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Baltimore County Council Delays Budget Cut Vote, Hoping For Congressional Bailout

Baltimore County

The Baltimore County Council voted Thursday to delay making deep cuts into the county budget. 

Council members are crossing their fingers that financial aid is coming soon from Congress.

Baltimore County is facing a revenue shortfall projected to be at least $170 million, due to the economic damage done by the COVID-19 pandemic. Council members were gearing up to make across-the-board cuts. They have been saying for weeks that everything needs to be on the table, including possibly delaying planned pay increases for county employees and making cuts to education.

Now they are hoping that Congress and the president can agree on a financial aid package for states and localities before the council’s June 1 deadline to pass the budget.

Democratic Councilman Julian Jones said he hopes constituents understand the pressure council is under, as it delays the vote.

“And we’re doing our very, very best to get it right,” Jones said. "And do it right the first time.”

Democratic Councilman Tom Quirk said they were advised by Sen. Chris Van Hollen’s office that there could be a potential vote in Congress May 26 on a financial aid package.

Quirk said it is also possible that will not happen. In that case, the county council will be right back to having to make deep cuts into Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski’s proposed budget.

The vote to delay budget cuts was unanimous.

During  the brief budget meeting, Quirk encouraged constituents to call their congressmen and senators to push for the financial aid package.

“It’s very imperative,” Quirk said. “We’re talking about police, firefighters. We’re talking about public works. We’re talking about teachers. These are jobs that we must protect and we cannot do this without the help of the federal government.”

In a statement, Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski said he will continue to work with the council to pass a budget that meets "this unprecedented moment."

On Tuesday,  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) proposed a more than $3 trillion federal aid package. Nearly $1 trillion would go to state and local governments. The Washington Post reported Thursday that White House officials have said privately they are willing to provide tens of billions of dollars to the states.

The council is working a tight timeline. It is scheduled to meet May 28 to consider budget cuts. Then it plans to pass the budget the next day.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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