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Black Caucus Takes Aim At Hogan's Budget

Lawmakers from the Legislative Black Caucus were talking tough in Annapolis Thursday as the Democrats, mostly from Prince George’s County and Baltimore City, continue to digest the impacts of Gov. Larry Hogan’s first budget. The Caucus decried cuts to education and healthcare that would disproportionately affect communities of color.

Baltimore City Del. Barbara Robinson, who leads the caucus, says education cuts have business consequences. She estimates that schools in just Prince George’s and Baltimore City could lose as many as 1,200 teachers.

“We have businesses coming to Baltimore because of technology, because they’re looking for a trained workforce,” Robinson said. “Well if you don’t have teachers in the classroom how do you have a trained workforce?”

Hogan’s budget for fiscal year 2016, which starts in July, calls for a 50 percent reduction in the Geographical  Cost of Education Index, which sends additional funds to the state’s most expensive school districts like Baltimore, Prince George’s County and Montgomery County.

Overall, the proposed budget increases statewide money to K-12 education than previous years, but that increase is smaller than schools had planned for due to an adjustment to the state’s funding formula. Prince George’s stands to lose a total of about $39.4 million, and Baltimore faces a drop of about $34.5 million in funding than had been expected, according to the letter lawmakers sent Hogan.

Cuts to reimbursement for Medicaid were also a concern, as it could mean fewer providers willing to see Maryland’s poorest citizens.

The caucus stopped shy of pledging a no-vote on the budget, opting instead to ask the governor to meet with them.

Del. Curt Anderson, who co-signed their letter to the governor as the head of the Baltimore City delegation, said the governor’s moves call into question his pledge of bipartisanship, but he’s willing to work with him to lessen the burden of the cuts the city would have to absorb.

“This is such a fundamental destruction of the things we find important, it’s shameful,” Anderson said.

Hogan has been steadfast in his pledge to reduce spending and adjust down the formulas that mandate spending. That may spell a fight with the Democrat-majority legislature.

Senate President Mike Miller urged unity in his chamber. “We’re going to understand what he’s doing, but we’re going to reflect what the needs of our populations as well, so we need to try to stick together and work together. But this is going to be quite challenging – very, very challenging.”

The legislature can’t add money to the budget – only move it around or make cuts – so putting more money back into education or healthcare would mean that other programs would take a greater hit.