ANNAPOLIS — Formal conversations on Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget proposal for fiscal year 2016 were opened in the Maryland Legislature on Tuesday.
The Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2015, a bill that includes 32 pages of various funding initiatives — on spending, tax, and mandate cuts, as well as fund transfers — was presented to a joint committee led by Maryland’s House Appropriations Chairwoman Delegate Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore.
Similar bills, or BRFAs, have become unofficial addendums to governors’ budget proposals for the last 12 years, and the beefy legislation came with little surprise to the state’s lawmakers.
Hogan’s budget proposal starts with a $421 million deficit in the state’s general fund, and would end $47.5 million in the black — essentially bringing in more than $468 million through transfers, some revenue and cuts.
“You can’t pass a budget without a BRFA and that’s not how it should be,” said state Secretary of Budget and Management David Brinkley. “The formulas are out of whack. It’s going to be a give-and-take from everybody to fix, and this BRFA addresses that.”
Brinkley was called to testify in the middle of the Department of Legislative Service’s analysis of the bill.
Democrat legislators raised questions about cuts in key areas — public education, higher education, transportation and state employee’s salaries — to which Brinkley answered with standard responses, echoing what Hogan has already said on the topics.
Every department has seen cuts, he said, but most actions in the BRFA take the current year’s spending and carry it forward. The goal is to give the economy time to catch up by keeping funding flat, he said.
Public testimony was also similar to that which has been heard throughout the committees since the start of the legislative session.
“We’re used to feeling the pain,” said Bernard Sadusky, executive director of the Maryland Association of Community Colleges. “For the past seven out of 8 years we’ve been BRFA’d.”