Senate President Vows to Restore Hospital Center Money

by: The Associated Press
/ (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) /
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Maryland’s Senate president vowed to restore money cut from the state budget for the planned Prince George’s Regional Medical Center, as more details about Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget proposal became public Wednesday.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller told senators during their morning session that Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget cuts $22 million from the hospital plan. Miller, a Democrat whose district includes part of Prince George’s County, assured lawmakers the money would be restored before lawmakers adjourn in April.

Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller addresses members of the Senate in Annapolis on the first day of the 2017 legislative session. (Patrick Semansky / AP)
Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller addresses members of the Senate in Annapolis on the first day of the 2017 legislative session. (Patrick Semansky / AP)

“We’ll find a way to make it happen this year,” Miller said.

The Democrat-controlled legislature and the Republican governor have disagreed over how to pay for the hospital center, which is slated to open in 2020.

David Brinkley, Hogan’s budget secretary, said the budget action for the next fiscal year isn’t intended to hold the project back in the long term.

“What we’ve done is fulfill the commitment, but we’ve been able to stretch it out based on where they say their timeline is,” Brinkley said. “So, you know, the legislature can work with it either way they want to go, but we’re trying to deal with some realistic expectations and timelines with that.”

More details about the governor’s budget were being made public Wednesday, a day after he gave an outline of his spending plan during a news conference. Hogan’s budget plan addresses a $544 million budget deficit, partly by tapping financial reserves to avoid bigger cuts. During an outline of highlights Tuesday, Hogan said his plan spends less than last year and “sounds too good to be true, but it is true.”

Still, lawmakers were finding out more about some of the cuts as more of the budget plan became public Wednesday.

“The real budget story is where did they get the money to do what they did?” asked Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore. “I know they transferred money from the Rainy Day (Fund,) but I also know that there are programs that were cut.”

Money for initiatives approved last year aimed at helping Baltimore, including a scholarship program and afterschool programs, were among items omitted from the governor’s proposal.

The governor’s plan also cuts back on wage increases for people who provide community services for the developmentally disabled, part of a law passed in 2014 when lawmakers raised the state’s minimum wage to keep those providers’ pay above minimum wage. The law included a 3.5 percent rate increase annually over 4 years, but the budget scales that back to a 2 percent increase, said Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, D-Charles.

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