Maryland state employees could receive a $1,000 bonus in April through a supplemental budget submitted by Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) to the General Assembly on Monday.
Hogan proposed a $74.1 million increase to the 2022 fiscal year budget that would cover the cost of the bonuses, which would be made to permanent state employees.
“This supplemental budget recognizes the hard work of our state employees, who have overcome significant challenges to deliver essential services to Marylanders during this public health emergency,” Hogan said in a statement. “We have been successful in weathering this storm without having to implement any layoffs or furloughs. I want to especially thank our front line workers, including police officers, healthcare workers, highway maintenance workers, and all of our dedicated public servants for their exceptional service.”
The bonuses were made possible in part by “aggressive budget actions taken last year in response to projected revenue impacts from COVID-19,” Hogan’s office said. Those actions included a hiring freeze and $413 million in budget cuts.
Pending legislative approval, the bonus payments would take effect April 14 for most employees, and April 21 for University System of Maryland employees.
The supplemental budget was well-received by legislative leaders.
“The Speaker welcomes the Governor’s recognition of the hard work of State employees during the pandemic. They have kept State government running during this trying year and deserve some recognition of their efforts,” a spokeswoman for Speaker Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) said.
House Appropriations Chairwoman Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) said it was “terrific” to see the recognition for state employees, who are often underemployed and underpaid, though completely dedicated to the state. “They were the front line during this pandemic,” McIntosh said.
“If there was a group of individuals who stepped up to the plate and are deserving, it’s our state employees,” Senate Budget and Taxation Chairman Guy J. Guzzone (D-Howard) said.
But representatives from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 3 ― which has frequently clashed with Hogan during his tenure ― said the newly announced bonuses were helpful, but “not enough” for state employees who have been working under dangerous conditions during the pandemic.
“This one-time bonus is not enough to compensate our members who are still waiting for access to the vaccine and risking their health and their family’s health by reporting to work every day,” the union said in a statement.
AFSCME President Patrick Moran noted that Hogan proposed cuts to pay and positions through the Board of Public Works ― which ultimately weren’t pursued ― in July, and continued to propose pay cuts and furloughs during employment negotiations through December.
Projections of dire state government revenue losses up to $4 billion at the start of the pandemic have so far not come to fruition, though the state is still facing some revenue loss. The state ended the 2020 fiscal year with revenues about $100 million less than original estimates and the state is expecting a $921 million decline over the next two fiscal years. Those figures could be updated at a Board of Revenue Estimates meeting on Tuesday.
Hogan’s original $49.35 billion budget proposal in January represented a 2.2% decrease from the current fiscal year. In addition to the supplemental budget transmitted Monday, Hogan also proposed another supplemental budget increase of $1.5 million for education programs.
The largest cut in Hogan’s original budget proposal was a 23% decrease in human resources, from about $4.2 billion in the current fiscal year to just under $3.3 billion in 2022.
About $54.4 million for the bonuses comes from unappropriated balances in the state’s general fund, with an additional $12.6 million from special funds and $7 million from federal funds.
The House Appropriations Committee is set to start making its final 2022 budget decisions this week.