House of Delegates Gives Preliminary Approval to Its Fiscal 2016 Budget Plan

The House of Delegates gave preliminary approval to its budget plan last night, which almost restores full funding for education, restores a 2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for State employees, and increases Medicaid rates for health care providers. Final House action will take place this week with the Senate debating its plan on the Senate floor next week.

As reported by the Baltimore Sun,

The House restructured several hundred million dollars of state spending in order to send more cash to schools, increase the rates paid to Medicaid doctors and reinstate pay raises Hogan had proposed cutting.

“We restored our priorities,” said Del. Maggie McIntosh, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the approprations committee.

The spending plan also reduces the state’s $750 million annual structural deficit by about 75 percent, more than recommended by a legislative panel but less than Hogan had originally proposed.  McIntosh told her colleagues “we overshot” the legislative goal.

In addition to restructuring to cover the cost of reinstating this funding, the House plan calls for the state to reduce its payment into the employee pension system by $75 million. Many delegates expressed concerns with this provision.

Del. Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Calvert) said the state was “reneging” on its commitment to teachers and state employees to fully fund the pension system. Del. Susan W. Krebs (R-Carroll) said the state was essentially “kicking the can down the road,” and House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) said it was “putting more strain on the long-term obligation” of taxpayers.

Legislators also expressed concern with provisions that would tie Governor Hogan’s hands. As reported by,

Del. Tony O’Donnell, R-Calvert, objected to a budget amendment that would prevent Hogan from using money dedicated to building the Purple or Red light rail lines for any other transportation projects. O’Donnell called that “unnecessary constraint on our executive’s ability” to act, but the amendment prevailed in an 86-53 vote with several Democrats joining the Republicans in opposing the restriction on Hogan. Other Republican delegates objected to elimination of 50 vacant positions in both the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and the State Police.

Additional coverage of yesterday’s budget discussions can be found in the Washington Post, Frederick News-Post, and the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

For more information on House and Senate budget actions affecting county government, see our previous posts on Conduit Street.