House Appropriations Chair Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) suggested that 2019 is likely to be an easy year overall, as far as budget work goes.
“The governor had ample revenues to fully fund education, improve health care services, and account for a number of other priorities,” McIntosh said Friday morning, after getting her first glances at Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget.
Legislative work on the budget will begin in the House of Delegates this year before crossing over to the Senate.
Senate Budget & Taxation Chair Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery) said Friday morning that “the devil’s in the details,” so it will take lawmakers a few days to parse the governor’s proposed spending plan.
Del. Eric G. Luedtke (D-Montgomery), chair of the Ways & Means Education Subcommittee, put it succinctly on Twitter: “I’m sure we will find more problems with the governors proposed budget soon. But the good news is it’s now in the legislature’s hands. And we will do our best to make sure our budget meets the needs of Maryland’s middle-class families.”
The budgetary committees and other lawmakers will meet on Monday afternoon in Annapolis for a joint briefing on the proposed budget.
Sen. William C. Ferguson IV (D-Baltimore City), vice-chair of the Senate committee, said one reason lawmakers largely refrained from sounding the alarm on Friday was previous legislative mandates that guide the Republican governor’s spending.
“Overall, the governor fully funded a number of Democratic priorities that we’ve been fighting for over the years. The mandates that we’ve heard a lot about are fully funded,” Ferguson said. “Protecting public education and health care and increasing the wages for our developmentally disabled workers, increasing salaries for our incredible public sector state workers, a lot of that was included. So I was pleased to see a number of the core priorities fully funded.”
Ferguson, McIntosh and other lawmakers expressed some concern about the governor’s budget for its treatment of the forthcoming recommendations of the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, dubbed the Kirwan Commission. Hogan set aside $200 million of unallocated education funding for the recommendations “if and when” they’re received. And about $36 million of the $125 million in the education lockbox remains unallocated. Commissioners had sought $325 million in funding to jumpstart recommendations to expand special education investments and an expansion of early education, among other priorities, but an interim report is not expected to be issued until late next week.
“There’s some negotiation that’s going to have to happen to make sure that we’re making a real commitment to world-class education,” Ferguson said.
While it might be tempting to pull from the $1.3 billion Hogan set aside for the state’s Rainy Day Fund, McIntosh said the legislature isn’t going to do anything that would jeopardize the state’s bond ratings.
Other worries include fears of a looming economic downturn and the continuing loss of state revenue as a result of the federal government shutdown. McIntosh said the state is losing $1.3 million to $1.5 million a day in revenues for every day the federal government is shuttered.
McIntosh and others also said legislative analysts believe Hogan’s budget proposal is unbalanced. McIntosh said the proposal is $63.7 million “out of whack.”
“…Out of a whack is a fiscal term,” McIntosh quipped.
Josh Kurtz contributed to this report.