By Deborah Bailey, Special to the AFRO

Speaker of the House, Adrienne Jones (D-Baltimore County) says the Governor’s recently issued $58.2 billion FY 2023 budget doesn’t go far enough to support critical needs of Marylanders with respect to K-12 education and infrastructure.  

Hogan released his final budget as governor this month to the Maryland General Assembly. Jones quickly pointed out that there is still a long way to go before the document represents the progress and programs the General Assembly deemed important for Maryland’s future, and in particular, Baltimore and Prince George’s County.  

 “The Governor’s budget does not provide $125 million for the Education Effort Adjustment outlined in the Blueprint which would fund schools with the highest concentration of poverty – the majority of which are in Prince George’s County and Baltimore City” Jones said in exclusive comments for AFRO readers. 

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, the K-12 education reform plan based on recommendations from the Kirwan Commission was passed by the General Assembly in 2021. Hogan vetoed the legislation saying the state could not afford to fund the effort, but the General Assembly overrode Hogan’s veto and outlined a path to fund the initiative that would improve K-12 services, phase in universal pre-K and expand family support programs.    

Hogan’s budget includes $4.6 billion in tax relief to retirees, families and small businesses. What Hogan deemed “the largest tax cut package in state history” at a recent news conference announcing the plan, includes an elimination of retirement tax for all seniors 65 and older incrementally over the next six years, through the FY 2028 budget. 

But Jones points out that Hogan’s tax cut for seniors undercuts funding needed for the state’s neediest children, unfairly pitting the interests of seniors against the General Assembly’s clearly identified adoption of the Kirwan Commission’s support for children and families.   

“Additionally, the nearly $750M retirement tax cut he provides in FY27 would significantly undermine our ability to continue to fund the Blueprint in FY28. The budget also fails to fund $15.0 million in other Kirwan programs, Jones added.

Jones says Hogan does deserve credit for including some of the General Assembly’s priorities in his budget, namely $601million in funding for higher education, and $996 million for mental health and substance abuse disorders. She says there is still room for these allocations to be negotiated.  

“We were pleased to see that many of our priorities were included in the budget, and there are more opportunities to support these priorities,” Jones said. 

But Jones also points out that major priorities like funding from the Federal Infrastructure legislation passed in December 2021 are missing from the Governor’s budget. 

“Funds from the federal Infrastructure and Jobs Act, approximately $3 billion of new funding over a five-year period, were not included in the budget,” Jones said.

 “We expect to see the State use these federal dollars to make critical infrastructure upgrades in our state facilities, parks, bridges, schools, IT systems and more,” she said. 

The American Society of Civil Engineers gave Maryland a grade of “C” in terms of the condition of its road, bridges and water systems. At least 25% of the state’s roads and bridges are in need of critical repair according to the organization’s 2020 report. 

Jones said she looks forward to working with the General Assembly to craft a budget that meets the needs of Marylanders who need them most.     

“Appropriations leaders are further discussing ways to ensure that the FY23 budget fully funds education and ensure that federal funding goes to critical infrastructure projects,”she said. 

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