Governor Vetoes Kirwan, Tax, Fiscal Bills in Silent Session Cap-off

On the final day allotted for his decision regarding legislation passed by the General Assembly during its abbreviated session, Governor Hogan vetoed 37 bills, including the high profile Kirwan Blueprint school funding legislation, and others with fiscal effects.

Headshot-768x614-2Governor Hogan, through statements and in the absence of any traditional “bill signing ceremony,” revealed his decisions regarding legislation passed during the recent legislative session, itself abbreviated by coronavirus worries. The bottom line – 37 vetoed bills, including multiple high-profile advancements, and many questions for next steps by legislative leaders.

Rather than hosting a ceremonial “bill signing” for legislation the Governor approved, the Governor opted to allow the multitude of bills not vetoed to become law without his signature, as allowed under the Maryland Constitution.

Notable Bills The Governor Vetoed:

-the Kirwan Blueprint bill, a multi-year funding plan for public education, obliging some $4 billion in annual state and county spending above current formulas and projections by its eventual phase-in in FY 2030

-tax increases, including a proposed new tax applying sales taxes to downloaded media and streaming services

-a relief package for Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities, seeking to settle a long-brewing lawsuit over funding and offerings at these campuses

-a proposal to extend and modify the Disparity Grant program, promoting equitable return for counties making substantial income tax effort despite low tax bases

-multiple other bills with fiscal effects, as the Governor cited looming budget weakness arising from the coronavirus crisis

Notable Bills Allowed to Become Law:

-the “Built to Learn Act,” an ambitious plan to leverage casino revenues to fast-track building of public schools, with over $2 billion in state revenue bonds expected to “clear the deck” of ready-to-go projects, especially in the state’s largest jurisdictions (note – there’s a twist with this bill, as an amendment made its final enactment contingent on the Kirwan bill’s enactment… meaning despite its “passage” for lack of a veto, the bill is in limbo until the Kirwan bill’s fate is clarified)

-a complex multi-faceted compromise to re-develop Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore, Laurel racetrack in Anne Arundel County, and related racing facilities – requiring substantial capital funds

Read full coverage on Maryland Matters.

Governor Hogan’s press release, and veto letters, offer some context for the broad swath of proposals affected by today’s actions:

“The General Assembly passed a number of bills worthy of consideration, but COVID-19 has caused sudden and unprecedented economic turmoil. The impact from COVID-19 on state and local budgets, on small businesses, and on struggling Marylanders is devastating and is potentially worse than anything since the Great Depression.

“As I made clear last month, given these challenges, it would be irresponsible to allow legislation that requires increasing spending to become law. I am committed to working with legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle as we confront these difficult budget choices on the road to economic recovery.”

Increased Spending

  • “The economic fallout from this pandemic simply makes it impossible to fund any new programs, impose any new tax hikes, nor adopt any legislation having any significant fiscal impact, regardless of the merits of the legislation.” Read the governor’s veto letter here.

Higher Taxes and Fees

  • “With our state in the midst of a global pandemic and economic crash, and just beginning on our road to recovery, it would be unconscionable to raise taxes and fees now.” Read the governor’s veto letter here.

Failure to Address Violent Crime

  • “Since before the start of the legislative session, I made it very clear that my highest priority was to hold violent criminals accountable and stop the shootings and the murders in Baltimore City…While the Senate approved the package by a wide margin, the House failed to act upon it, and thus failed to meaningfully address violent crime.” Read the governor’s veto letter here.

Remainder of Legislation

  • For a list of House bills that will become law without signature, click here.
  • For a list of Senate bills that will become law without signature, click here.
  • For a list of additional vetoes and duplicative vetoes, click here.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties