ANNAPOLIS, Maryland–Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday released the state’s upcoming budget, citing his priorities in education, public safety and the environment.
The budget will apply to the 2019 fiscal year, which begins July 1 and ends June 30, 2019.
This year, Hogan, a Republican, is up for reelection in a Democrat-controlled General Assembly.
Hogan announced that 70 percent of capital spending in this year’s budget is dedicated to education — $365 million dedicated to school construction and $348 million to higher education.
Higher education spending includes $13 million in funding for private colleges and universities.
The operating budget totals $17.7 billion.
Hogan has set aside $6.5 billion for K-12 education. In a press conference Tuesday, Hogan said this would translate to every school jurisdiction seeing increased funding.
Hogan touted decade-high funding for education, putting in $15.2 million more than what he was mandated to offer, according to a state analysis. Delegate Carlo Sanchez, D-Prince George’s, said his biggest concern is that even though it appears the county is receiving a lot of money, they are still underfunded.
“Every year we’re able to come in and say we had record funding, but the reality is that we’re not getting the proportional amount of money that we should be getting…. We’re not receiving enough to actually be able to keep up with our growing student population. So that’s really the biggest concern.”
$11.5 billion of the operating income is dedicated to Medicaid, which provides healthcare to 1.4 million Marylanders.
The capital budget also devotes $53 million to hospitals and health care resources, including constructing the University of Maryland Medical Center in Prince George’s County.
Sanchez said he was concerned about funding for the medical center and funding for infrastructure to make Prince George’s County more attractive for a possible move of FBI headquarters.
Mandated 3.5 percent rate increases for health providers were capped at 2 percent, and at 1 percent for serving the developmentally disabled, according to a state analysis.
In a statement on Hogan’s budget, The Maryland Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence announced that they were disappointed that the budget did not include their mandated funding, despite Hogan having signed the HOPE Act last year–a bill that detailed a multi-year commitment to increase funding for community behavioral health providers.
“In the midst of a deadly opioid crisis and with rising demand for mental health and substance use disorder treatment, we are deeply disappointed that the budget shortchanges the urgent needs of Marylanders who desperately need treatment,” said Howard Ashkin, president of the Maryland Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence.
The Opioid Crisis Fund increased from $3.7 million to $13.7 million, according to a state budget summary.
$2.9 billion in capital transportation spending includes $1.2 million to establish the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission to oversee the safety of the Metro system.
The budget dedicated $255.8 million to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, including $99.9 million in federal funds that would go directly to the Metro system. The remaining $155.9 million is mostly dedicated to the WMATA capital improvement program and Maryland’s match to the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act safety program.
The capital budget includes also $25 million for public safety projects, including a new state police barracks in Cumberland, and the demolition of outdated buildings at the Baltimore City Detention Center.
In a press release Wednesday, Hogan announced that the state reached a contract agreement with major employee unions to provide for two holidays and a 2 percent general salary increase, effective Jan 1. 2019.
A $500 bonus and an addition one-half percent raise will also be paid to state employees in April 2019 if revenues for the end of the 2018 fiscal year exceed projections by more than $75 million.
“Unlike in many previous administrations, there have been no furloughs or layoffs, and we are very proud of that,” said Hogan in a news release. “State government cannot work without our dedicated employees.”
The budget also includes $6.9 million to improve retention of certain correctional officers at state facilities. According to Hogan’s press conference, this will come in the form of $5,000 signing bonuses and $3,000 retention and attendance bonuses.
Hogan also said that the budget would fully fund Program Open Space, the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust fund, and the Maryland Park Service.
In a press release from the Department of Natural Resources, the total funding for the Maryland Park Service exceeds the level provided during the previous four years by 25 percent. The increase would allow for seven new positions, supporting record-breaking park attendance and visitation at parks and other public lands.
In a Dec. 20 press release, Hogan said the new federal tax policy will likely cost Marylanders hundreds of millions of dollars as a result of the loss of several long-standing deductions and exemptions.
However, according to a state analysis, the estimates used to create the budget for fiscal year 2019 did not include the impact of the new federal tax plan.
Hogan said Comptroller Peter Franchot, D, will be conducting an analysis in the next few weeks to determine exactly how the new federal tax policy will affect the state.
In the press conference Tuesday, Hogan said he was committed to submitting legislation to address this issue.
–CNS reporters Zach Shapiro and Layne Litsinger contributed to this story.