Gov. Larry Hogan took aim on Monday at the job legislators are doing, focusing in particular on efforts to raise the minimum wage and to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more on schools.
Speaking at a press conference, Hogan accused lawmakers of trying to pass $31 billion in new spending without plans for how to pay for it.
“Paying for these proposals would require a 33-percent increase in the sales tax, a 15-percent increase in the personal income tax or a staggering 200-percent increase in the property tax,” Hogan said.
It’s not clear where the $31-billion figure comes from. Hogan said it’s the sum of all proposed spending increases so far this session, though it’s unlikely all of those proposals will pass.
Hogan singled out legislation that proposes broad changes to education policy. The bill is based on recommendations by the state Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, nicknamed the “Kirwan Commission.” It calls for $325 million in the coming fiscal year and another $750 million the year after that.
“Marylanders want better outcomes for our kids, but they’re also demanding that local school administrators are accountable for the billions in state tax dollars that we are handing over to them,” Hogan said.
The bill, which is backed by Democratic leaders, lacks safeguards to ensure that local school systems are using the money as intended, Hogan said. But he stopped short of promising to veto the bill if it reaches his desk.
“Let me be very clear,” he said. “No additional state tax dollars will be handed over to local school boards without significant accountability measures attached.”
But there are accountability measures in the legislation, said Baltimore Del. Maggie McIntosh, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, one of the committees considering the legislation. McIntosh also sits on the Kirwan Commission.
“I think we want to strengthen them. We agree with him on that,” she said. “We may not do it the same way he does it. In fact, the Kirwan Commission had, I think, stronger accountability measures than what he’s calling for.”
She said the commission recommended creating an organization outside of the State Department of Education to oversee implementation of the policies and use of the funding.
None of the committees considering the bill have released their recommended versions.
As for how the state would pay for the proposals, McIntosh said the $325 million needed for the coming fiscal year are covered in the current budget without any new taxes, and legislators are still brainstorming ways to pay for the policy changes in later years.
“A lot of online orders, we are not receiving the sales tax from that, so that’s one way. Sports betting is another way. There are a number of ways,” she said. “It doesn’t necessarily mean raising taxes.”
Hogan also criticized a proposal to gradually raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2025.
“It’s estimated that this action would result in the elimination of 99,000 jobs for the very people who desperately need them the most and a loss of more than $61 billion over the next decade,” he said.
But Senate President Mike Miller said minimum wage increases in New York and on the West Coast prove Hogan wrong.
“We have a very high income and we can afford to pay a decent — not even a living wage, but just a wage that people can get by on, which would be $15 an hour,” Miller told reporters Monday. “It’s not going to cost jobs. The benefits far outweigh any impact.”
Both the House and the Senate have already passed the bill. The Senate amended it to increase the minimum wage more slowly for businesses with fewer than 15 employees. Representatives of each chamber are in the process of negotiating a final version.
Hogan said his office is trying to keep the bill from reaching his desk. But if he can’t, “we’re going to have to take a serious look at vetoing some.”
Hogan also had harsh words for the legislature’s decision making on criminal justice issues, such as the decisions not to advance Hogan’s proposal to increase mandatory minimum sentences for repeat offenses involving the use of a gun or a bill that would have allowed police officers to carry guns inside Baltimore schools.
“This seems to be like the most pro-criminal group of legislators I’ve ever seen,” he said.