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Hogan, Democratic leaders at odds on education spending

Hogan disputes the claim that his budget shortchanges schools

Gov. Larry Hogan disputed the notion that his budget came down too hard on education, insisting that he had spared school funding priorities while making sharper reductions at other agencies.

Even though he slowed the growth of education spending, his budget provides more for schools than ever, Hogan said.

“We just didn’t increase (education spending) at the rate people would like us to or that we’d like to, quite frankly,” Hogan said. “I just inherited the budget that was somehow trying to spend $700 million more than we had. We had to make tough decisions but our top priority was education.”

Hogan made his remarks this morning at the annual Annapolis Summit breakfast, an interview-format event hosted by WEAA radio’s Marc Steiner and co-sponsored by The Daily Record.

Hogan said he’s funding education at historic levels — a claim that has been made by every governor since 2003 — implemented the school formula commonly called Thornton and did not make drastic cuts to school construction funding.

Hogan said restraining government spending was imperative and called budget and tax increases under former Gov. Martin J. O’Malley “a downward spiral.”

“We were on a road to financial ruin,” Hogan said. “We simply had run out of options.”

But Maryland’s top Democratic legislative leaders differed with Hogan’s assessment and vowed that the General Assembly would leave its mark on the Republican governor’s first spending plan.

“It sacrifices K-12 education in my estimate,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch. “As we go through the budgetary process, we’re going to be looking for ways to mitigate that regardless of what’s been proposed.”

In remarks made at the Annapolis Summit, Hogan also said his team is intensely focused on making the state more hospitable to business.

Every decision he makes, Hogan said, is based on, “Does this action make it easier for Maryland families and small businesses to stay in Maryland.”

Since he was sworn in as governor on Jan. 21, Hogan has sought to portray himself as a bipartisan leader determined to get the state’s fiscal house in order, improve Maryland’s business climate and lower taxes.

His initial budget plan released last week called for a 2 percent, across-the-board cut at state agencies, a 50 percent reduction in a key but discretionary education funding formula and a decrease in state aid given to municipalities.

All told, Hogan said, his budget eliminates a $750  million structural deficit in the state’s books this year. A legislative spending committee issued recommendations in December calling for the incoming governor to retire the state’s structural deficit over the next two years.

“We obviously don’t have all the money we’d like to. We inherited a pretty tough situation and we did the best job we could. We’re certainly going to work with the legislature over the next 90-days. If they’ve got some better ideas on how we can allocate that money. We’ll be happy to listen but to just to complain and say ‘We want more money’ just isn’t acceptable.

Democratic legislative leaders have expressed a willingness to work with the Republican governor, but they’ve also made it clear they are determined to protect education, health care and other spending priorities.

“Bipartisanship is a two-way street,” Busch said.

The new governor also has blocked several regulations proposed in the waning hours of former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s administration, including a rule that would limited the use of chicken manure on Eastern Shore farms as a way of controlling the amount of phosphorous that seeps into the Chesapeake Bay.

“Us pushing the pause button doesn’t mean we’re not interested in those issues or that they’re not going to take place,” Hogan said, adding that phosphorous pollution “is a major problem in the bay.”

“Over the past eight years the health of the bay has gotten worse. We just got our latest report: D plus. That’s going down not up,” Hogan said before mixing a plea for time with a moment of levity.”  Give us a chance. We’ve been here one week. We’re going to try some new ideas. Maybe it’s going to take us a couple of months to get the bay cleaned up, I don’t know.”

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said Hogan’s decision was likely the right one because the work on the regulations governing phosphorus pollution was not complete and would cost farmers millions of dollars. Those costs could make the poultry industry uncompetitive with states like Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina,

“We are a very small state and these other states are on our borders,” Miller said. “We need to make certain that our farmers continue to be competitive and that we can have industries like Perdue, who also donate very generously to Salisbury University and other philanthropic causes on the Eastern Shore. We do not want Perdue to leave the state of Maryland. ”

 


One comment

  1. larry@kamanitz.com

    what do you expect from a republican governor? Just check what has happened around the country ,cut taxes at the expense of education