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Democrats To Hogan: Give Schools The Money

P. Kenneth Burns

Democratic House and Senate leaders in Annapolis renewed their call Monday for Gov. Larry Hogan to spend money they fenced off for schools.

Lawmakers set aside $68 million in the state budget last April to fully fund the Geographic Cost of Education Index, GCEI; a formula that sent more money to counties where it costs more to run schools.

Hogan, a Republican, has refused to release the money.  He cannot appropriate the money to another part of the budget.

A group led by House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller called on Hogan to release the money, pointing to the state's $320 million budget surplus this fiscal year.

They argued if Hogan spends $68 million to fully fund GCEI and directs $50 million to shore up unfunded pension liabilities, the state would still have a $202 million surplus.

Hogan's decision to fund only half of the education formula was a main point of contention in the last legislative session.

Howard County Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, who chairs the Budget and Taxation Committee, said the General Assembly passed a budget that closed a structural deficit and allowed for that formula to be fully funded.

“The budget we passed last year was a sound budget which certainly preserved the security of our pension system and certainly made room for full education funding which we should have done and hopefully the governor will do,” he said.

But the governor won’t.

His spokesman, Doug Meyer, said Maryland faces a nearly $1 billion deficit over the next five years in addition to a $20 billion hole in the pension system and adds “now is not the time to abandon common sense.”

“Despite these obvious financial constraints, this administration funded education at record levels this past year and it will remain a top priority going forward,” Meyer said.

Associated Press contributed to this story.