The Department of Legislative Services, the legislative staff agency, has offered a recommendation that the capital budget funding for two programs – Agrcultural Land Preservation and Rural Legacy – be reduced by roughly half for the coming year. The two cuts would total nearly $18 million.
The recommendation is included as part of the DLS analysis of the capital budget for the Department of Agriculture, and also references the Department of Natural Resources (DLS capital analysis not yet available). The funds at hand are from state general obligation (GO) bonds.
The explanation for the proposed cut is to create “parity” with funds being used to replace Program Open Space – a target for funding reductions in the current year’s budget. From the DLS report, referencing the Maryland Agricultural Land Preservation Foundation:
As noted above, the fiscal 2016 funding for MALPF includes $22.7 million in GO bond funding that essentially replaces prior year funding redirected to the general fund. However, there appears to be an inequitable distribution of this replacement funding for land preservation programs in the fiscal 2016 capital budget. As shown in Exhibit 7, both MALPF and the Rural Legacy Program – budgeted with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) – receive full replacement funding for prior funds, while Program Open Space – also budgeted with DNR – receives only 49.8% of the programmed replacement funding.
DLS recommends that the MALPF GO bond authorization be reduced by $11.4 million to reflect the same replacement funding percentage received by Program Open Space.
DLS also appears set to recommend that Rural Legacy funds be reduced by $6.3 million, in a forthcoming analysis of the Department of Natural Resources.