The House of Delegates will vote Thursday morning on amendments to the chamber’s proposed $50 billion budget for fiscal year 2022.
In recent weeks, the proposed budget has undergone a dramatic transformation, as tax revenues came in higher than expected, Congress passed a massive stimulus package that will send direct aid to the state’s coffers and Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R) submitted a series of supplemental budget bills to distribute federal funding and recognize state employees who have worked through the pandemic.
“Like everything else in this past year, completing the work of the budget has been far from normal,” House Appropriations Chairwoman Maggie L. McIntosh (D-Baltimore City) said Wednesday.
The committee’s proposed budget leaves the state with more than $1.8 billion in cash reserves and wipes out forecasted budget shortfalls for the next two years. The plan results in a structural surplus of $262 million forecast by 2026.
However, McIntosh cautioned that the recent revenue writeup and infusion of federal funds simply brought the state closer to where fiscal analysts thought the budget would be before the pandemic set in.
The ending fund balance of $743 million is the result of reductions of more than $657 million, in addition to other fiscal maneuvers.
“As we move forward, we must remember that large parts of our population and our economy still struggle. Recovery will be a multi-year process. And that may leave our economy reshaped in ways that we can not yet imagine,” McIntosh said. “That is why it is extremely important for us to be responsible with the funds we have available, to insure that we are not only providing immediate relief for those who need help, but also doing what we can to support the long-term recovery. This budget does that.”
The budget bill includes $687 million in state spending and $585 million in tax relief, guided by the bipartisan RELIEF Act, which Hogan and legislative leaders passed as a top priority early this legislative session.
The committee’s proposal also restores several cuts originally proposed by Hogan, including $29.8 million to support independent colleges and universities and $26.6 million for community colleges. Total community college funding for the year is up more than 9% to $371.5 million.
The amended budget includes more than $7.5 billion for public schools, including an increase of more than $228 million for local school systems.
Medicaid funding totals $13.5 billion, a $623 million increase, to support more than 1.5 million people, including more than 150,000 who have enrolled for health coverage during the pandemic.
More work to do
After the House met Wednesday, Hogan introduced a $1.08 billion fourth supplemental budget, which includes the restoration of the community college cut, more than $200 million to expand rental assistance programs, $230 million for transportation infrastructure projects, and allocates more than $225 million in federal stimulus funding for minority-serving colleges and universities.