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The Maryland General Assembly passed a $63 billion budget last week for fiscal year 2024 with substantial education investments.
The budget allocates $900 million to fund the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, an ongoing education reform project.
Gov. Wes Moore’s original proposed budget only set aside $500 million for the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future. Another $500 million was set aside for unspecified transportation projects — $400 million of which the legislature moved to fund the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.
An additional $8.7 billion of the budget is allocated to funding Maryland’s public schools.
The budget’s investments in public education are “historic,” according to the Maryland State Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union.
“The budget will help fight educator shortages and provide needed investments to raise educator salaries and expand difference-making programs for students, such as career technical education, community schools and pre-kindergarten,” according to a Tuesday news release from MSEA.
However, MSEA expressed disappointment that the budget retains funding for the BOOST program, a scholarship program for low-income students to attend private schools.
Both Moore and Democratic delegates wanted to decrease spending for the program and eventually phase it out, but Democratic senators and Republicans in both chambers wanted to preserve the funding.
Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Democrat representing parts of Baltimore City, said during a press conference last month that families have seen large benefits from the BOOST program. These include academic and social success.
“We believe that all young people deserve all the opportunities to maximize their potential,” he said.
The majority party ultimately decided to cut funding for the scholarship program by 10 percent, as opposed to the 20 percent cut Moore sought.
“We will continue to advocate that public dollars should not be used for private school tuition,” MSEA said in the news release.
The budget also prioritizes one of Moore’s campaign pledges: rebuilding the state government. Increases in salaries and bonuses for state government employees are intended to help fill vacancies.
$200 million in tax relief included in the budget is intended to help low-income Marylanders whose Earned Income Tax Credits were scheduled to be reduced.
In addition to the original proposal Moore introduced in January, Moore submitted a trimmed down supplemental budget to lawmakers in the final weeks of the legislative session after the Board of Revenue Estimates projected a decrease in state revenue of almost $478 million for this fiscal year and the following fiscal year.
“This administration will always be guided by the data and the facts. Our supplemental budget adapts to new revenue projections while ensuring we invest in the priorities that matter most to Marylanders,” Moore said in a news release announcing the supplemental budget plan.
Moore’s supplemental budget included adjustments aimed at creating a more competitive state economy, such as dedicating funds to combating child poverty and improving the retention of state employees.
Maryland’s economy is underperforming compared to the U.S. economy, according to officials on the Board of Revenue Estimates.
“The revenue forecasts should not be considered alarming, but they should be seen as a flashing yellow light — a warning that the economy of Maryland is seeing the lingering effects of national inflation,” Brooke Lierman, the state’s comptroller and a member of the Board of Revenue Estimates, said in a statement.
The budget passed by the legislature will take effect July 1. It is $993 million less than last year’s budget, which included pandemic relief from the federal government, and adds $2.5 billion to Maryland’s rainy day fund, money the state saves in preparation for possible economic decline.
The General Assembly’s 2023 session marked the first time state legislators had authority to move around money in a governor’s proposed budget, following a 2020 ballot referendum. Previously, lawmakers were only able to decrease appropriations in state budgets.
Budget negotiators in the legislature made around $1.45 billion in reductions to the budget and around $1.13 billion in additions, according to Maryland Matters.