The day before the July Fourth holiday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced he would not spend $245 million that had been added to the state budget.
This money had been “fenced off” or restricted by the Democratic-controlled Legislature for other programs and initiatives. It included funding for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, jobs for Baltimore youth, testing of rape kits, and school construction projects.
With a $961 million shortfall in the next fiscal year looming, the governor has expressed concerns about spending.
For school construction projects, $127 million had been set aside. According to Jan Gardner, Frederick County Executive, over $5 million worth of these funds were slated to go to Frederick County.
This money was different than Hogan’s Build to Learn Act (BLA), which also focused on school construction, and which Frederick County was also slated to get a portion of.
The Maryland General Assembly rejected the Build to Learn Act in April after it had overwhelmingly passed in the House. Instead, the legislator set aside their own version of the funds — $127 million — which Hogan has since withheld.
“If the Legislature cared so much about school construction, it should have passed our plan, instead of playing budget games,” Michael Ricci, communications director for Hogan, said in a statement.
HB727, dubbed the Build to Learn Act, was introduced in February of this year. It provides $2.2 billion in funding for school construction projects across the state. The bulk of the funds are divided among the state’s largest counties. Frederick County was slated to receive 3.4 percent or approximately $8 million.
The funding would come from bonds paid by the Maryland Stadium Authority. Additionally, the Education Trust Fund, which is funded by casino profits, would pay annual debt service on those bonds in the amount of $125 million, starting in fiscal 2021.
The bill also mandates an additional $40 million to $80 million for the highest-priority school facilities starting in fiscal 2022. Grant funds to school systems with more portable classrooms would also be available.
Hogan could decide to release money for some of the programs outlined in the restricted funds but not others. The governor has said he will not allow public safety and health needs to go unmet, signaling a release of money related to the testing of rape kits, among others.
Ricci told The Baltimore Sun that the governor would make a decision on the restricted funding in the coming weeks.