Maryland governor's final budget focuses on healthcare, tax cuts, and education The $58.2 billion budget provides $75 million to local county health departments to continue combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Maryland governor's final budget focuses on healthcare, tax cuts, and education

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan presented his $58.2 billion budget Wednesday, his last as governor. Brian Witte/AP Photo hide caption

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Brian Witte/AP Photo

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan (R) announced his roughly $58.2 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2023 – his last one as governor – with a focus on local health departments, food assistance, police funding, and education.

Amid the ongoing pandemic, Hogan told reporters Wednesday his proposed budget includes $75 million for local county health departments —$10 million more in grants and other financial assistance than in fiscal year 2022. That includes funds for infectious disease prevention, like COVID, as well as family planning programs and administrative costs. Almost $1 billion will go toward mental health and substance abuse disorder programs. Hogan also said the budget adds roughly $4.8 million to the federal food assistance program known as SNAP to expand the program to 50,000 low-income children and 27,000 seniors.

"Our budget will make record investments in the local health departments on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic," Hogan said. He added that the state is able to make commitments like expanding SNAP benefits and providing relief to low-income and elderly residents, "while continuing to fund all of Maryland's top priorities."

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Other priorities for Hogan include retaining $3.6 billion in the state's rainy day fund. In October, Hogan announced that he would increase the rainy day fund by half a billion dollars, given the state's $2.5 billion surplus, the first since 1999. The budget also includes $4.6 billion in tax cuts, including eliminating taxes on seniors, phasing in over the next six years.

More than $500 million is being prioritized over three years for local police departments to increase officers' salaries, expand community policing efforts, and improve police training. Another $8.2 billion will be invested in K-12 education. At least $598 million for schools comes from the state's casino revenues, Hogan said.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) said in a statement that she agreed with some of the items in the budget, but was disappointed in the funding for K-12 education.

In the previous legislative session, funding for K-12 education was a flashpoint between the governor and Democratic lawmakers. In 2021, lawmakers overrode Hogan's veto on a bill to provide a $32 billion funding package over 10-years for K-12 schools. The package included increasing teacher salaries, providing full-day Pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds, additional funds for schools with high concentrations of poverty, and a new digital literacy pilot program.

A spokesperson for Jones wrote in an email that Hogan's budget does not provide $125 million for schools with the highest concentration of poverty in the state, the majority of which is in Prince George's County and Baltimore City. Jones also added that Hogan's proposed tax cuts would undermine the legislator's ability to fund their education reform package.

"I am skeptical this budget does enough to address historic state staffing shortages that put Marylanders at risk every day," Jones said in the statement.

Hogan reflected on this budget being his last as governor Wednesday, noting that when he came into office he inherited a $5.1 billion structural deficit. Then when the pandemic hit in 2020, the state's board of revenue estimates predicted a $2.8 billion hit to revenue. In response, Hogan's administration conducted a hiring freeze and cut more than $413 million from WMATA, higher education, and other non-COVID-related items in the summer of 2020. By the end of 2021, the revenue hit was not as large as predicted and federal funds helped boost state coffers, creating a $2.5 billion surplus. To commemorate his last budget, Hogan veered from the traditional black covers on the budget books and opted for purple instead.

"Purple is red and blue coming together, it's really what my whole administration has been about," Hogan said. "It's been a focus of ours, and it shows we want to work together, Republicans and Democrats."

This story is from DCist.com, the local news site of WAMU.

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