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News briefs: O’s agreement up for votes Monday, revised fiscal projections deepen state’s budget woes

State Budget Secretary Helene Grady (left) and Comptroller Brooke Lierman (D) talk after a meeting of the Board of Revenue Estimates of which both are members. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Maryland’s Board of Public Works will embark on a road trip Monday — for a special meeting at Camden Yards.

Late Thursday, the state’s spending oversight board and the Maryland Stadium Authority, which has been negotiating a long-term lease with the Baltimore Orioles, scheduled last-minute meetings for Monday.

Gov. Wes Moore’s office confirmed shortly after 9:30 p.m. that the boards planned to vote Monday on “a long-term agreement” with the team.

“This historic agreement embodies the three core principles I laid out at the beginning of this process: this is a long term deal that will keep baseball in Baltimore for all to enjoy, that puts all Maryland taxpayers at the top of mind, and that benefits the entire City of Baltimore,” Moore (D) said in a statement. “I know for many this process has been long, and the team that worked on securing this deal has done so diligently with the best interests of the taxpayer in mind.  The Orioles are a treasured part of the Baltimore community and I know I speak for all Marylanders when I say we are so excited to see the impact they will make on the City of Baltimore and across the state for years to come.”

The Maryland Stadium Authority is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. at its offices, the Warehouse at Camden Yards.

The Board of Public Works plans to meet at 3:15 p.m. at the same location.

Negotiators from Moore’s administration and the Maryland Stadium Authority appeared to have reached an agreement with the team for a 30-year lease renewal late last week, but according to published reports, it fell apart at the last minute in part due to objections from Senate President Bill Ferguson (D-Baltimore City) over granting the team a 99-year lease for development rights near the stadium. Ferguson’s district includes Camden Yards and the surrounding area.

The Stadium Authority’s Monday agenda indicates the board will consider a contract that “generally, extends existing Ballpark lease; and includes: Time for feasibility studies and governmental approvals to create a development plan; Time for approvals of a Ground Lease agreement and a Master Development Plan; Options if a Ground Lease agreement and a Master Development Plan are not approved by a certain date, to include entering into a new Facility Use Agreement with a 30-year term.”

The board will separately consider a 30-year lease agreement to take effect upon approval of a ground lease agreement and master development plan, according to the agenda.

Revenue estimates down

Maryland’s governor and legislature should expect less money to work with in the coming fiscal year when they return to Annapolis next month.

The Board of Revenue Estimates approved revisions to state revenues Thursday. And while there was some improvement in the current year estimates, the panel’s latest projection writes down revenues for fiscal 2025 by nearly $163 million compared to projections made in September.

Much of the projected decrease is related to continued declines in expected sales tax collections.

“This appears, in part, to be another post-pandemic behavior as consumers have generally spent pandemic savings or stimulus funds and are now looking to spend less and rebuild savings, for those who can,” Comptroller Brooke Lierman said.

The news deepens the state’s budget concerns both in the short- and long-term.

Hours after the Board of Revenue Estimates met, the legislative Spending Affordability Committee met to finalize budget recommendations for the coming fiscal year.

The revised forecast is part of a growing gap between projected spending and revenue.

Over the next five years, revenues are expected to grow 3.5% annually. Those are outpaced by expected spending growth of 5% annually over the same period.

What lawmakers heard was a budget picture that includes a $761 million structural gap for fiscal 2025. That figure is more than double the projections given to the same committee in September.

Gov. Wes Moore (D) and lawmakers will have to resort to one-time budget actions, some cuts coupled with dipping into the state’s rainy day fund, to erase the fiscal 2025 deficit.

The gap continues to widen in fiscal years 2026-2029.

Analysts now project a gap of $917 million in 2026 — more than double September’s estimate. In fiscal 2027, the gap increases again to nearly $1.2 billion or three times the September estimate.

In fiscal 2028 and 2029, the deficits balloon to $2.4 billion and $2.7 billion respectively, according to projections released Thursday.

Driving much of the gap in those last two fiscal years are large increases in spending related to implementing the Blueprint education reforms.


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News briefs: O’s agreement up for votes Monday, revised fiscal projections deepen state’s budget woes