Nov 15: Spending Affordability Committee Focuses on Education, State Vacancies

The Spending Affordability Committee of the General Assembly met on November 15 ahead of the 2023 legislative session. That meeting forecasted the state budget over the next several years with a focus on education funding and state staff vacancies.

paper with a graph showing stock growth in foreground with a paper with columns of numbers in the backgroundThe Spending Affordability Committee met virtually on November 15 with the House Appropriations and Ways and Means Committees and the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee to discuss the state’s fiscal health ahead of the 2023 legislative session.

Of particular focus during the November 15 meeting was funding for public education and “historically high” vacancies in state personnel.

Education funding

The Blueprint Fund was significantly discussed, with the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) projecting it will have a positive balance until fiscal year 2028, at which time it’s expected to dip into a $277 million deficit.

One potential source of funding for the Blueprint to help adjust for the expected FY 24 cliff that was discussed during the November 15 meeting is the digital advertisement tax. The comptroller collected about $54 million for the Blueprint Fund from that tax during just one quarter of FY 2022, said Theresa Tuszynski, a DLS policy analyst.

However, an Anne Arundel Circuit Court judge blocked that source of revenue, which is the ongoing subject of litigation, in October. The case is scheduled to be heard in federal court on November 29.

State personnel

Tonya Zimmerman, senior DLS policy analyst, called current vacancy rates across state agencies “historically high” and said that they have increased even more since a January 2022 fiscal briefing. “While high vacancy rates used to be an isolated problem among certain agencies and areas, it’s a fairly widespread issue.” she said.

According to Zimmerman, there are only two state agencies with vacancy rates under 10 percent: the Department of Commerce and the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Specific challenges

  • The Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (slated to have 9,200 personnel) had 1,496 vacancies as of October 2022, equating to a vacancy rate of 16 percent.
  • The Department of Human Services (with nearly 6,000 PINS) had 945 vacancies as of October 2022, equating to a vacancy rate of more than 15 percent.

Optimistically, the State is on track to fill about 1,600 of the 6,500 currently vacant Executive Branch positions in fiscal 2023 and an additional 1,000 positions in fiscal 2024.

Also included on the November 15 agenda were:

  • A briefing on Forecast of Revenues and Expenditures for the Current and Upcoming Fiscal Years;
  • An overview of the Transportation Trust Fund;
  • Debt; and
  • the Capital Budget

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