- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 18, 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Gov. Larry Hogan, a popular Republican governor, released detailed budget numbers to the Democrat-controlled General Assembly Wednesday morning.

In a preview Tuesday, the governor touted that his proposed budget would decrease general fund spending. Indeed, details released Wednesday propose a $19.5 million reduction in general fund spending, approximately one tenth of a percent.

However, the proposal would increase total state spending to $43.541 billion - $467 million or approximately 1 percent more than was spent in 2017.

Along with the budget, the governor submitted recommendations that would reduce spending mandated by the legislature by a total of $247 million.

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., D-Calvert, Charles, and Prince George’s, criticized one such reduction that cuts mandated funding for Prince George’s Medical Center by $15 million; a separate line in the budget reduces funding for the hospital by another $7.5 million.

Hogan’s proposed state general fund budget includes a 92 percent cut to funding for the Department of Housing and Community Development. Under the proposal, total funding - which includes state and federal dollars - for that agency would fall by about 7 percent.

At least three programs in the Department of Housing and Community Development that promote low income housing would lose all of their general fund money, cuts worth $21.6 million.

However, Operating Manager David B. Juppe at the Department of Legislative Services told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service that the proposed cuts are not “gutting” the Department of Housing and Community Development because the department receives hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding. The cuts primarily affect specific programs that the legislature mandated funding for last year.

The proposed budget reduces the number of authorized, full time positions in the state government by 442, but increases the number of available contractual positions by the same amount.

The budget allocates $165 million less to the state’s reserve fund, basically the state’s savings accounts, than 2017’s budget. Because contributions to the fund are listed as an expenditure, this causes the overall increase in spending elsewhere to appear smaller than it is.

Under the proposed budget, spending on items other than the reserve fund will increase by a net total of $632 million, a 1.4 percent increase over 2017.

However, there are some who argue that this is exactly the reserve fund’s purpose.

Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, R-Baltimore and Harford counties, said Tuesday he thinks “it’s a pretty good budget” and that he was not concerned about the budget drawing from the “rainy day” fund. “That’s what the money is there for,” he said.

Miller also expressed irritation with a proposal in the budget that would install cameras on the Senate floor. He suggested that the proposal encroached on the Senate’s power to manage its own space and that 24-hour recording of the floor could be used to selectively broadcast scenes of the empty chamber to make it appear as though legislators were shirking their responsibilities.

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