BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday presented his eighth and final budget as executive, pledging $4.6 billion in tax cuts and $8.15 billion for K-12 education while also leaving $3.6 billion into the Rainy Day Fund, reserves the governor said would help the state in its next emergency.
Hogan also touted spending initiatives he has announced in the days leading up to this budget presentation, including a $75 million allocation to local health departments still dealing with the pandemic, enhanced SNAP benefits for children and seniors, increased assistance with utility and electric bills, and the "re-fund the police" program providing $500 million to law enforcement over the next three years.
The governor said his Fiscal year 2023 budget fits with some of the themes that propelled him to office as an underdog Republican: providing tax relief to Marylanders, creating a business-friendly environment in the state and fiscal responsibility.
"We've been through a lot together, especially over the last two years, as we have tirelessly battled global pandemic," he said. "But today I can think of no better way to begin this last year than by presenting a budget, which continues to keep the promises we made and that builds on the bipartisan progress that we have achieved to change Maryland for the better."
The governor proposed eliminating taxes on income for seniors over the next six years, and immediately removing 70,000 seniors from the tax rolls.
"This is not just good for our economy, it's also good for our quality of life," Hogan said. "Our seniors deserve to have the peace of mind to know that they can afford to stay right here in Maryland, where they have spent their lives working and raising a family, and where they continue to contribute so much."
The budget would also permanently expand the Enhanced Earned Income Tax Credit, helping 295,000 families as they struggle with inflation and high costs, he said.
Education spending would exceed legislative mandates by $151 million, Hogan said, and the budget allocates $144.1 million to expand pre-K for 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds, $1 billion in school construction funding, and $601 million for higher education projects.
The governor also proposed spending $1.4 billion on roads and bridges and $1.3 billion on mass transit improvements.
State law requires the governor to present a balanced budget, and the Maryland General Assembly can only cut from his proposals, not add or reallocate funds.
But the legislative branch will have greater power over the budgeting process starting next year. In the 2020 election, voters approved Question 1, giving the Maryland General Assembly authority to "increase, diminish, or add items" to the budget starting in fiscal year 2024.
Lawmakers returned to Annapolis earlier this month for the 90-day legislative session with the state boasting a budget surplus of $4.6 billion.
In response to the governor's proposal, Speaker Adrienne Jones said "Our responsible fiscal policies and federal relief funds created an opportunity for the Governor to present a budget that funds many of our priorities like childcare, higher education, victim assistance and infrastructure upgrades."
Speaker Jones, who expressed concern on if the proposal goes far enough to support education and state staffing shortages, also said, "We look forward to working with the Governor and the Senate and will continue to ask, 'is this helping the families who've been left behind in post-pandemic recovery?'"
Democratic lawmakers control the statehouse and they are the ones who will ultimately decide what parts of the governor's proposal will become law.
for more features.