Photo above: The conference committee of legislative staff, delegates and senators meets on Tuesday afternoon.
By Anjali Shastry
Capital News Service
Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday asked a Maryland Democratic leader to support his fiscal agenda, but by the afternoon, a committee charged with hammering out budget differences appeared to be waiting for him to make the next move.
In a meeting with Speaker of the House of Delegates Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, Hogan asked the legislature to keep pushing forward his agenda, including making Maryland friendly for entrepreneurs and funding charter schools, Secretary of the state’s Department of Budget and Management David Brinkley said.
Hogan not happy
“No, he’s not happy that he doesn’t have some of his initiatives through,” Brinkley said. “There’s still ample opportunity for the legislature to move forward on this.”
A conference committee met Tuesday in Annapolis to hash out the differences, but put the more contentious items on hold for another day to focus on “innocuous” items, said Delegate Craig Zucker, D-Montgomery.
“We’re just looking at where we are in terms of our fund balance, see where we are structurally, and quite frankly, we’re still waiting to see what the governor does to restore the priorities that a majority of the Senate and the House approved,” said Zucker, a member of the House Appropriations committee.
“It will be very interesting to see if he doesn’t get what he wants, what will his reaction be?” said Senator and Vice Chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery. “And it’s human nature. It’s easier to say we tried, but (if) I don’t get what I want, you don’t get what you want.”
House Speaker Michael Busch told reporters that he and the governor had “a candid discussion,” but refused to go into detail about it.
Jenna Johnson and Ovetta Wiggins of the Washington Post have a fuller description of the meeting between the governor and Busch and other House leaders, calling it “an intense standoff” over the budget.
According to the Post, “Two people who attended — and spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss the private conversation — said the governor was impatient, uncompromising and at times confused about the legislative process.”
Hogan, a Republican, was elected on a platform of reducing taxes and state spending. He is attempting to address a $700 million structural deficit in the state budget in one year.
In order to do so, his initial budget rescinded a 2% cost-of-living raise given to state employees in January and subsidies for physicians who accept Medicaid, and halved the supplemental public education budget — known as the Geographic Cost of Education Index — that Montgomery and Prince George’s counties, as well as Baltimore and 10 other jurisdictions, have grown reliant on.
The Democrat-controlled legislature restored all three of these initiatives, but did not include most of Hogan’s agenda.
Supplemental budget funded Hogan priorities
After the House of Delegates and the Senate both passed amended budgets, Hogan last week introduced a supplemental budget to push forward some of his priorities.
The $45 million supplement provided tax breaks for businesses that contribute to private schools, gave $2 million to the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to combat heroin addiction and $8.2 million to the Maryland State Police for a new barrack in Annapolis and 100 new troopers.
He also accounted for three tax-relief measures in the supplement — one for small-business owners; one for military retirees; and one for fire, rescue and emergency personnel and volunteers. Bills associated with the first two initiatives have passed unanimously in the Senate, but the third has not emerged successfully from committee.
The governor has significantly more authority than the legislature on budgetary matters, according to Warren Deschenaux, the director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the Department of Legislative Services. Only Hogan can add money to the budget, like he did with the supplemental budget. If the legislature wanted to increase the budget, they would have to go to the governor, but otherwise they can only reduce or redistribute what is already there.
“(The legislature has) to say, mother may I,” Deschenaux said, “and sometimes you may, and sometimes you may not.”
Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com contributed to this story.