Democrats repeat plea for Hogan to release school aid; governor again says no

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By Len Lazarick

Len@MarylandReporter.com

Senate President Mike Miller and other senators and delegates press Gov. Hogan to release school aid.

Senate President Mike Miller and other senators and delegates press Gov. Hogan to release school aid.

Democratic legislators are yet again asking Gov. Larry Hogan to release the final $68 million of school aid they appropriated now that the state has a larger surplus and higher revenue projections than expected when they passed the budget in April.

Yet again, the Republican governor has rejected their plea, as he has throughout the year, citing structural deficits looming in the future and pension liabilities. The Democrats insist those deficits have been cured.

School aid poster

Poster illustrates Democrats’ budget arithmetic.

“We have done what we promised to do,” said House Appropriations Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore City, at an Annapolis news conference. “We have closed the structural deficit.”

But Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer responded, “As both Senate President Miller and Speaker Busch know, Maryland is still facing a nearly $1 billion cumulative deficit over the next five years. On top of that, there is a $20 billion hole in the teacher and state employee pension system that the General Assembly has repeatedly failed to address.”

The legislators had already pointed out that the budget surplus allows an amendment to kick in that will put an additional $50 million into the state pension system for public school teachers and retirees.

Repeat performance

As the lawmakers repeated arguments they had been making since spring — with the added impetus of found money — and Hogan’s staff repeated the governor’s position, it was not clear whether the legislators hoped to change Hogan’s mind or simply remind voters that Hogan had “cut” education funding.

“It’s a short-sighted decision,” Sen. Rich Madaleno, vice chair of the Budget and Taxation Committee, told reporters. Reprising his role as the Democratic attack dog on school aid, the Montgomery County Democrat, said, “Governor Hogan, Halloween is over. Stop trying to trick the people of Maryland that we don’t have the funds.”

Even after funding the school aid and the extra pension contribution, there would still be a $200 million surplus, Madaleno said, 10 times more than originally projected.

Mayer repeated Hogan’s consistent assertion that, “this administration funded education at record levels this past year and it will remain a top priority going forward.” Hogan had actually increased education funding to $6.1 billion, but had funded only half of the Geographic Cost of Education Index, a supplement that goes to 16 of 24 counties.

“Governor Hogan was the first governor in the history of the state to fund GCEI in his first year in office and he will be the first governor to fully fund it in his second year,” Mayer said.

The two sides appear ready to replay their assigned roles until Hogan submits his next budget in January. In a brief conversation, House Speaker Michael Busch said there had been no private discussions with Hogan on the issue.

The money “cannot be used for anything else,” Busch noted.

Giving Democrats a rock

Some pragmatic Hogan supporters wonder why he gave Democrats that rock to throw at him when $68 million is such a piddly amount in a $40 billion budget.

Hogan felt he had compromised enough on other budget issues, and needed to show his resolve, even when revenue numbers improved.

In May, Hogan was pragmatic enough to concede long-term defeat on the issue. The $68 million in the Geographic Cost of Education Index was the only discretionary amount in school funding — one that O’Malley failed to fully fund in his first years, as well.

The Democratic legislature passed legislation to make that GCEI funding mandatory in future years. In May, Hogan allowed that measure to become law without his signature, saying a veto would put him and Republican legislators through a fight they were likely to lose.

That issue is off the table for the rest of his term, but it will not necessarily go away. A commission is currently studying the education formulas passed in 2002, and its report is due next year. The commission is likely to seek changes in formulas, and it is expected ask for more money, as most education funding study commissions do, at least in some areas.

Related stories

April 14: Hogan and legislators veered close but wound up far apart

April 23: Hogan fires back on education funding debate

May 6: Loss of expected funding has school systems on edge as they urge Hogan to release money

May 14 Hogan rejects pressure for school aid but surrenders in the long term

Sept. 24: Education advocates, Democrats urge Hogan to use surplus on schools

  • charlie hayward

    “New money” in the checkbook is the sole criterion for democrats to rush to spend it. Hogan, in contrast, considers the condition of MD’s balance-sheet which shows a material negative equity that will become much worse next year (+$400 million or so) due to changes in GASB rules mandating more conservative pension accounting. Hogan has multiple reasons, all sound, for being circumspect.

  • joe

    I totally agree!
    Any person just finishing school in “tax and spend” blue Maryland should leave and set up residence in a red state before the progressive Democrat’s bankrupt Maryland.

    • joe

      Agreement is with charlie Hayward’s comment.

    • Dale McNamee

      According to another story on Maryland Reporter, they already are…

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  • T

    “one that O’Malley failed to fully fund in his first years, as well.” Thank you for adding this point Len that often goes unmentioned. It’s amazing how people have forgotten this key point given O’Malley only fully funded GCEI in 2 of his 8 budgets.

    But then again, others writing stories don’t have the in-depth knowledge about Annapolis that you do.

  • Vidi

    So do we need to throw the entire surplus at education to close the achievement gap? Why is education (which has a Maintenance of Effort funding guarantee) the issue we impale ourselves on? How about using some of these funds to close the structural budget deficit. We continue to have this deficit despite Del McIntosh’s statement to the contrary. Perhaps her definition of “structural budget deficit” differs from that of taxpayers. We know that we are mortgaging the future of our children and grandchildren – she apparently has a different view. If we must spend the surplus, there are a huge number of worthy programs that are begging for funding – programs that do not have the power of special interests behind them.

    • abby_adams

      The Dems answer to every problem is to throw more money at it & expect little if any progress in solving the problem.

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  • abby_adams

    Does anyone with even the slightest interest in MD politics think anything different would have occurred? No self respecting Democrat would ever leave a penny unspent if humanly possible. The heady years of over tax & over spending during the O’Malley years have come to a halt. I challenge the MD Dem legislators to take a bold step & support Hogan. We did.

  • gunpowderchronicle

    The unrestrained confiscation of private funds for alleged public good must cease, as has been noted all to frequently, “The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money to spend.”

    Will this extra $68 million improve actual educational outcomes (and not just test scores)? Will it make school construction easier (as opposed to making it more expensive through prevailing wage and LEED requirements which price out local contractors from being able to bond projects)? Will it correct a dramatically deficient pension system where counties create a financial encumbrance on the pension system, but it is taxpayers across the state that have to pay that bill when it comes due?

    What says the Democrat party of the Old Line State. Is your answer merely spend ever more, until the trough is empty, the fatted calf stripped to its bones, and the fields lay barren? Would you have us become Greece?

  • Dale McNamee

    The overspending “Progressive Democrats” always hide behind “the children” and “education”…

    There’s an article on Maryland Reporter about how students are failing the PARCC tests which measure their readiness for employment and college…

    And the education budget has grown over the past 30 years that I’ve lived here and the product has deteriorated each year…

    The “Progressive Democrats ” and the education departments of the counties don’t need the $68 million… They need to be audited a prosecuted for theft, waste, and fraud !

  • mahatchma

    Perhaps if the laws that occasionally are intended to improve the welfare and safety of Marylander residents were enforced – items like using indicators when changing lanes, using headlights if windshield wipers are in use, even using headlights on the bay bridge, then the budget deficit could be reduced, if not totally cleared, however, since the various levels of police seem derelict in their duty in these matters, I can only assume that if I can ever retire, job 1 will move out of this democrat infested state