Before the Spin: Governor Hogan’s Responsible Budget

Today Governor Larry Hogan unveiled the key points of his budget in Annapolis. The General Assembly is currently in session and will likely be considering the budget in the coming days and weeks. For the third straight year, the Governor’s budget doesn’t raise taxes and declines to descend into draconian cuts of services. This budget provides record education funding for the third year in a row (the persistent partisan cudgel used by Democrats in the General Assembly to attack Hogan and Republicans).

The Governor has also directly called out the business-as-usual “tax-and-spend” philosophy that so often permeates the governing class in the State’s capital. While there will always be partisan resistance to Governor Hogan, the reality is that he, along with his staff and advisers, have produced a sober, realistic, and responsible budget that will plot a course of financial solvency for the State in the years to come.

Governor Hogan made it clear that, despite the fact that the State, thanks to his fiscal sobriety, will save over $700 million in debt service, there is still more to do in order to help the State recover from the fiscally ruinous designs of the previous Administration. The Governor noted, poignantly, that, because of rampant spending in the O’Malley Administration, the State will be forced to pay more in interest on the debt than on school construction.

The Governor’s spending discipline has been noteworthy over the past three years. Hogan’s decision not to pump money into programs when it appeared that there would be sufficient money was a godsend when tax receipts came in lower than expected. The Governor’s budget looks to include $334 million in school construction and as much as $1.5 billion for higher education.

The Governor’s budget also looks to include targeted tax relief for community heroes, including first responders, military personnel, and police. As of today, there has been no request made by the Mayor of Baltimore for funds to enforce the consent decree entered into between the City of Baltimore and the Department of Justice with respect to policing practices in the City. While the Governor noted that these funds could be included in a supplemental budget, there are strong indications that the incoming Justice Department will be friendlier to law enforcement than the outgoing one and may petition the Federal Court to revise the consent decree for fairer treatment of Baltimore’s police.

It’s important to note that the Governor’s budget is also structurally balanced, a key component of sound fiscal policy and sober spending. Though this balancing will require the diversion of cash from the State’s “Rainy Day Fund,” it will mean offsetting huge fiscal gaps that Governor Hogan inherited from the libertine spending of the previous Administration. Even Democrats have begrudgingly acknowledged that the Hogan budget will increase education funding while averting large cuts to essential services.

A key component of the Governor’s legislative agenda during this session appears to be a reduction in the “over-mandating” of the State’s spending. Currently, as much as 83% of the spending in the State is non-discretionary. This, obviously, leaves government with little, if any, room for innovation or investment in novel strategies or programs. The Governor is proposing the “Common Sense Spending Act of 2017” that would limit the growth of mandated spending.

The Governor’s budget will certainly be subject to scrutiny from his political opponents who see his high popularity in deep-blue Maryland as a major concern for their chances of retaking the Governor’s Mansion in time for the 2020 census. So, it’s important to have the facts right, without the spin from the left: Larry Hogan has proposed a structurally balanced budget, refused calls to raise taxes, funded education, and maintained spending on important programs. He should be commended for his fiscal discipline and willingness to draft thoughtful, realistic goals for our State’s future. Governor Larry Hogan made it clear that he was committed to Change Maryland for the better. His budget helps fulfill that goal.

Matt McDaniel

Attorney and Political Commentator

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