By Len Lazarick
A few more Republican delegates than usual voted against the House version of Gov. Hogan’s $44.5 billion budget Thursday. The final vote was 126-11.
The GOP members repeatedly tried to take $1 million away from Democratic Attorney General Brian Frosh and his lawsuits against the Trump administration, and they also attempted to provide more income tax relief than Democrats were willing to offer from the windfall the state will reap from the federal tax cuts.
The spending bill now heads to a conference committee with the Senate over what House Appropriations Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh called “very few differences” with the version the Senate passed last week.
The House cut about $10 million more from the court system and $4 million from the BOOST scholarship program for students in private schools that the senators favor and the delegates don’t.
GOP senators unanimous
One of the principal differences between the House and the Senate is that the senators passed their version unanimously, with all 13 Republicans voting for the spending plan almost entirely crafted by the Republican governor. They’ve done that now four years in a row.
In the House, a hardy handful of five, six or seven GOP delegates typically vote against the budget each year. Thursday, that figure grew to 11, despite the kind words of House Minority Leader Nic Kipke about the bipartisan work on the budget.
“I think we have an excellent budget in front of us today,” Kipke said.
But that didn’t stop the majority of the 50 Republican members of the House of Delegates from voting to strip Frosh of $1 million for lawsuits against federal policies, and use it to fight organized crime or improve school safety.
“We have to have a better bang for the buck than a PR campaign for one person,” said Del. Haven Shoemaker, R-Carroll.
More for school safety
McIntosh pointed out the House appropriators actually added $15 million for school safety programs than the governor requested, bringing it up to $30 million.
Del. Eric Luedtke, chair of the education subcommittee of Ways & Means, said they were working in a very bipartisan manner to craft an enhanced school safety program. “You can’t tell who’s a Democrat or a Republican on our committee,” Luedtke said.
House Democrats rebuffed several attempts by Del. Susan Krebs, R-Carroll, to allow Marylanders to itemize their deductions on their Maryland returns even if they take the much larger standard deductions provided in the federal tax changes.
But Del. Anne Kaiser, chair of the tax-writing Ways & Means Committee, said, “We thought it would be easy to tell who could be harmed” by the federal tax changes causing them to pay higher state and local income taxes. “No one knows the full impact” of the new federal law. “Why should we rush ahead?” Kaiser asked.
Krebs amendment failed 50-86, and two other variations lost by similar margins.
Del. Sue Aumann, a Baltimore County Republican on the Appropriations Committee, voted against the budget for the first time this term.
“I consider this a taking from our citizens,” said Aumann, who is not running for reelection. “We’re going to make life more difficult for the middle and lower class.”