House Swaps School Construction Slice, Tops with Cherry

The House Appropriations Committee approves several budget shifts, adding $62 million to the school construction budget overall for a total of $500 million. 

The Governor’s proposed budget included $438 million for school construction, including $45 million dedicated to a new school construction program called the Building Opportunity Fund.

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Now the budget is in the hands of the General Assembly, making its way from the House to the Senate. At the decision meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, the Committee approved two transfers to the Interagency Commission on School Construction, and two shifts from the school construction budget, into a fund for initiatives from The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future legislation.

Swap Casino Revenues to Kirwan, Cut the Revolving Loan

The House Appropriations Committee adds new funding to the budget to be used to construct public school buildings and other public school capital improvements. This funding is transferred from two sources:

  • $90 million from the Revenue Stabilization Account (commonly called the rainy day fund)
  • $37 million designated for Retirement Reinvestment Contributions (to reduce the State’s unfunded pension liability)

The Appropriations Committee also shifted $45 million in casino revenues that the Governor had proposed to use for school construction, and $20 million the Governor had dedicated to a new program, created just last year, for a revolving loan fund for school construction. The Committed allocated those funds to be used instead for initiatives of The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, legislation stemming from the Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education, commonly called the Kirwan Commission.

MACo supported the creation of the Revolving Loan Fund, and it was a recommendation from the 21st Century School Facilities (Knott) Commission.  The revolving loan fund may have helped smaller counties advance needed renovations to aging facilities, and other school construction projects.

A Cherry More Total Funding

Considering the additions and subtractions, the House Appropriations Committee has added $62 million to the FY 2020 budget for school construction. This, plus the $438 already in the Governor’s proposal, brings the new total to $500 million.

Forks in School Funding Decisions

Along with the policy effects inherent in shifting funding from one program to another, these changes also seem to transfer of authority over the funding. For example, in the Governor’s Budget Building Opportunity Fund, the Board of Public Works would have granted school construction based on recommendations by the Interagency Commission on School Construction.

The House Appropriations Committee removes funding for the Building Opportunity Fund, as described above, and states that its new school construction allocations are “only subject to approval by the Interagency Commission on School Construction.” This statement seems to cut the Board of Public Works, on which the Governor sits, out of the process.

Next Pieces

The House Appropriations Committee proposal now moves to the House floor. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee will begin its budget deliberations on March 12. Any differences between the House and Senate budget proposals will be worked out by a conference committee.

 

 

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