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OPINION: What Makes for a Doomsday Budget?

Marylanders need to understand the magnitude of cuts on the table—as well as the revenue proposals up for debate—as our legislature goes back to work on the state budget.

Since the Maryland General Assembly adjourned at midnight on April 9——there has been extensive debate as to where things really stand. With legislators reconvening today to assess the situation and consider alternatives, it is vital for all of us to understand the stakes. 

By now, everyone realizes that the budget that ended up being approved on the last day of session was actually never meant to succeed. Legislative leaders introduced the "doomsday budget," which contains a host of unpopular program cuts, in order to pressure lawmakers to approve a range of revenue enhancements, as well as a shift of teacher pension costs to the counties. Here is a quick look at the package of cuts that make up the heart of the doomsday budget.

Doomsday Budget Cuts by Functional Area

  • K-12 Public Education: $225.7 million (principally per pupil funding reductions)
  • State Workforce: $78.8 million (elimination of COLAs, reduction of state funding for employee healthcare benefits, elimination of 500 jobs)
  • Higher Education: $74.1 million (cuts to funding for public colleges/universities, aid formula for private colleges, aid formula for community colleges, and elimination of legislative scholarships)
  • Across the board 8% State Agency Cuts: $50 million
  • Supplemental Support for Local Governments: $31.6 million (disparity grants)
  • Incentives for Economic Development: $25.4 million (elimination of certain tax credits for business activity)
  • Healthcare: $21.7 million (funding cuts for support to the physically, mentally, and developmentally disabled citizens, cuts to benefit levels for foster care recipients, etc.)
  • Public Safety: $20.8 million (elimination of Local Law Enforcement Grants)
  • Libraries: $5.0 million (cuts to state library aide formula)

Total: $512.3 million

In considering the budget, neither chamber of the legislature viewed the cuts noted above as attractive. However, the state Senate and the House of Delegates ended up putting forward differing approaches to the budget, and consequently had . Unfortunately, when a consensus was finally reached, the extraneous issue of possibly expanding gaming in the state derailed this process. 

Essentially, this year's budget process (and the gambling entanglement) turned into a game of chicken, where in the end, neither player chose to flinch. As a result, we now face the prospect of living with a budget that doesn't really make anyone happy. I have even heard a number of Republican legislators publicly state that, even though they support state budget reductions in principal, they wouldn't have wanted to cut from most of these areas, but from others instead.

So, unfortunately, we are now left with a choice between: 1) living with an unpopular budget, which threatens the success of many essential programs, or 2) approving a modified budget that on certain Marylanders.  Neither option is ideal. I think Marylanders would have been better served had the advice of Comptroller Peter Franchot been followed. He has repeatedly called for a "comprehensive and critical examination of both state spending and state revenue." Perhaps after this year's mess, this common sense idea might actually be put to good use.

JD1 May 15, 2012 at 04:48 AM
LiLi - Ben Carson grew up in Detroit and was raised by a single Mom. If you are "poorly educated" is that someone's fault? Convince me that you deserve any fraction of any penny that I earn because you didn't take advantage of the opportunity to learn and achieve. The only schools that I have taught in over the past 20 years serve the offspring of pathetic parents who care more about their nails than if their kids eat agood breakfast. And yet, I have witnessed countless examples of kids who rise above it all and achieve. You clearly illustrate why our state is in such bad shape - we have a culture of entitlement and one that does not promote personal responsibility. It is the job of the " white, middle aged, college educated males" to take care of the folks waiting in line for their free cell phone. If you are in need of job skills, CCBC is a great place to start. I tutor several working adults who have decided to stop whining and to make themselves more marketable in the current economy.
LiLi Taylor May 15, 2012 at 10:55 AM
Hi There - I applaud your dedication to serving your community. As someone who is NOT a white male, and who has faced some serious adversity, I have overcome some of the obstacles about which you speak. I'm genuinely grateful to folks who were willing to reach out and help me, (although I must say, none of them came across as angry and judgmental, as you, at least in print). Further, I should hope I am not emblematic of social disorder: I only seek to point out that by thoughtlessly "cutting" for the sake of cutting, in some cases, you cut off your nose despite your face. Those who suggest such drastic, arbitrary cutting have no concept of the chaos that would ensue – for everyone, including you. I am one of the public sector employees so constantly vilified by the right wing. I work hard every day to serve the community - - specifically, to help people prepare for honest work. Their disadvantages are not an abstraction for me: they are very, very real, and quite overwhelming, at times. To say everyone should be Ben Carson, and to assume you would be among his ranks were you faced with his circumstances is just a bit arrogant. It reminds me of the angry actor who ranted on Fox: "I was on food stamps and nobody helped me!!!" Yes, we are spending too much money, considering what we are getting for it. But do I think every poor person is poor by choice? And that all that would be involved in rising above their circumstances is their own elbow grease? Come on.
Mike the house buyer May 15, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Lili, I was kidding when I said I was a Gay Black Male. Usually, race is injected in a conversation as a mean ploy to discredit others. Character overcomes color in every field with effort, determination and a will to win. Mike
LiLi Taylor May 15, 2012 at 01:54 PM
I agree 100%. I had no intent of unkindness in my remark. I am genuinely concerned that polarization is pushing us (as a group) to make levels of budgetary cuts we may well regret, once we're stuck with their consequences.
Tim May 15, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Lili: I agree. Especially considering it wasn't the "poor" that led us into this recession...

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