Lawmakers will consider two education funding “lockbox” bills this General Assembly session.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced on Wednesday that he would pursue legislation to create a “lockbox” for education funding.
Earlier this legislative session, Democratic leaders in the General Assembly announced a similar proposal to prevent the state’s Education Trust Fund from being used for other purposes, but neither measure has been introduced yet to the chambers. The texts of the bills were also not available.
A primary difference between the two proposals is that the Democratic measure would amend the state’s constitution to create the lockbox, a move that would put a referendum on the November general election ballot. Hogan’s bill would create the lockbox through legislation.
The governor said his bill would increase education spending by more than $4.4 billion over the next decade by phasing in casino revenue from the Education Trust Fund — in addition to the state’s base-level education funding — over the next four years. The legislation also dedicates the first 20 percent of gambling revenue to school construction, which would add an estimated $1 billion to school construction projects in a decade.
The governor was joined in his announcement by Comptroller Peter Franchot (D), who said the governor’s legislation would fulfill the promises of Democrats who pitched legalizing gambling in the state — also approved by voters through a referendum — as a benefit to schoolchildren.
“Ensuring that this money is required to be used the way voters were promised it would be is long overdue; this is a bipartisan issue that a majority of Marylanders agree with,” Hogan said. “The additional revenue that was promised for the classrooms should be required to go into the classrooms, and the people of Maryland and our children should not have to wait for another election in order to fix this important issue.”
But representatives of the Maryland State Education Association, the state’s teachers union, said Hogan had the power to allocate greater amounts of funding to education without any legislation.
“I’m not sure why the governor needs to make it mandatory to spend money that he could be spending in his budgets now,” said Steven Hershkowitz, an MSEA spokesman.
The organization said the governor has used money from the trust fund to supplant — instead of increase — education funding. The group called on Hogan to introduce a supplemental budget this year to increase school funding by $364 million, the amount the group says is the difference between the governor’s increase in education funding and the amount of revenue in the education trust fund.
Hogan’s office said Wednesday that the governor’s fiscal 2019 budget includes $6.5 billion for K-12 education, which includes $15.2 million above legislative funding formulas. His office said the governor also approved the largest investment in school construction funding in a decade.