

The governor wrote the education plan could cost households $3,150 in new taxes because there’s no assessment on how to pay for it through 2027.

“[The Blueprint], while correcting some of the problems of the earlier version I vetoed, completely fails to directly address the most important issue,” Hogan wrote. “The General Assembly will need to once again rewrite the original legislation to address these critical fiscal flaws in the 2022 legislative session.”

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

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