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Hogan Budget Update Rekindles School Funding Debate

Christopher Connelly/WYPR
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  Gov. Larry Hogan put forward an update to his earlier budget proposal Thursday that includes money for tax cuts and leaves out about $70 million dollars the House and Senate want to give to public schools. He drew fire from teachers unions but a member of his administration said the governor was emphasizing that items on his agenda needed to be part of the budget process.

This is just the latest movement in the parry and thrust that is Annapolis budget negotiating. When Hogan introduced his budget plan back in January, Democrats howled that the governor shorted public schools to the tune of $144 million dollars. They then restored almost all of the money. Now, the governor’s latest supplemental budget leaves out nearly half that money, which would go to public schools in the most expensive school districts.

“The governor is still saying look, you’ve still got another ten days or so that you can go, and there is still plenty of time to and ample opportunity to provide some tax relief,” said David Brinkley, Hogan’s budget secretary.

Hogan’s plan includes $5 million for tax cuts on military pensions and retired first responders. There’s tax relief measures for small businesses. Brinkley says Hogan needs to see movement on his charter schools agenda, too.

“The governor is taking a ‘my way or the highway’ approach,” said Sean Johnson from the Maryland State Education Association. “It’s unfortunate because just two weeks ago we were all talking about bipartisanship and now the governor says I’m not going to give you the money for public education until you give me what you want on my programs.”

Still, Senate President Mike Miller said he expects Hogan will put back all the money for public schools in the end. It’s all part a negotiation, he said, and this is just one more step along the way.

“You’ve got to remember, he’s dealing with supermajority members of the other party in both the house and the senate,” Miller said. “And we’re making a very good faith effort to move his agenda forward. We’ve met all our goals and hopefully we’re going to meet his goals as well.”

All of this comes as Senate and House negotiators begin work on reconciling differences in the $40 billion state budget the two chambers approved last month.

One thing there is broad agreement on: The process is actually moving quite smoothly, despite disagreements, than it has in previous years. Lawmakers say they’re further along this year than they typically are with 10 days left in the session.

Christopher Connelly is a political reporter for WYPR, covering the day-to-day movement and machinations in Annapolis. He comes to WYPR from NPR, where he was a Joan B. Kroc Fellow, produced for weekend All Things Considered and worked as a rundown editor for All Things Considered. Chris has a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. He’s reported for KALW (San Francisco), KUSP (Santa Cruz, Calif.) and KJZZ (Phoenix), and worked at StoryCorps in Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s filed stories on a range of topics, from a shortage of dog blood in canine blood banks to heroin addicts in Tanzania. He got his start in public radio at WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, when he was a student at Antioch College.