Gov. Larry Hogan made the right call in vetoing the major education bill passed by the General Assembly in the last session.

We were not in favor of the bill during the session, fearing that the huge price tag — rising to a whopping $4 billion a year in new spending over the coming decade — was just too large to absorb while meeting the other needs of the state and local communities.

But the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic made the question moot in our mind. With so much uncertainty, now is not the time to commit to massive spending increases in the future, no matter how well-intended.

The Democratic leadership of the legislature signaled it will consider seeking to override the veto by the Republican governor, assuming the General Assembly will reconvene next January in some kind of session. We hope they will defer, at least until we have a better idea of what the future will hold.

No one knows what shape our state and indeed our country will be in when the calendar turns to 2021, much less how long the aftereffects of the pandemic will last.

“The economic fallout from this pandemic simply makes it impossible to fund any new programs, impose any new tax hikes, nor adopt any legislation having any significant fiscal impact, regardless of the merits of the legislation,” Hogan wrote in his veto letter.

Hogan and other governors have been pleading with the federal government to rescue the financially strapped state and local governments, but we have no guarantee that will happen. For now, President Trump and the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate have said they are in no hurry to bail out states, especially blue states like Maryland.

Last month, the governor announced that the state faces a potential revenue loss of up to $2.8 billion this fiscal year because of the economic impact of the pandemic. In addition, the state is incurring much higher expenses from fighting the disease.

Hogan said at the time it was “very unlikely” he would sign legislation with a significant cost.

The education measure, called the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, was based on recommendations from a state commission known as the Kirwan Commission after its chairman, former University System of Maryland Chancellor William Kirwan.

The plan made several recommendations for increased state spending on education, including expanding early childhood education like pre-K and increasing teacher salaries.

The General Assembly already approved money to fund the first three years of the plan. But the 2020 bill went further by phasing in more funding over the next decade. The additional $4 billion in fiscal year 2030 would be shared by the state and local governments, but the majority would come from the state.

The governor had opposed the proposal during the session, saying it was “well-meaning,” but would have to result in large tax increases. We were especially concerned about the mandated local share, which would cost counties like Frederick hundreds of millions of dollars.

The bill originally passed both houses of the legislature with enough support to override the veto when it is able to meet again. But we hope that the leaders will wait until the smoke clears from this battle before deciding how to proceed.

Clearly, we are in a much different world from the one that existed last winter. Caution should be exercised before forging ahead to unknown territory.

(10) comments

Riptide262

Declining to implement a program you can't afford should not be a democratic or republican act. Both parties should embrace fiscal responsibility. Sadly, neither party has demonstrated any desire to live within a budget.

des21

Darn right- let's try to do well what we re charged with doing- educating children- before we attempt to become social workers, mental health non-professional, health care providers, food delivery vehicles etc. We do too much of those things already and none of them very well. Kirwan's answer is to take on more? Crazy.

There are charities for helping people my friends. I suggest you give to them generously. To expect the government- or a school system - to operate as a charitable organzation is foolish and illogical.

mr_twist27

This is exactly why the Feds should not bailout the states. Every state in the country is facing budget shortfalls for the immediate future and here are the Maryland Democrats trying to increase spending by 4 billion.

FrederickFan

People will want and expect good schools with or without a pandemic. And students will be further behind and be in greater need of an education as a result of this health crisis. What plan do you have to support good schools and a quality education?

jsklinelga

I could be wrong but I think I read that the county increased the MOE by 7 million. They offered the rationale that it was less than the 28 million requested. That is simply irresponsible. I sincerely hope that the Federal Government does not bail out the States. This power circle - Teachers's union, Democrat Party advocacy and lobbying and complicit elected officials must be curtailed.

DickD

I think some of the taj Mahal schools need to be rethought too. We don't need the large plush schools that are being built. They are a waste of money as far as education is concerned.

bosco

We need to ask how much of the budget goes toward achooling and feeding the undocumented. Seems nobody wants to address that issue and it gets swept under the rug. Think about where your tax money is going.

MD1756

Governments should be fined for aiding and abetting illegal immigration just as companies who hire them should. I do not consent to being taxed to support illegal activities.

MD1756

Without the pandemic this plan and its execution were ill conceived and should never have been passed. The legislature passes something the state couldn't afford before the pandemic and wouldn't even make parents pay the same for their children's education as those who have no children. Maryland has funded it's pension obligations at only about 69%. What do you think will happen when you 1) add more teachers and 2) pay them i higher salary? Other infrastructure and combating pollution is currently underfunded. Why should they suffer to add $4 billion a year for "improved" education? Is that the best expenditure of tax dollars? No taxes should be raised until parents are paying at least the same to educate children as the rest of us do. Additionally, programs that are not educational should be removed from the school budget or significantly altered (i.e., the FARM program). I didn't have children and while the children shouldn't be punished the parents who have children they can't afford should be made to work for the benefits their children get courtesy of the rest of the tax payers. There are plenty of needs (i.e., trash pick up from the sides of the roads, filling pot holes, etc.) that can be done by unskilled labor so if their children receive free meals then maybe the parents should work for that benefit.

gabrielshorn2013

Although I agree with much of what you said here MD1756, The tax break will never be repealed. Too many have become used to (or addicted to) the deduction, and having others back-fill the lost (but needed) revenue. They will scream bloody murder that "it's unfair that their taxes are being raised", or that "they are being targeted", and throw anyone out of office that proposes such a responsible act. I thoroughly support repealing the child tax break on both the Federal and State levels. Taxes are given to socially engineer a desired outcome. Tax something you want to reduce consumption of (sin tax as for cigarettes and alcohol), and reduce taxes for something you wish to promote (tax breaks to attract new employers to an area). We have a problem with over-development and overpopulation, yet the government promotes such population growth. Where is the logic in that?

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