In a unanimous vote on November 2, the Maryland Board of Public Works approved an $82 million cut from the current state budget that will impact funding for colleges and universities, juvenile services, public health care, and disparity grants.
Proposed by Governor Larry Hogan (R), the plan aims to close what could amount to a $250 million gap in the state’s $42 billion budget. The Board—composed of Hogan, Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D), and Comptroller Peter Franchot (D)—plans to implement the policies by the end of the current fiscal year in June 2017.
According to the Baltimore Sun, the budget cuts were Hogan’s second step to address a revenue shortfall. The first was Hogan’s earlier decision to withhold $80 million of spending, including funding for local school and improved compensation for physicians who care for Medicaid patients.
In a statement to The Washington Times, Hogan said, “In order to keep moving forward, and to build upon the progress of the past year, we must continue to focus on our long-term finances, live within our means and strive for the much-needed mandate and tax relief our citizens expect and deserve.”
Among the budget cuts are a $4 million cut from disparity grants, $9.1 million from juvenile services, and $3.7 million from Temporary Cash Assistance payments. According to the Washington Post, officials say that these cuts are due to a reduction in the number of out-of-state placements for juvenile services and a decline in the number of welfare caseloads.
$18.3 million will be cut from the University System of Maryland, eliminating about 100 administrative positions. Private colleges and universities in Maryland will be similarly affected, facing a $4 million cut in state funding.
The Sellinger Program, which funds independent, nonprofit colleges in Maryland such as St. John’s College and Loyola University Maryland, accounts for $1 million of the total cut. Through this program, over 90% of state-awarded funds are given to Maryland students as merit scholarships and need-based grants.
Walter Johnson High School senior Jacob Tycko is alarmed at the partial defunding of educational programs such as Sellinger. “A lot of my friends are applying to these schools and are just starting to apply for scholarships and aid,” he said. “We shouldn’t be cutting education—it’s like the trunk of the tree of society.”
Similarly, Sharon Watts, a University of Maryland College Park alumnus and mother of three students in MCPS, said, “Education is the cornerstone to thriving communities. Governor Hogan’s cuts threaten to dismantle a long-standing tradition of a commitment to education in Maryland, and the University of Maryland is part of that tradition.”
Despite controversy, Governor Hogan’s plan has sparked necessary discussion on how the state should handle funding for public and private education in the context of budget balancing.
Article written by MoCo Student staff writer Tatum Shirley of Walter Johnson High School.