HOGAN’S 2017 BUDGET: Gov. Larry Hogan unveiled a $42.3 billion spending plan Wednesday, promising an array of tax cuts and stashing money in savings.The proposal set the stage for months of debate on what to do with the state’s projected $450 million budget surplus, write Erin Cox and Michael Dresser in the Sun.
- Legislators and nonprofit groups are still digesting the $42.3 billion budget. But there were few signs of indigestion over a proposal that increases spending by $2 billion (5%), while setting aside a record $1.5 billion in reserves and surplus, reports Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com.
- The proposal would cut about 800 state government jobs, partly by outsourcing housekeeping and food-services jobs at state-run hospitals, and give modest raises to the rest of the state workforce, officials said. It would set aside $150 million more than required for state-employee pensions and increase the state’s rainy-day fund to more than $1.1 billion, Josh Hicks and Fenit Nirappil of the Post report.
- David Brinkley, the state’s budget secretary, provided an outline of the plan at a news conference two blocks from the State House. At the same time, lawmakers were voting in the House of Delegates chamber to override some of the Republican governor’s previous vetoes, Elisha Sauers of the Annapolis Capital reports.
- Maryland electricity ratepayers could expect to see a small cut in fees under a plan that is part of Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposed fiscal 2017 budget, writes Bryan Sears in the Daily Record.
- Rick Seltzer of the Baltimore Business Journal writes that the plan includes an increase in pay for state workers, recently proposed tax cuts and a $449 million surplus. It would also cap tuition growth at the University System of Maryland and Morgan State University while allotting $314 million for school construction and billions for transportation infrastructure.
MORE STATE FUNDS FOR FREDERICK: Frederick County’s local governments will see a slight increase in state funding in 2017 if Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget is approved by the General Assembly, Danielle Gaines of the Frederick News Post reports. State funding for local governments increased by 3.3% in the governor’s budget proposal, with a 1.8% increase slated for Frederick County.
HOUSE OVERRIDES 3 VETOES: Jessica Campisi of CNS writes in MarylandReporter.com that the House voted Wednesday to override three of Gov. Larry Hogan’s vetoes, including legislation that would give voting rights to ex-felons. A three-fifths majority is needed in the House for an override, and 85 votes — just enough — were cast to override the voting rights veto, with 56 opposed, including all 50 Republican delegates.
- The House also voted to override the governor’s vetoes of a Howard County bill that changes the way hotel taxes are collected and $2 million in the state budget that was earmarked for the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, a community arts center in House Speaker Michael Busch’s district, Pamela Wood is reporting in the Sun.
- Republican delegates who supported Hogan’s veto said losing the right to vote is a consequence of committing a crime; restoring it before felons complete their probation and parole, they said, goes too far. Under current law, felons can vote after they finish parole and probation, Ovetta Wiggins of the Post reports.
- Frederick County delegates voted along party lines Wednesday in a series of veto override votes in the Maryland House of Delegates, according to the Frederick News Post. The chamber successfully overrode three of the governor’s vetoes following the 2015 General Assembly session.
DRUG TREATMENT ADVOCATED: A bipartisan panel on justice reform told the General Assembly’s judiciary committees Wednesday to consider wide-ranging legislation aimed at treating rather than incarcerating non-violent and low level drug offenders, Steve Lash of the Daily Record reports.
ADDRESSING OVERTESTING: The head of the Maryland Senate’s education committee said Tuesday that lawmakers will try to address standardized testing during the ongoing legislative session, despite Gov. Larry Hogan’s statement that he would rather wait for a commission to weigh in on the issue this summer, Ovetta Wiggins writes in the Post.
ANGEL INVESTORS TAX CREDIT: While Maryland’s business community was largely pleased with last year’s General Assembly session, one of their disappointments was that a tax break for angel investors did not pass. But the Angel Investor Tax Credit Program has returned this year to Annapolis. Business groups supporting the bill have kept it atop their legislative agenda this year, Anamika Roy of the Daily Record reports.
HOGAN NEEDS MORE DATA: Gov. Larry Hogan does not have a stance on a controversial power plant project planned for Baltimore, writes Christina Jedra in the Annapolis Capital. “I don’t have a position on it because I don’t have the facts,” he said last week. Hogan was asked about the project by a Curtis Bay resident at the Annapolis Summit at the Governor Calvert House in Annapolis on Jan. 13. (MarylandReporter.com did the story last week.)
END MO CO BOOZE MONOPOLY: The editorial board of the Post is calling for Montgomery County to end its liquor monopoly, writing that few local public agencies in the region are as reviled as Montgomery County’s Department of Liquor Control, an antiquated public monopoly that distributes millions of cases of beer, wine and spirits annually to nearly 1,000 restaurants, stores and bars countywide. Those businesses — the agency’s clients — complain of shabby service, unreliable deliveries and price-gouging for specialty items, not to mention the occasional scam run by delivery crews.
HOGAN’S 1-YEAR ANNIVERSARY: Greg Kline of RedMaryland, in column for MarylandReporter.com, writes that Gov. Larry Hogan in his inaugural speech one year ago today, said, “We seek the freedom to compete without the undue burden of high taxes and bureaucratic regulations, which make us less competitive.” Already we have seen Hogan introduce budgets that control state spending. These budgets have gone a long way in reducing our state’s structural deficit and creating greater fiscal solvency.
- Gov. Larry Hogan will celebrate the one-year anniversary of his inaugural today with a party at Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis, Rick Hutzell of the Annapolis Capital reports. The event will come one day after Hogan releases his budget for fiscal 2017, and has gotten through a round of votes on overturning his veto of several bills.
PUGH LEADS IN FUNDING: Baltimore mayoral candidate state Sen. Catherine E. Pugh has more than twice as much campaign money on hand for her mayoral campaign as frontrunner Sheila Dixon — a total she says makes her a serious challenger to the former mayor, reports Luke Broadwater in the Sun.
BA CO TO FUND SCHOOL AC: Liz Bowie of the Sun writes that in an attempt to speed efforts to provide air conditioning to all schools in Baltimore County, the school board voted this week to put an additional $10 million in next year’s operating budget. The last-minute addition came days before the state Board of Public Works is expected to lift a ban on using state school construction money for portable air-conditioning units. Only 48 of the county’s 174 school buildings were air-conditioned at the beginning of the school year.
SHA REPLACES MISSING PLOWS: The State Highway Administration has replaced the 23 snow plows that went missing from a Glen Burnie facility last year with plows from Frederick, reports Christine Jedra for the Annapolis Capital. Both areas will be equipped to handle snow storms, including the blizzard forecasted for this weekend, said SHA spokesman Charlie Gischlar.
HARRIS DRAWS CROWD: Republican Congressman Andy Harris drew a large crowd Wednesday to his annual town hall meeting in Bel Air, which he again said drew the best participation of any such event in his district, writes Bryna Zumer in the Aegis. Harris, who represents Harford County, the Eastern Shore and parts of Baltimore and Carroll counties, blasted what he called President Barack Obama’s failure to control skyrocketing health care costs, national debt and general economic decline.