Why I voted NO on the budget...

HB70 - Budget Bill (Fiscal Year 2016)

When we took office in January, Maryland faced a $1 Billion dollar structural deficit. Governor Hogan submitted an Operating Budget on January 23rd that was both fiscally prudent and socially responsible. 

Despite fear mongering from the left, the budget allocated for record increases in education spending. It almost completely wiped out Maryland’s structural deficit, something the previous administration could not accomplish despite 70 different tax and fee increases over the last 8 years. And, perhaps most significantly, this was the first budget in over a decade that spent less money than the state collected in revenue. 

The House Appropriations Committee made its own revisions to the Governor’s budget and, last Monday, submitted its own version. The House Appropriations Committee did some good work finding additional revenue and adding funding for some additional programs that we all can agree on, such as returning the 2% COLA increase for state employees, substance abuse treatment for heroin addiction and purchase of care grants for developmental disabilities. 

However, the House Appropriations Committee’s budget also did three things that I did not agree with and do not support:

Strike 1 - The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the budget reduced the state’s contribution amount for the State Retirement and Teacher’s pension from $150 million to $75 million this year and from $200 million to $75 million next year. Since 2011, budgetary tricks have been used to shift money away from funding Maryland’s pension obligations; this version of the budget, once again, cuts an additional $200 million from Maryland’s contributions. Since our state reconfigured the retirement system in 2011, they have reneged on the promised contribution amounts four of the last six years. Last Wednesday during debate on the budget, Republicans proposed an amendment to stop the transfer of monies from the pension. A House Floor Vote was taken and the amendment failed; the vote fell mostly down party lines. All 50 Republicans and only 2 Democrats voted in favor this amendment to protect the pension; 87 Democrats voted in favor of the pension cut.

Strike 2 - The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the budget also added language which restricted the Governor from providing additional funds to the counties for road repair. This restrictive language was not included in the previous budgets under Governor O’Malley; it was new this year. The language basically guaranteed allocating $46,416,000 to the Metro’s Red Line and $127,732,000 to the Metro’s Purple Line, making a down payment of over $174 million in mass transit projects which do not benefit St. Mary’s County. I argued on the house floor against this and again, a floor vote was taken and again failed mostly down party lines 86\53. 

Strike 3 – The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the budget reduced the repayment made to the Local Income Tax Reserve Account, which had been “borrowed from” in prior years, from a repayment of $100 million to $10 million. With the state’s repayment history I deemed this non-payment as yet another risky obligation to only be reneged again in the future.

With strikes One, Two and Three against the House Appropriations Budget and with wanting to give the Senate some cover to hopefully make the budget better, I was one of only 10 Delegates that voted against the budget. The House Appropriations Committee’s version of the budget passed the House last Thursday evening in a 129/10 vote with all 10 votes against it all coming from Republicans. 

Even with my objections, I do admit that this budget moves our state in a better fiscal direction. This is the second lowest spending increase since 1969 and, for the first time in nearly a decade, this budget DOES NOT rely on tax increases. With the 2% cuts proposed in January this budget closes 88% of the structural deficit. With a few adjustments, this is a budget that can get Maryland back on the right track and I look forward to being part of that process. Solutions Are Possible.

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August 27, 2017
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Email: Matt.Morgan@house.state.md.us

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Delegate Matt Morgan
House of Delegates
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Annapolis, Maryland 21401
1-800-492-7122, ext. 3170 (toll free)

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Delegate Matt Morgan
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