Hogan Sets Up Website to Defeat Constitutional Amendment on Budget

    Question 1 would expand the General Assembly's budgetary powers. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

    Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) is upping his opposition to a statewide ballot initiative that would give the General Assembly more say in the state budget process.

    Hogan’s state political committee, Change Maryland, launched a website Monday in opposition to the ballot measure, www.votenoquestionone.com. The website features a 75-second video of Hogan addressing the camera, expressing his opposition to Question 1.

    The proposed constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, would allow lawmakers to increase, decrease and move money around in the state’s budget, subject to the overall cap in the budget the governor presents.

    Maryland legislators have been limited in their budgetary power to reducing or eliminating appropriations from governors’ proposed budgets. The century-old rules prohibit the General Assembly from increasing funding for programs, unless lawmakers create a corresponding new revenue source. Maryland is alone among the 50 states in conferring so much budgetary power on the governor.

    The ballot measure, if passed, would not apply to Hogan, because it would not kick in until 2023, just as the governor’s second term ends. But in his video, Hogan cast it as an attempt to dilute his power and said it would upend a governor’s ability “to block wasteful spending by the legislature.”

    “This is a blatant cash and power grab that would result in less accountability, higher taxes and more wasteful spending,” he continued. “With our state facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis, the last thing we should do is make it easier to recklessly spend more of your tax dollars.

    “If you voted for me because you wanted a check on the legislature, then I urge you to vote against Question 1. If you want more accountability for career politicians, not less, then I urge you to vote against Question 1.”

    Hogan isn’t the only prominent Republican agitating against the measure. Late last week, the state Senate Republican Caucus announced that it was also opposed to the measure.

    “This is simply a case of Democrats trying to change the rules now that they have been forced to work within a true two-party system,” the Senate GOP said in a statement. “We have been proud to support Governor Hogan as he has brought fiscal responsibility to the State’s budget and has set budget priorities that are in the best interests of all Marylanders, not just those represented by the majority party.”

    The Senate Republicans’ stance isn’t surprising: All 15 GOP senators this year voted against the legislation to place the constitutional amendment on the November ballot. But during previous Democratic administrations, several Republican lawmakers ― including David R. Brinkley, who is now Hogan’ budget secretary ― have supported measures giving the legislature more say over the budget.

    There is no organized group supporting Question 1. But it has been endorsed by the editorial boards of The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.