Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan stunned lawmakers by announcing he will redirect $68 million set aside for schools and use it to shore up the state’s pension system. But critics say his move violates appropriation rules under the state’s constitution.
On Thursday, Gov Hogan said that spending more money on schools
instead of covering the underfunded state’s pension would be
“absolutely irresponsible, and it will not happen on my
watch,” according to The Baltimore Sun.
However, opponents argue there is a drawback to this plan
because, under the state constitution, the governor can’t decide
to transfer money that has been appropriated for a specific
purpose by Maryland’s General Assembly. In this case, the $68
million was set aside for education and only education.
If Hogan chooses not to spend the money on
education, it would have to remain in the bank and could not be
allocated to cover pensions, Maryland House Delegate Eric Luedtke
(D-Montgomery County) told RT. The education fund was created to
support schools that require more money to educate a child, and
often the children are from urban settings like Baltimore.
“He’s [Hogan] cutting money that goes to schools with the
most poor kids, kids with disabilities, and second language
learners – all the impacted urban populations,” Luedtke said
during a phone interview.
“Under the Maryland Constitution, he can’t apply funds that
have been appropriated for something else. What he will probably
do is let the money sit in the fund and then use it as his
proposed budget next year. In the meantime, there are kids in
Baltimore, Montgomery County, and Prince George County that need
a good education.”
Luedtke said schools in these areas “are already announcing
cuts. They are already announcing they are increasing class sizes
and cutting teaching positions.”
For his part, the governor said Maryland is already spending
record amounts on education – $7.5 billion on K-12 education each
year – while cutting spending at other agencies. But critics said
there was no indication that state pension system was
Baltimore was due to receive $11.6 million for its schools from
the fund. Luedtke said the governor’s decision was atrocious
timing because, just weeks earlier, he said he was willing to
help in Baltimore during protests over the officer-involved death
of unarmed black man Freddie Gray. When push comes to shove,
Luedtke said “he’s not there for Baltimore.”
While the roots of some of the problems in some Baltimore
neighborhoods run deep, Luedtke said good schools would help
people rise out of whatever conditions they are in.
Luedtke said Hogan also voted on May 13th to spend $30 million,
through the Board of Public Works, on constructing a new jail in
“The next day, [he] made the announcement he was going to cut
the education fund,” said Luedtke. “It is a striking
RT asked Luedtke whether the state’s pensions were in trouble.
“The [pensions] were in trouble. But we took up major pension
reforms in 2011, and they were underfunded, but we are on the
track to be fully funded again. It is a slow climb with a
multi-million dollar fund that we owe money to, but the state
expects that by the mid 2020s we will be above our 80 percent
funding core,” he replied.
“I would argue there isn’t a problem. I would argue that our
reforms in 2011 helped us take care of the problem with the
pension system. He’s just spending money in the wrong
RT contacted the Maryland governor’s office for comment but have
not received a response.