Baltimore at night taken from the international space station

GOP senators try to hem in “wow” package for Baltimore

Republican senators tried to put the brakes on a series of Democrat-sponsored mandated spending bills, dubbed the “Wow” bills by Senate President Mike Miller, designed to improve educational and quality of life prospects for Baltimore City residents on Tuesday. The four bills passed for a final vote despite several failed Republican amendments that would have given Gov. Larry Hogan greater control over how those projects would be funded as opposed to establishing annual spending mandates.

Del. Maggie McIntosh. MarylandReporter.com photo by Rebecca Lessner

Harrisburg vs. Annapolis: Partisan contrasts in passing budgets

In Harrisburg on Wednesday, a reluctant Democratic governor and the Republican legislature have finally come to an agreement on a budget — not for next year, but for the final three months of this fiscal year. A year of rancor and dispute came close to bankrupting schools and social agencies as the legislature refused to pass Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed tax hikes for a major increase in school aid. At the Maryland State House on Wednesday, the Democratic House of Delegates voted overwhelmingly to approve its final vote on Gov. Larry Hogan’s $42 billion budget, with bipartisan praise of a bipartisan process.

The Maryland Senate debated the budget Wednesday. Budget Chairman Ed Kasemeyer is at the podium, far right.

Senate passes budget unanimously; Hogan praises effort but has concerns

The Maryland Senate Thursday unanimously passed Gov. Hogan’s $42 billion budget. That earned praise from the Republican governor mixed with concern about reductions in the Rainy Day fund and highway user revenues, as well as $132 million in funds fenced off for legislative priorities. “Working in a bipartisan fashion to give our great state a sound fiscal foundation is a shared responsibility,” Hogan said in a statement, “and today’s vote shows both leadership and partnership toward a common goal.”

Sen. Nathaniel McFadden

Bipartisanship sneaks into Senate

There has been much talk of bipartisanship at the State House this legislative session, but not a lot of evidence of it, until Thursday morning in the Senate. “I want to thank the governor,” said Senate President Pro-tem Nathaniel McFadden, the chair of the all-Democrat Baltimore City delegation. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on Thursday morning provided an additional $12.7 million in his third supplemental budget for Baltimore City schools, money the school district had lost due to declining enrollment.

Md. revenue estimates down slightly for coming year

The Maryland Board of Revenue Estimates on Wednesday decided to write down state revenue estimates for fiscal 2016 and 2017 by approximately $51 million from estimates made last December. State Comptroller Peter Franchot said the new estimates reflected weak sales throughout Maryland during the recent holiday season. Economic growth has continued to be stagnant in the last few months.

At news conference, Hogan points to structural deficit figure before new mandates were introduced this session.

Hogan budget chief spars with Democrats over spending mandates

Budget Secretary David Brinkley sparred with Democratic legislators Tuesday over the Hogan administration’s proposal to gain relief from legislative spending mandates that exceed projected revenues. Prior to Brinkley’s testimony before the House Appropriations Committee, he joined Gov. Larry Hogan at a press conference in which the governor defended the initiative.

Senators begin trimming Hogan budget

Senators on the budget committee on Tuesday began doing the only things they can do with Gov. Larry Hogan’s $42.3 billion budget — cutting it around the edges and fencing off money for special purposes. That included a $58 million cut in Medicaid reimbursement to health care providers — based on lower enrollment estimates — and cutting part of Hogan’s modest legislative agenda, $3 million for Early Graduation Scholarships for students who complete high school in three years or less.

Open sign

Keeping the doors open for behavioral health will help the vulnerable

Years of stagnant or reduced behavioral health budgets have jeopardized critical access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment. Without action, we fear that community health providers may close up shop, and Marylanders who urgently need behavioral health care will instead find closed doors or dead ends. Commentary by Sen. Guy Guzzone and Del. Antonio Hayes.

Senate Budget & Tax Committee discusses new ways to assess property taxes, PG hospital funding

Instead of conducting a physical property inspection, the state would use satellite imagery and other technologies to assess home values, under a bill presented to the Maryland Senate’s Budget and Tax committee on Wednesday. Senate President Mike Miller also testified in favor of a bill that would allocate state and county funding for a new local hospital in Prince George’s County.