When Gov. Larry Hogan highlighted parts of his proposed budget on Tuesday, he said it seemed too good to be true. He said he closed a $544-million revenue shortfall with “no serious cuts.” But the budget released Wednesday did reveal some cuts, including the elimination of much of a $290-million package passed last year in an effort to revitalize Baltimore.
Those proposed cuts include the elimination of $3 million for extended hours at the Enoch Pratt Free Library; and $7.5 million for after-school and summer-school programs in jurisdictions, such as Baltimore, with large populations of students from low-income families. Hogan also cut $5 million for the Next Generation Scholars Program, which helps students from low-income families prepare for college; and $17 million for two different programs designed to attract private development to underdeveloped neighborhoods throughout the state.
These programs were passed as new spending mandates last year, meaning the law requires the state to pay for them for multiple years. Hogan has repeatedly criticized mandates as irresponsible.
"We said last year very strongly and clearly ... we needed to do something about the existing mandated increases in funding and we have to stop putting new ones in,” Hogan said at a news conference Tuesday. “And again [the General Assembly] added $519 million in new mandated spending that we told them they could not do and that we could not afford. “Some of that won’t get funded.”
Lawmakers are left with tough choices if they want to restore any of the programs Hogan cut, said Baltimore Del. Maggie McIntosh, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. That’s because the General Assembly is not allowed to add money to the budget. It can only move around what the governor allocates.
“We have to cut in other areas and make room to put it back,” she said, “because our obligation is to pass a balanced budget.”
Senate President Mike Miller was disappointed to see the elimination of $15 million in operating costs at Prince George’s Regional Medical Center, which is in his district.
“But we’ll find a way to make it happen this year, OK?” he said Wednesday. “We’ll find to make positive things happen for both Prince George’s County and Baltimore City this year.”