Emerging House Budget Proposal: Restore Education Funding, Reject Pension Shift, Reduce Assessment Shift

As reported by the Baltimore Sun, the House budget plan would restore some funding to K-12 education, and assist cashed strapped counties.

The plan would shift $58.5 million back to schools by raising some fees and trimming elsewhere in the $14 billion general fund budget. Members of the House Appropriations Committee are scheduled to start voting Wednesday in Annapolis on those changes, which would restore two-thirds of the money that O’Malley proposed to cut.

“Investment in education is good public policy. It is good economic policy,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch. “It puts people on the path to success.”Busch said the House proposal also would help financially stressed counties by reversing O’Malley’s proposal to collectively charge them $35 million for the cost of collecting property taxes, currently picked up by the state. The House budget plan would leave O’Malley with a surplus of up to $130 million as a buffer against future shortfalls.

In addition, the House proposal does not shift the cost of teacher pensions.  However, the House plan may face difficulty in the Senate.

It is unclear whether the Senate will support the House of Delegates’ proposal. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said Wednesday that the House plan would “reward” all counties. “The Senate is not going to be that generous,” he predicted.

The House Appropriations Subcommittees begin their “decision meetings” this afternoon, building toward a full committee decision meeting scheduled for Friday. At that time, the preliminary recommendations from the subcommittees (including agency-by-agency cuts and funding restrictions) will be brought to the full committee, and then a series of “full committee” topics will be raised and acted upon, yielding a comprehensive balanced budget proposal to be debated on the floor of the House next week. The Senate is expected to pursue a similar path about a week later than the House, with similar decisions being reached next week in committee, and the full Senate debating the budget the following week. After both chambers have passed their respective fiscal plans, a Conference Committee (including members from each chamber) will be established to resolve differences and present a final budget plan for passage, likely during the final week of the session.

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