ANNAPOLIS — Gov.-elect Larry Hogan faces a potential battle with the General Assembly if he decides to cut funding to education.
Hogan, who faces at least a $300 million budget deficit in the current year, said last week that he would consider resetting some formulas for mandated spending including those that go toward education. More than 80 percent of the state’s budget is governed by such mandates.
But state fiscal leaders in the General Assembly pushed back Monday, saying such reductions will face tough sledding in the legislature and could have negative consequences in the 2018 election.
Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., D-Montgomery and the incoming vice chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said Hogan would find allies in the legislature if he focuses on ways of diversifying the state economy in the wake of federal budget cuts.
“If he wants to just hammer education as a way to cut the budget and cut taxes, he will find very few friends in the legislature and even fewer friends out of the legislature, because I don’t think that is what Marylanders voted for in 2014 in the elections” Madeleno told a gathering of educators at a policy forum sponsored by the Maryland State Education Association.
Among the options on the table for potential reductions is the Geographic Cost of Education Index — a formula enacted in 2002 as part of the landmark Thornton Education funding program for schools. The index, which provides additional money to jurisdictions with higher costs of living such as Baltimore City, Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties, is not required to be funded under state law.
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the last Republican governor, did not fund the formula during his time in office. Current Gov. Martin J. O’Malley did not fund the index in this first year in office and in his second year he provided 60 percent of the funding. Full funding in the third year was possible through the use of federal stimulus money.
A change to required education spending would require changes in the law, something Madaleno said the Democratically controlled legislature would likely oppose.
“We will be on the barricades if it’s cutting education funding to give tax cuts to the wealthy and most fortunate around the state,” Madaleno said.