- Associated Press - Thursday, April 2, 2015

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan released a supplemental budget on Thursday that includes money for his tax-relief plans, but the plan did not set aside money Democratic lawmakers were hoping to see the Republican governor specifically allocate for education and a 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees.

The Democratic-led Legislature largely restored money for education and the state-employee pay in the state’s $40 billion budget, and they fenced the money off from being available for other purposes. However, Hogan still would need to approve the funds, leaving him some bargaining room as a panel of negotiators from the House and Senate meet to work out differences in budget legislation.

“We still have much more to do, but as we draw closer to the end of the legislative session, I look forward to working with the conference committee to reach a final budget that addresses the concerns of all hardworking Marylanders,” Hogan said in a statement.

The plan includes $5.2 million to provide tax relief on military pensions and relief for first responders. It also includes $7.4 million for personal property tax relief that would eliminate the tax for businesses that have less than $10,000 in personal property. It also includes $8.2 million for 100 more state troopers and funds to open a shuttered state police barracks in Annapolis. There is another provision setting aside $2 million to expand substance abuse treatment programs for people battling heroin addictions.

House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, noted that while lawmakers set aside money for education and state employee pay, that doesn’t mean the governor necessarily has to decide to spend the money.

“But the problem is, if he does not fund that and he doesn’t fund education, that he’s really kind of drawing the line in the sand between the majority in both houses and his role as governor,” the speaker said.

The Maryland State Education Association criticized the plan for failing to include about $70 million in public school education funding the Legislature restored from Hogan’s initial budget proposal in January.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, has pledged a willingness to work with Hogan on tax relief proposals. The Senate has approved scaled-back versions of the governor’s personal property tax relief bill, as well as a significantly pared-back version of the tax break on military pensions. The Senate also has passed a heavily rewritten version of Hogan’s proposal to expand charter schools. Miller has recrafted a Hogan-backed measure to end state-mandated stormwater fees.

Miller said he believed Hogan would follow through on the education funding.

“He’s a reasonable person, and I think wiser and cooler heads will prevail,” Miller said. “He’s going to fully fund education. At the same time, we’re going to try to do each and every one of his agenda items as well.”

Hogan also is pushing for tax credits for Maryland businesses that donate to private schools. While that proposal has found favor in the Senate in recent years, it has not had support in the House of Delegates.

“Once you go down this road you’re not going to look back and repeal these, so I think you have to be very judicious,” Busch said, noting the state already spends about $10 million in books and infrastructure for private schools.

Maryland’s legislative session is scheduled to end April 13.

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