Smith: Whose Budget Is This Anyway?

Apr 13, 2015

Finally, we get to know who governs Maryland: Is it the governor riding high in the saddle? Or is it the wary and defensive legislature?

Governor Larry Hogan’s first budget was widely seen as a place holder.  He had no time to fashion the sort of full-on down-sizing he had promised during his campaign.

Then he watched – approvingly , it seemed – as the House restored most of the cuts he had  proposed – primarily in  state aid to public school and to a small wage increases promised to state employees by the previous administration.

He sent his budget secretary, former senator David Brinkley, to congratulate Appropriations Committee chair Maggie McIntosh on a budget that included money cut by the governor.  Bobbing and weaving in tight quarters, she moved money around adroitly so that the education funds were restored and the modest wage increase could be restored.

But now, he seems to be saying "I really didn’t mean it" – his congratulations, that is. He wants the cuts back the budget . And he wants the 2% state employee money back.  The earlier congratulations were "no longer operative," to recycle a Nixon administration term.

To be fair, he said he’d be coming back in search of room for a tax break or two.

The assembly believes it has “fenced-in” the money it restored, saving it from another trip to the cutting board. The governor seems to be prepared to challenge that idea. He’s also said he’s ready to keep the assembly in session for another 10 days after Monday’s scheduled closing day to get the budget bill passed.

So one thing hasn’t changed since the assembly convened in January:  We still don’t know how the mostly Democratic lawmakers and the GOP governor will get along.