House Appropriations Committee Concurs With Many Senate Budget Actions

The House Appropriations Committee held its full committee decision meeting on Friday, March 22. While some differences exist, the Committee concurred with the many of the actions taken by the Senate, including the decision to take a larger share of pension reinvestment dollars to balance the fiscal 2014 and 2015 budget.

As reported in a previous post, instead of paying an additional $300 million a year into the state pension system over the amount required annually, the Senate’s budget plan would contribute only $100 million in fiscal 2014 and fiscal 2015. The $100 million supplemental payment would be restored in phases back to $300 million by 2019.  The House Appropriations Committee approved this approach.

With slight variations, the Appropriations Committee also concurred with actions taken by the Senate focusing on local government. These actions are described below, including any differences.

The full House of Delegates will debate and finalize its budget plan by the end of this week.  Any differences will be resolved by a conference committee.

TRANSPORTATION – The Appropriations Committee took action to accelerate the $10 million in pothole funding for counties and Baltimore City into fiscal 2014 and received a letter from Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary in support of this approach.  The Senate budget plan provides $10 million to county governments for pothole repairs in fiscal 2015. This difference will be resolved in conference committee.

COMMUNITY COLLEGES – The Appropriations Committee action constrains growth, but further modifies the formula providing for a smaller reduction, increasing funding.  The Senate budget plan, constrained growth through the formula, but funding increased by 5.2% compared to 5.0% in the Governor’s proposed budget. Under both actions Chesapeake College receives a hold harmless grant.

The House Appropriations Committee further adopted language to require a county to maintain or exceed its total community college appropriation in a given year to receive an increase in State support or funding from the hold harmless grant. Both the formula funding difference and the county funding requirement language will be resolved in conference committee.

LOCAL HEALTH DEPARTMENTS – The Appropriations Committee  concurred with the Senate action to clarify that inflationary increases for local health departments are applied to the prior year appropriation providing for cumulative growth in the formula, instead of being applied to the base funding level (additional information on this issue can be found in a previous post on Conduit Street).

EDUCATION FUNDING – The Appropriations Committee concurred with the Senate action to clarify that, for the purpose of local education maintenance of effort requirements, the wealth per pupil is calculated using September 1 net taxable income for fiscal 2015 through 2017; beginning in fiscal 2018, November 1 net taxable income will be used.

STATE DEPARTMENT OF ASSESSMENTS AND TAXATION – The Appropriations Committee modified language to require the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) to establish a workgroup to study issues related to property assessments and the calculation and administration of tax credits and exemptions; and authorize the agency to procure auditing assistance. The Committee also adopted new language to specify which job functions new assessors in Baltimore City should be assigned and for SDAT to consider entering into agreements with individual counties or Baltimore City to provide funds to SDAT to hire additional personnel. This language and modifications to the workgroup will be discussed and resolved in conference committee.