House Passes Budget, Debate Moves to Senate

In a 129 – 10 vote, the House of Delegates gave final 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. As reported by the Washington Post,

“Every child, every teacher will receive increased funding,” Del. Maggie McIntosh (D-Baltimore), who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said prior to the vote, highlighting provisions in the bill. “[The budget] is a source of pride for all of us.”

…In the House, only 10 Republican delegates voted against the budget bill.

Earlier yesterday, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee unanimously approved its budget plan with only modest changes from the House. A few of the changes allowed the Committee to identify an additional $24 million in reductions to be redirected to programs members believed were underfunded. As reported by the Baltimore Sun,

The committee agreed with the House’s decision to recommend restoration of $179 million to continue state employee raises, education spending and payments to Medicaid providers, among other areas.  The panel urged its additional cuts to increase spending for the Prince George’s Hospital Center, nursing home reimbursement payments and mental health services. Under the Senate plan, the money would come from a shift of $15 million in school construction funds from next year’s budget to the bond program and smaller cuts in temporary cash assistance to the poor and Program Open Space.

Senate debate on the budget will take place next week and any differences will be resolved by a House and Senate Conference Committee. According to the General Assembly calendar, the budget bill must pass both Chambers by April 6.