The segments below provide a brief overview of MACo’s work in the area of State budget policy in the 2019 General Assembly.
County governments receive support through multiple state operating budget programs, and shifts in the State’s budget can affect county governments in various ways. MACo seeks county budget security through maintenance of current state funding levels, and new funding programs and enhancements in areas of growth and need.
This year, reviving county health department funding, which was cut dramatically during the Recession and never returned, was a MACo priority. Unfortunately, this initiative, like other bills seeking additional state funding, was set aside as the General Assembly focused on ways to increase education funding following the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission. For more information, see End of Session Wrap-Up: Health and Human Services.
MACo’s funding initiative for Next Generation 9-1-1 Systems, however, passed the General Assembly. This legislation mandates an additional $75-80 million for technology for Maryland’s 9-1-1 call centers, which are primarily maintained by county governments. The new technology will increase the speed and accuracy with which 9-1-1 operators may locate those who call 9-1-1 from cell phones, and enhance the information that 9-1-1 operators relay to first responders. For more information, see the 2019 End of Session Wrap-Up: Emergency Services.
Follow links for more coverage on Conduit Street and MACo’s Legislative Database.
Governor Hogan’s 2020 budget as introduced targeted new funding commitments, but did not shift any State obligations to local governments, or otherwise decrease state funding for counties.
The budget deliberations began in the House of Delegates this year, with the House giving final approval to the budget bill, and a Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA) on March 14.
Overall, the House budget increased state aid to local governments by $612.9 million (7.1%), most of which is in the form of state aid to education/libraries, which increased by $564.1 million (7.4%). The House budget maintained a fund balance of $120.1 million and did not propose any tax or fee increases. The Senate made several changes to the House budget, most notably, the Senate dedicated $225 million in FY 2020 to begin implementing the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, far less than the $320 million the House approved in its budget plan.
Budget conferees put the finishing touches on a $46.6 billion dollar budget proposal, reconciling several differences between the House and Senate budget proposals. The conference committee’s report was approved by the Maryland General Assembly.
Notable Budget Decisions
The budget achieves the Spending Affordability Committee’s (SAC) dual goal of leaving a fund balance of at least $100 million and eliminating the structural shortfall in fiscal 2020. The conference committee’s actions leave a fund balance of $118.2 million and produce a $26 million structural surplus for fiscal 2020.
Budget negotiators settled on $255 million to begin implementing the recommendations of the [Kirwan] Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education and identified $355.3 million for education initiatives in FY 2021. As previously reported on Conduit Street, the Senate plan allocates $225 million in FY 2020, far less than the $320 million the House approved in its budget plan.
Coupled with planned actions in the capital budget bill, the legislative plan dedicates $500 million to school construction, $62 million more than was allocated in the Governor’s original budget proposal.
Disparity Grant Funding
The budget fully funds the Governor’s formula-driven allocation of $146,172,853 for the Disparity Grant Program. As previously reported on Conduit Street, disparity grant funding is set to increase for Baltimore City, along with Caroline, Cecil, Prince George’s, Somerset, Washington, and Wicomico counties.
A Legislative “Veto” On Counties’ Transportation Priorities?
As previously reported on Conduit Street, in the Senate amendments to the broad Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, HB 1407, new language was added and approved by the Senate to change the requirements for identifying a local priority project. Under the proposed language, when a county submits a “local priority letter” to the Department of Transportation, identifying a project as a local priority, a majority of the county’s legislative delegations (both House and Senate) must support the project.
The conference committee struck the Senate proposal and instead added language to require that all members of a county’s legislative delegation receive notification when a county submits a “local priority letter” to the Department of Transportation.
State Aid to Local Governments
Overall, the budget plan increases state aid to local governments by $556.4 million (6.4%), most of which is in the form of state aid to education/libraries, which increases by $498.6 million (6.6%). State Aid to Local Governments – Two-year Charts by Program.
Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more information.
Conference Committee Budget Documents
House Budget Documents
Senate Budget Documents
For more on the State’s operating budget from the 2019 legislative session, see:
Previous Conduit Street Coverage: