The Maryland House of Delegates has approved a $44.4 billion budget, but it will be discussed with Senate colleagues to negotiate differences between the two chambers’ spending plans.
The House measure received near-unanimous approval Thursday, March 22 with 125 votes, though 12 Republicans voted against the budget. The Senate unanimously approved an operating budget a week earlier.
“This stuff is complicated, trying to balance all the needs and interests … where resources are limited,” said Delegate Dereck Davis (D-District 25) of Mitchellville. “There are a lot of demands. We want to do the best that we can to protect the taxpayers. It is not an easy task.”
Before the official budget vote, Republicans presented several amendments, including one discussed for about 30 minutes on the attorney general’s office.
Delegate Deborah Rey, a Republican from St. Mary’s County, sought to take $1 million from the office designated to file lawsuits against the federal government and use it for school safety.
However, Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Baltimore City Democrat, said the budget already allocated $30 million for school safety. Plus, she said, legislation on school safety reviewed by the House Ways and Means Committee could produce more funding.
The Democratic-controlled House rejected Rey’s amendment 84-52.
“Our schools have been fighting for money for a whole bunch of things,” said Rey, whose district includes Great Mills High School, the site of a deadly school shooting this month. “We need to find a way to return that feeling of security to the kids. Whether you were in that school or not, you are still affected by it.”
Great Mills received nationwide attention on March 20 after Austin Wyatt Rollins, 17, shot two classmates, including Jaelynn Willey, 16, whom authorities said had a previous relationship with the shooter.
Jaelynn died two days later after being taken off life support. A 14-year-old boy shot in the thigh was treated and released.
Rollins died at a hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He was also shot by a school resource officer, who is credited with helping to quickly end the incident.
Meanwhile, delegates also voted along party lines 94-42 to set aside $200 million in revenue the state will receive from federal tax code changes. The money would be used to pay for education, based on recommendations by the Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education.
The budget includes funding for 44 education and nonprofit organizations, with at least half located or headquartered in Baltimore.
Two groups in Prince George’s County are proposed to receive funding: Alice Ferguson Foundation of Accokeek with nearly $80,000, and the Alliance of Southern Prince George’s Communities at roughly $32,000.
Operating funds for the four historical black colleges and universities — Bowie State, Coppin State, Morgan State and Maryland Eastern Shore — are estimated at $223 million. The budget for the University of Maryland in College Park is an estimated $502 million, more than double the amount of the four HBCUs combined.
About six pieces of legislation currently filed in the legislature include a bill to appoint a special adviser to remedy a pending 2006 lawsuit against the state. Gov. Larry Hogan offered a settlement last month of $100 million over a 10-year period, which equates to $2.5 million per year.
That’s not nearly enough, according to the legislation.
“It is anticipated that implementing a remedial plan to resolve the lawsuit … will increase general fund expenditures for HBCUs by millions of dollars,” said the legislation sponsored in both chambers by Delegate Charles Sydnor of Baltimore County and Sen. Joan Carter Conway of Baltimore City.
As for the budget, the plan is for Senate and House leaders to hash out a final budget by April 2, one week before the last day of session on April 9.