Crime, education to be Md. budget priorities – Herald-Mail Media

Fighting crime in Baltimore will occupy more of the state’s budget next year, while education and school construction will continue taking up a large chunk of it.

Gov. Larry Hogan gave journalists a preview Tuesday of his new budget proposals, due for release Wednesday.

As in previous years, Hogan’s budget includes no tax increases and funds education as required.

But it adds millions for crime control, particularly focused on Baltimore.

Calling it an “accountability budget,” Hogan said it “reflects the most important and urgent priorities of Marylanders — crime, education, transportation and the environment — while keeping the commitment I first made five years ago, to bring fiscal restraint to Annapolis, and to hold the line on unaffordable spending.”

Hogan said the budget funds priorities while keeping $1.13 billion in reserves.

He said the budget includes:

• $74.5 million for police aid to local governments

• $38.7 million for local government law enforcement grants

• $272 million for community and residential youth services and juvenile services

• $862 million for mental health and substance abuse programs

• $7.3 billion for K-12 education

• $350 million to implement Kirwan Commission recommendations for education reform

• $94 million to expand access to prekindergarten programs

• $18.2 million in aid to community colleges

• $733 million in additional funds for school construction in the capital budget

• $402 million for higher education projects in the capital budget, including, Hogan said, “historically high funding for our community colleges.”

• $80 million for the Howard Street Tunnel project in Baltimore, which will be added to $125 million in federal transportation money for the project

• $57.2 million for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund

• $280 million for bay protection and water quality

• $250.5 million for Program Open Space, land preservation and other programs.

Hogan again chided the Kirwan Commission for not providing a funding mechanism for the cost of its proposals.

“We are pushing for more accountability in our local school systems to make sure that those dollars are being well-spent, that they’re making it into the classrooms and that we are achieving better results for our children,” he said.

“The state should not and cannot, however, simply increase $33 billion in new spending that we do not have without any plan whatsoever about where the funding is going to come from.”

Noting the governor’s emphasis on crime, Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington, noted that “as much as we thought Kirwan would be a dominant issue — and I think it still will be … we can’t pull all the money out of crime prevention for Kirwan.

“This is a big issue for people that don’t feel safe in their homes.”

He also reiterated his perennial complaint about mandated spending, noting that all but 17% of the budget is dictated by formulas previously approved by the Maryland General Assembly.

“As we have every year, we are strongly cautioning legislators against unsustainable forced spending increases, which now account for 83% of the entire state budget,” he said.

The budget represents growth of 1% in spending, Hogan said.

Later Tuesday, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee got a briefing from Senior Economist Dan White of Moody’s Analytics, who told them Gross Domestic Product growth is expected to hold at about 1.9% for 2020.

He also warned that signs are ripe for a recession, although maybe not as severe as the last one.

Details on local allocations in the budget for fiscal 2021 will be available Wednesday.

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