Hogan signs budget, teacher retirement plans; Pugh visits

The bills Gov. Hogan signed Friday are in line with pledges he made to make no significant cuts in the 2017 budget and provide relief where possible. (Jack Chavez/Capital News Service)

By: Jack Chavez

ANNAPOLIS, Maryland – Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan signed two bills on Friday that will stabilize future annual budgets and relieve local boards of education, including in Baltimore City, of their 2017 financial obligations toward the Teachers’ Retirement and Pensions Systems.

Hogan was joined by Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., D-Calvert, Charles, and Prince George’s, and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, at the Maryland State House to sign the bills, which are in line with the governor’s pledge to make no significant cuts in the 2017 budget plan and provide needed relief where possible.

“Today, I am proud to sign legislation that will help ensure Maryland’s fiscal stability in years when revenues are less than projected,” Hogan said in a press release.

The bill is designed to repurpose surplus non-withholding income revenue – especially capital gains from investments and property sales – to close potential gaps in general revenue funds, and place the remainder into the “rainy day” fund, an emergency reserve for economic downturns. The bill prevents the state from relying too heavily on a “highly volatile” source of revenue, according to a state fiscal analysis.

The bill becomes law on July 1, 2017, but it will not affect a fiscal year until 2020.

The one-year suspension of their obligation to the pension funds will save boards of education across the state an estimated $19.7 million. The plan comes in response to an “unanticipated cost issue,” according to the governor’s press release.

Baltimore mayor discusses veto of minimum wage increase

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh attended the Baltimore City delegation meeting Friday morning to thank delegation members for their support and work on legislation this session.

One week earlier, Pugh vetoed legislation that would raise the minimum wage to $15 in Baltimore.

“Many of us here led the fight in Annapolis as it relates to the minimum wage bill and you all know that we are scheduled to increase again…next year to $10.10,” Pugh said. “We all know in our heart, we fought for that and the process that it took.”

The possible cost of a consent decree from the Department of Justice presented to her office and a $180 million commitment made to the school system were contributing factors to her decision, she said.

Pugh pointed out that if the legislation had passed, that the minimum wage would not have increased to $15 the next day.

“We know that that it is not the fact,” Pugh said. “In fact it would be 2024, 2026 before they ever got to $15 an hour.”

–Brianna Rhodes

Maryland Senate urges Hogan to oppose Trump’s budget cuts

The Maryland Senate passed a bill, 35-10, on Friday to urge Gov. Larry Hogan, R, to publicly oppose President Donald Trump’s proposed budget cuts to the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Trump’s plan would eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s $73 million annual budget for the cleanup effort.

“We are the ones who protect the bay (and) have primary responsibility,” said Sen. Paul Pinsky, D-Prince George’s, the sponsor of the bill. “We spend lots of money … to protect the bay and we should not recant our responsibility.”

Republicans who opposed the legislation argued that the bill was an unnecessary political maneuver in federal politics and wouldn’t achieve anything. Other Republicans, who had reservations about the bill, voted in favor to show their support for the bay.

“I don’t like the politics of it, but I certainly support our bay,” said Bryan Simonaire, R-Anne Arundel. “I wish we would focus more on the issues and politics, because that’s what the people want.”

–Natalie Schwartz