ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A leading Maryland lawmaker said he wanted to see more assurance from Gov. Larry Hogan that he will support restored funding for education and a cost-of-living adjustment for state employees before taking up some of the governor’s legislative initiatives, but strained budget talks appeared to worsen Thursday when the Republican governor did not include any mention of the priorities in a supplemental budget.
House Speaker Michael Busch said a strong majority of Democrats and Republicans voted for budget legislation that restored roughly $203 million in funds initially not included in Hogan’s budget plan in January when he addressed a $750 million shortfall.
Maryland’s governor has strong budget powers, and Hogan would need to approve funds restored by the Legislature. However, the funds were noticeably missing in a budget revision released by Hogan on Thursday that instead restored $75 million in extra pension payments the Legislature had tapped to help make room in the budget for other priorities.
“I think it’s a fair assessment to say that the members of the House — the people’s House — would like to see some kind of indication from the administration and the governor of their intent to fund the programs that were passed overwhelmingly in the state budget this year,” Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said early Thursday afternoon.
Hogan, who campaigned on bringing greater fiscal responsibility to the state capital, said he remained confident a bipartisan solution would be reached.
“We’re not going to get everything that we hoped for,” Hogan told reporters. “They’re not going to get everything that they hoped for, but I believe that by working together over the next few days, we’re going to come up with a solution that provides for the most fiscally responsible budget in decades and record funding for education.”
Busch spoke again with reporters Thursday afternoon after the governor released his third supplemental budget. He underscored a unanimous vote in the Senate for the budget, and a strong majority of support from House Democrats and Republicans on budget legislation that included restored funding.
“Here we are with two or three days left in the session, and there seems to be no interest in funding the priorities of the Maryland General Assembly — both House and Senate and both political parties,” Busch said.
The governor’s plan to restore $75 million in extra pension payments to help shore up the pension system clearly headed in a direction other than what Democratic legislative leaders intended.
“Raiding the pension fund represents the kind of short-term thinking that has put Maryland in the precarious financial position we faced in January, and I simply cannot allow these actions to continue,” Hogan said.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller met with Hogan on Thursday morning. He said he still hoped an agreement could be reached before the scheduled adjournment at midnight Monday, though the Legislature could keep working for 10 days more exclusively on the budget.
“I hope for the best,” Miller, D-Calvert, said. “These are people of goodwill, and if people of goodwill come together and stay together and work together and communicate, we’ll have a positive outcome.”
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