The coronavirus pandemic has taken huge toll on Maryland’s economy and has forced the state’s policy makers to make tough decisions about how to spend the taxpayers’ money.
The state’s general fund is projected to lose between $900 million and $1.1. billion in FY 2020, according to the former director of the Bureau of Revenue Estimates. The new fiscal year begins on July 1.
Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed $1.45 billion in budget cuts in an attempt to help offset the massive projected revenue loss. The cuts would reduce general fund expenditures by more than $610 million.
The Board of Public Works is expected Wednesday to consider a request by Hogan to cut $672 million from the budget at its scheduled meeting. The three-member board is comprised of Hogan, Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot.
A spokesperson for Franchot told the Baltimore Sun on Tuesday that the comptroller will oppose more than $205 million of the proposed cuts. Some of the cuts Franchot opposes target raises and health care benefits for state employees. The cuts mean that some state employees could be furloughed or laid off.
Hogan’s Communications Director, Mike Ricci, said in an email to MarylandReporter.com that the governor’s decision to propose the cuts did not come lightly.
“Governor Hogan continues to lead the national bipartisan effort to secure federal aid to protect jobs and essential services. He doesn’t want to make any of these cuts, but he recognizes that not taking action is not an option.”
Ricci called on Franchot to come up with an alternative proposal to the proposed cuts.
“If the Comptroller doesn’t support these cuts, we look forward to seeing his specific alternatives, because the consequences of inaction and voting no are severe.”
The Board only has the authority to make up to a quarter of spending cuts when the General Assembly is not in session. So lawmakers will be tasked with reviewing the remainder of the proposed cuts when the Assembly reconvenes in Jan. 2021.
Budget cuts will hurt education
Sen. Cory McCray (D-Baltimore City), who sits on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said the cuts the board is slated to consider would hurt Baltimore City’s educational institutions.
“When we think about distancing learning and how that has impacted our most vulnerable communities-our underserved communities-this is going to have a dramatic impact. When you think about higher education-from Morgan State University to Baltimore City Community College, Coppin State University and other institutions in the system-we know that this is going to have an impact on education. And then when we think about our libraries and disparity grants-we have to be mindful of these cuts.”
Del. Rick Metzgar (R-Baltimore County), who sits on the House Appropriations Committee, said careful deliberation is necessary before any cuts are made to ensure that essential workers do not wind up losing their jobs.
“I don’t think by cutting employees that have been working to get us out of the mess that we are in-I don’t think that’s the appropriate way. However, with that said… they are going to hold jobs that are unstaffed anyway. So, I understand that concept. But we just can’t start taking jobs away from people that have been working hard throughout this pandemic. ”
Del. Brian Chisholm (R-Anne Arundel) said the proposed cuts may be necessary.
“It seems like a huge number but it might be necessary. But then the big question becomes: what are you going to cut it from?”…We’re going to have make some serious decisions. We’re going to have to make some serious cuts because we have to balance the budget. What do you balance it on without increased revenue?”