Hogan Weighs In on Statewide Ballot Questions

Governor Larry Hogan yesterday announced his position on two statewide ballot measures up for consideration by Maryland voters on the November 3 ballot.

Governor Hogan opposes Question 1, a constitutional amendment which would authorize the General Assembly, in enacting a balanced budget bill for fiscal year 2024 and each fiscal year thereafter, to increase, diminish, or add items — provided that the General Assembly may not exceed the total proposed budget as submitted by the Governor.

Listen to the latest episode of the Conduit Street Podcast for a complete breakdown of Question 1.

Current Law

The Maryland Constitution prohibits the General Assembly from increasing any budget item or adding any new items to the Governor’s proposed budget for any of the government agencies except the Judicial branch and the operations of the General Assembly itself. The one exception is that it may add to the budget if it enacts a new revenue source to fund additional items — a rare occurrence.

Furthermore, the General Assembly may not move funds from one agency to another. Thus, in practice, the General Assembly may only recommend cuts to state agency budgets recommended by the governor. Once a budget passes the General Assembly, it becomes law and cannot be amended or vetoed by the governor.

Proposed Change

If approved by voters, the General Assembly would be authorized to move money in the budget proposed by the governor from one agency to another as long as the total amount of the budget does not exceed the total amount in the governor’s proposed budget.

The General Assembly could also add spending to a new item, as long is reduces spending in another area of the budget to pay for the new expenditure. This change would begin with the 2024 Budget bill which is presented to the General Assembly in 2023. At that time, the governor would be granted line-item veto authority for any and all items added or increased by the General Assembly.

According to a press release from Governor Hogan:

After the legislature nearly spent our state to the verge of bankruptcy, our very first budget eliminated nearly all of the $5.1 billion structural deficit we inherited, and we have balanced the budget year after year without raising taxes. Our common sense approach is working for everyone except career politicians in Annapolis, so now they want to amend our Constitution, change the rules, and rig the system for more spending and higher taxes. Question 1 is a blatant cash and power grab of multi-billion dollar proportions. With our state facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis, the last thing we should do is make it easier to recklessly spend more of your tax dollars.”

Governor Hogan supports Question 2, a constitutional amendment that would expand commercial gaming in the State of Maryland by authorizing sports and events wagering for the primary purpose of raising revenue for education.

As previously reported on Conduit Street, on May 14, 2018, the United States Supreme Court found the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), the federal law prohibiting states from authorizing sports betting, to be unconstitutional.

It is now up to individual states to decide if they want to authorize and regulate sports betting. Congress can also take action on the authorization and regulation of sports betting but has so far left it up to individual states. To date, 18 states and Washington D.C. have legalized sports wagering.

Current Law

According to the Maryland Constitution, the General Assembly may only authorize additional forms or expansion of commercial gaming if approved through a referendum by a majority of the voters in a general election.

In 2008, Maryland voters first approved gambling via video lottery terminals (slot machines). In 2012, voters approved expanding the allowable number of video lottery terminals and authorized table games in casinos. Wagering on a contest, event, game, or match between individuals or teams sponsored by a professional league or association or hosted by a college or university is currently illegal in Maryland.

Proposed Change

If approved by voters, the General Assembly would need to pass legislation that authorizes the State Lottery and Gaming Control Commission to issue licenses for sports and event wagering in the State. The legislation must include the criteria for eligible applications for a licensee and specify the permissible forms, means of conducting, and locations where sports wagering would take place.

The General Assembly would also be required to evaluate whether there is reason to assist minorities and women in the sports and event wagering industry and market. This study is to be completed by October 1, 2020 so any recommendations that result can be considered when the General Assembly establishes criteria for licenses.

According to a press release from Governor Hogan:

Question 2 provides a critical revenue source for public education without raising taxes on families and businesses. This initiative builds on the very successful ‘Hogan Lockbox,’ which puts casino revenues in a lockbox dedicated to education. We are already funding our K-12 schools at record levels, and this is another way to ensure that is the case for years to come.

Governor Hogan expressed his support for Question 2 in an interview earlier this month with NBC Sports, saying, “I think this year we should be able to get that done. Right now as states are really lacking revenue, it’s another potential source of revenue, and it’s much more likely I think to happen.”

Read the full press release for more information.

Useful Links

Conduit Street Podcast: Election Fun and Question One – With P.J. Hogan

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Voting in the 2020 General Election

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: On Election Day, County-Specific Ballot Questions Abound

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Supreme Court Allows States to Legalize Sports Betting