The House of Delegates passed its version of the Fiscal 2014 budget earlier this week, paving its way to passage on third reader in the Chamber today. This is the first year in many that major reductions and cost shifts have not been a part of the budget. As reported by the Baltimore Sun (limited free views available):
Delegates cut about $80 million in state spending, scaling back one of O’Malley’s initiatives to improve digital learning in classrooms and nixing another that would have created a $5 million fund for innovative ideas. Most of the cuts came from Medicaid costs that were $45 million less than expected.
The overall budget still increases by $1.26 billion, or 3.5%, but excluding federal funds and the money put in the Rainy Day fund, spending of state taxpayer dollars rises by just 2%. There will be a planned surplus (general fund balance) of $200 million, plus another $921 million in the Rainy Day fund, bringing these reserves up to $1.1 billion.
“Building up these balances will help cushion any negative impacts on the Maryland economy resulting from federal budget actions,” the committee said, referring to the federal sequestration cuts.
During budget debate an amendment was offered by Delegate Susan Krebs to restore the local share of highway user revenues, which equate to about $1.1 billion. This amendment was rejected by the House of Delegates. As covered by MarylandReporter.com:
“We need to pay it back before we ask our motorists for another penny,” Krebs said.
Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, R-Talbot, agreed.
“The money for the roads has already been paid, and now that it was taken, citizens should not be asked to pay again,” she said.
Democratic delegates contested this analysis, saying that the taking of highway user revenues really amounted to a reduction in state grants for local roads. They argued that reducing local aid was appropriate, given the difficult economic conditions.