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Governor warns against spending $2.5B surplus

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Rachel Baye
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Gov. Larry Hogan announces a different budget proposal in January 2018. Credit: Rachel Baye/WYPR

Gov. Larry Hogan has laid out a five-point plan for what he would like to do with a recently announced $2.5 billion budget surplus.

Since Comptroller Peter Franchot announced the surplus last week, politicians and advocates have proposed ideas for the money.

For example, Franchot, as part of that announcement, suggested investing it “in programs that lift all Marylanders and help stabilizing housing and other critical expenses for our lower- and middle-income families.”

In an email over the weekend, Senate President Bill Ferguson likewise suggested using the money to help low- and middle-income residents in “new and creative ways.”

The Maryland Center on Economic Policy, a left-leaning think tank, proposed using the surplus to extend unemployment benefits to those who lost them after Labor Day and bolster rent relief for people facing evictions.

But at a press conference Thursday afternoon, Hogan warned against spending too much of the money too quickly.

“Already some politicians see this as a chance to go on a big spending spree with pet projects and big payouts to special interests and new mandated increases in spending,” he said. “That is not going to happen on my watch.”

Hogan plans to put the majority of the money, about $1.4 to 1.5 billion, into savings — what’s known as the “rainy day fund” — “saving that extra revenue to have it available to us for potential recessions and or other crisis times ahead,” Hogan said. Last year, the state used this fund to pay for some pandemic relief measures.

He said he proposes spending the remaining money on tax cuts for retirees and “working families”; aid for “underserved Marylanders”; and “enhancements” for state employees.

The governor said these are just the “broad outlines,” of his plan and did not reveal details on any of these ideas. He suggested that some details may be revealed in his proposed fiscal 2023 budget, which he will release in January.

All of his proposals will need to be approved by the General Assembly in the 2022 legislative session, which begins in January.