Gov. Larry Hogan on Tuesday said his newly proposed $47.9 billion budget for FY 2021 shows fiscal responsibility without raising taxes and urged state lawmakers to curb spending in the legislative session.
“This budget funds all of the state’s top priorities while maintaining $1.3 billion in reserves and limiting budget growth to 1 percent without raising taxes, without cutting services and without raiding dedicated special funds,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House.
Hogan called the proposal the “accountability budget” and said that, like the previous five budgets, the FY 2021 blueprint is “100 percent structurally balanced.”
Hogan said he will officially submit the budget to the legislature on Wednesday and will brief lawmakers at a breakfast at Government House, his official residence. Wednesday is the deadline to submit the budget. As of Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers had not yet seen the official budget.
The governor warned lawmakers to exercise fiscal restraint during the legislative session.
“As we have every year, we are strongly cautioning legislators against unsustainable forced spending increases.”
Hogan said mandatory spending currently accounts for 83 cents out of every dollar the state collects in taxes. He said that, in turn, leaves his administration with only 17 cents in revenue for “budget balancing, belt-tightening and reining-in of spending.”
Hogan said money for public safety will comprise a large part of the budget. He referenced the five people who were killed and 12 injured in eight separate shootings in Baltimore on Saturday as an example of the urgent need to address violent crime.
Hogan said $74.5 million will be allocated to local governments for police aid. He said $38.7 million will go to local law enforcement grants and $3 million will be allocated to facilitate recruitment and retainment of officers.
Hogan said $6.9 million will go toward crime prevention, prosecution efforts, and witness protection. Meanwhile, more than $270 million will go to community and residential operations to care for youths under the supervision of the Department of Juvenile Services.
On education, Hogan claimed “record” spending. He said $7.3 billion will go to K-12 education and more than $350 million will be allocated to fund the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission.
The budget includes $733 million for school construction, an $18.2 million increase in funding for community colleges and $1.1 million for low-income students to be allowed to take Advanced Placement tests without paying a fee, according to a press statement released by the governor’s office.
On infrastructure, Hogan said $80 million will go to rebuild the Howard Street Tunnel in Baltimore. He said the state last summer secured $125 million in federal funding to build a larger tunnel. A massive fire broke out in the tunnel on July 18, 2001, after a freight train with hazardous cargo derailed. The tunnel reopened five days later.
“We will be able to move forward on this project, which will break this major East Coast bottleneck by allowing double-stacked trains to travel through the Howard Street Tunnel,” Hogan said.
He said the project would benefit Maryland’s economy by “dramatically increasing production” at the Port of Baltimore and by “stimulating economic development all across the state of Maryland.” He said the project would create “thousands of Maryland jobs.”
On the environment, Hogan said $57.2 million will go to the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund — an increase of nearly 7 percent from the previous fiscal year.
Sen. Jill Carter, D-Baltimore City, told MarylandReporter.com that she likes the idea of Hogan spending money on youth programs but that not just any program will do.
“Definitely funding for youth programs is a right priority. Of course it will depend on whether or not the funding goes into evidence-based programs and programs that are continuing on an ongoing basis and not just a one-time thing for use.”
Carter applauded Hogan for increasing funding for the Chesapeake Bay and for allocating funds to fund the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, which she described as a “moral imperative.” Carter is running for the seat of the late U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Sen. Doug Peters, D-Prince George’s, said he had not seen the budget proposal and declined to comment.
A spokesperson for Baltimore Mayor Jack Young did not respond by deadline to a request for comment about Hogan’s public-safety proposals.