Local delegates were torn on whether they would support a supplemental budget from Gov. Larry Hogan, which would give state employees a $1,000 bonus to recognize their work during the coronavirus pandemic.
The payments would come out of a proposed $74.1 million allocation, which was announced by the governor Monday. It's possible because of the early anticipation of lower revenues as the pandemic was starting last year, according to a news release.
But now, given better projections, Hogan (R) wants to give all state employees an extra $1,000, which would be paid in April — pending approval by state legislators.
"This supplemental budget recognizes the hard work of our state employees, who have overcome significant challenges to deliver essential services to Marylanders during this public health emergency," Hogan said in a prepared statement.
Del. Karen Lewis Young (D-Frederick), chair of the Frederick County delegation, wasn't completely opposed to the supplemental budget but would have preferred a merit-based raise system versus a bonus.
The "optics" of giving employees a bonus while many workers in the private sector have struggled is not ideal, Lewis Young said.
"This is better than nothing. They certainly deserve some recognition, particularly for the challenging year it has been ... [but] it's a distant second choice," Lewis Young said.
Del. Jesse Pippy (R-Frederick ad Carroll), however, felt that many private sector employees have lost their jobs or otherwise been impacted by the pandemic.
State employees have been working hard the past 12 months, but they've also had stable employment compared to many other Marylanders, Pippy added.
"I do realize ... that there are many front-line state employees that have worked significant hours over the past year and I appreciate the Governor's effort to recognize them, but my inclination would still be to prioritize those outside of government that need it the most," Pippy wrote in an email.
Del. Dan Cox (R-Frederick and Carroll) shared a similar view. He was glad state workers were recognized, but more needs to be done to help private sector employees.
"I’m deeply disappointed the governor has ignored all Maryland workers that have been essential ... From the grocery store clerk to the restaurant workers and hard working union employees who have been laid off and put aside … [they] need to be reimbursed," Cox said.
When asked to weigh that and giving state employees a bonus, Del. Ken Kerr (D-Frederick) paused and reflected for a moment. Like Lewis Young, Kerr would have preferred some sort of merit-based raise system or a cost of living adjustment versus a straight bonus.
But ultimately, he wasn't immediately opposed to the supplemental budget. There are pros and cons to working in the public and private sector, Kerr said.
"Part of the reason you go is you want to be a civil servant," he said. "But you also understand you’re not going to get commensurate pay compared to someone doing the same thing in the private sector, so there’s no profit motive."
As he was driving into Annapolis Monday night, Del. Barrie Ciliberti's (R-Frederick and Carroll) view on the matter was simple: the private sector has been hurting, but state employees deserve the bonus, as they've been working hard during the pandemic.
"If we have that kind of money, let’s put it there rather than put it back in the rainy day fund," Ciliberti said, referring to a well-known state reserve fund. "Let’s give it to the folks that matter."