ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — A bleak revenue forecast led the state’s spending board on Wednesday to cut more than $400 million from Maryland’s budget.

During a Board of Public Works meeting, the state’s budget department pained a grim picture of what the coronavirus pandemic is doing to the state’s revenues. Ratings agencies project big hits to state budgets nationwide.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said the budget department forecasts an average 30 percent decrease in state revenue.

In that spirit, the board took on $413 million in initial cuts.

Hogan, who said the cuts saved more than 6,000 state jobs, had proposed even more. Additional reductions are likely next month.

Doing nothing, he said, isn’t an option.

“Failing to make painful cuts today would cause a hatchet to be used on our state budget instead of the skillful use of a scalpel, which I believe or state’s budget department team has proposed today,” Hogan said.

The governor said the cuts must be made to save more than 10,000 state jobs.

“Failing to take action — not making these strategic cuts that the budget team is calling for — would result in having to lay off more than 6,350 state employees,” Hogan said. “The $205 million in items that we have agreed to defer until next month, if not made … are the equivalent of 3,157 more jobs that would need to be eliminated.”

CORONAVIRUS RESOURCES: 

Some of the largest cuts include more than $131 million to higher education, mainly to the University System of Maryland, more than $36 million from community colleges, $35 million from the Department of Health in its Medicaid Deficit Assessment, $28 million in a D.C. metro grant reduction and more than $15 million from juvenile services.

Wage and health plan cuts for teachers and state employees were pulled from consideration Wednesday but are likely still on the table for next month.

Democratic board members, including Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Comptroller Peter Franchot, pushed to put off another $205 million in cuts until next month. While both agreed the fiscal situation is severe, Kopp said the board should wait until 2020 revenue numbers are in on July 15 before making more cuts and wants to get a better handle on federal assistance and reserves.

The state still has more than $1 billion in its rainy day fund.

“It is potentially a long-lasting situation because there is an enemy out there that is attacking us — this virus — that we can’t control,” Kopp said.

Franchot said they shouldn’t “sugarcoat things” while also taking aim at President Donald Trump.

“There are going to be many, many more cuts because of the fact that the White House has dropped the ball unfortunately,” he said.

On Facebook Wednesday, the Maryland State Education Association praised Franchot and Kopp for pushing back on proposed cuts to education which they called “dangerous.”

“The rejection of Gov. Hogan’s attempt to defund our public schools during the middle of a pandemic is a win—but it’s incredibly disappointing that the governor tried this in the first place,” the post read in part. “Educators should be focusing on how to ensure the safety and success of our students next year, rather than organizing to stop cuts to our already underfunded schools. We thank Comptroller Franchot and Treasurer Kopp for opposing these dangerous cuts and call on the General Assembly to continue to reject cuts to our schools and to override Gov. Hogan’s misguided veto of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future and improved funding for all schools.”

For the latest information on coronavirus go to the Maryland Health Department’s website or call 211. You can find all of WJZ’s coverage on coronavirus in Maryland here.

Paul Gessler

Comments

Leave a Reply