Adam Bednar//May 7, 2020
//May 7, 2020
Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a bill settling litigation over state funding for Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities.
Hogan vetoed the bill, which would have delivered $577 million in additional state funding over a decade to settle a years-old lawsuit with Maryland’s four HBCUs, citing increased spending amidst the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID-19 pandemic wrought unprecedented and long-lasting damage to our national and state economies in just a matter of weeks. The pressures on state and local budgets from COVID-19 and the resulting economic fallout may be significantly worse than any experienced since the Great Depression,” Hogan wrote in a letter to Senate President Bill Ferguson and House Speaker Adrienne Jones.
In the letter Hogan called the bill and other vetoed legislation “worthy of consideration.” Ultimately, however, the state’s financial status is too precarious, he said. Maryland is expected to lose $2.8 billion dollars, which includes $1 billion in income tax revenue, over the next three months because of the coronavirus, according to early projections from the comptroller’s office.
“Clearly we are frustrated and disappointed that our work was responded to with the governor’s veto,” said Del. Darryl Barnes, D-Prince George’s and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. “Allowing the bill to become law would have leveled the playing field for our HBCUs. We will continue to work on this important issue in this upcoming session.”
The bill passed both chambers of Maryland’s General Assembly with broad bipartisan support. Michael D. Jones, who represented plaintiffs the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Higher Education, previously compared the bill’s passage to the enactment of historic civil rights legislation.
“I listened to the vote and debate livestreamed on the floor of the Senate, and it was like listening to the passage of a historic civil rights legislation,” Jones wrote in an email to The Daily Record in March. “The unanimous vote in the Senate was historic.”
The plaintiffs, a group representing alumni of Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, accused the Maryland Higher Education Commission in 2006 of allowing traditionally white schools to duplicate programs unique to the HCBUs, fostering segregation.
In 2013 U.S. District Judge Catherine C. Blake sided with the Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Higher Education.
Last year Hogan offered to settle the lawsuit for $200 million, which was $100 million higher than an offer from the previous year.
The governor also told Jones, who sponsored the vetoed bill, it was in the purview of the legislature to settle the lawsuit.
The funding would have been split between the universities proportionately based on enrollment. Funding would have started in 2022 and continued through 2031.
Maryland’s legislative leaders must decide if they will try to override Hogan’s veto in a special session once stay-at-home orders due to the pandemic are lifted or delay the veto override until the legislature’s 2021 session.n