Tag Archives: Larry Hogan

Md. dollars for schools or pensions?

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AS A MATTER of policy, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan was absolutely right when he said that lawmakers in Annapolis are trying to “rob the pension fund” on which tens of thousands of current and retired state employees depend or will depend for their income and health coverage. His ability to stop them from doing so may be limited, but that’s not stopping him from trying.

On Thursday, Mr. Hogan, a Republican, announced that he intends to shift tens of millions of dollars to shore up the anemic pension fund, including money that lawmakers had earmarked for public schools.

The governor’s move may trigger resistance from the Democratic-dominated state legislature, which raided catch-up payments to the pension fund starting last year and doubled down this year. In addition to funding schools, the Democrats insisted that a disputed pool of about $200 million be used to give state employees a 2 percent raise and for several health programs to benefit pregnant women and the poor.

Mr. Hogan, elected last fall, has been true to his pledge to govern from the middle. Sensibly, he conceded on the state employee salaries and on the health programs, thereby demonstrating that he is no doctrinaire conservative.

The governor drew the line at $68 million in supplemental education funding, which is intended to help school systems pay their bills in high-cost areas of the state, including Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Baltimore City. The schools could use that money, but the amounts involved — about 1 percent of the schools budget in Montgomery and Prince George’s, which the governor would withhold for one year only — are not enormous.

By contrast, the lawmakers’ flip-flop on pension funding is likely to damage Maryland’s budgetary and fiscal condition for many years to come. In the words of the legislature’s own chief budget analyst, slashing the state’s annual contributions to its already-underweight pension fund would impose an “eye-popping” burden on taxpayers — which he estimated at $2.5 billion — in coming decades. When the bill comes due, most current lawmakers will have retired.
In 2011, then-Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), alarmed that the pension fund’s liabilities exceeded its assets by billions of dollars, persuaded the legislature to devote $300 million annually in supplemental appropriations to the pension fund. The relatively modest goal was to lift it to 80 percent of full funding by 2023.

That pledge of budgetary good behavior proved too difficult for lawmakers. Last year, they broke the reform plan’s promise by slashing the catch-up contributions in half to $150 million.

This year they did it again, leaving the payments at just $75 million — and saddling future taxpayers with a huge bill.

Mr. Hogan correctly labeled the raid as irresponsible. He intends to divert funds from several sources, including the schools money he is refusing to spend, to restore that $75 million.

The legislature may push back, but it will be on shaky policy grounds if it does. Just four years ago it agreed that the pension fund was a priority. Now, with a Republican governor, it has churlishly changed its mind, despitewarnings from bond-rating firms in New York that the fund remains a weak point in state finances.

In picking a fight, the legislature would jeopardize the state’s long-term budgetary health.

Via Washington Post 

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Md.’s Hogan to withhold extra funding for high-cost school systems this year

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday that he will withhold $68 million in funding for high-cost school systems this year, thwarting the wishes of Democratic legislators and top officials in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.

The General Assembly passed a measure in April requiring the state to fully fund a program that sends extra money to the state’s costliest school systems.

While Hogan (R) said at a news conference Thursday that he will not veto the funding measure, he also signaled his distaste for the bill by announcing that the full spending would not flow until next fiscal year.

“This is more mandated spending, which is a bad idea,” he said.

With the governor’s decision not to release the $68 million this year, at least part of the withheld money will go toward funding public-employee pensions, which the administration has named as one of its top priorities.

The decision is a particular setback for Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, which would have received $20 million and $17 million in extra money, respectively. Those counties — both of which voted overwhelmingly for Hogan’s Democratic opponent in the November election — are also waiting anxiously to hear whether the new governor will cancel plans for the light-rail Purple Line, which would connect New Carrollton and Bethesda.

Teachers, lawmakers and local leaders quickly criticized Hogan’s action.

“His continued insistence on shortchanging $68 million from our schools is going to have a direct impact on student learning in the coming school year, and that’s in­cred­ibly disappointing,” said Sean Johnson, a lobbyist for the Maryland State Education Association.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) called Hogan’s decision a “declaration of war on the children of the state of Maryland.”

Miller noted that Maryland’s schools have repeatedly ranked among the best in the country in recent years, adding, “I wonder where we’ll fall next year.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said Hogan’s decision will “put his relationship in a very tenuous situation with [jurisdictions] like Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore.”

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) expressed disappointment with the governor’s announcement. “This is a tremendous need for the county and for the state,” he said.

Hogan agreed earlier this year to provide half of the $136 million needed to fully fund a supplement to the state’s costliest school systems under a formula known as the Geographic Cost of Education Index. The legislature responded with a bill requiring the state to fund the full amount beginning in the next fiscal year, and the governor decided Thursday not to veto the measure.

Since the end of the legislative session, the governor has faced incessant lobbying from teachers unions, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and many others to release the funds.

Hogan noted Thursday that he has increased education spending to a record high and that he is the only governor to approve the index-based funding — which he described as “bonus money” — during his first year in office.

“It takes more than just money to solve the problems we have in education,” Hogan said. “My administration is committed to improving and to fully funding education at every level, and we are going to put our money where our mouth is.”

Johnson, the union official, said that per-student spending has declined despite the rise in total education funding and that the recommended amounts for high-cost school systems have been fully funded for six consecutive years.

“We don’t go backwards on our kids,” he said. “Unfortunately, in the first term of Governor Hogan, we have.”

Johnson also criticized Hogan’s use of the term “bonus money” to describe the funds.

“It’s not bonus money,” he said. “This is about personnel. This will have a definite impact on the number of teachers we have in the system.”

Hogan aides countered that the statewide average on per-student spending has increased. And Hogan has repeatedly suggested that the school systems need more accountability rather than extra funds.

“What we will not do is rob the pensions of Maryland citizens at the demand of special-interest groups and politicians who repeatedly choose to throw more and more of our hard-earned tax dollars at problems instead of actually focusing on finding real solutions,” he said Thursday.

Hogan also criticized the city of Baltimore for reducing its spending on education over the past two years. “It’s our top priority,” he said. “It’s apparently not theirs.”

Baltimore will miss out on $11 million this year because of the governor’s decision.

Johnson said local governments “definitely have a responsibility to keep up with their funding,” but he said the General Assembly has passed legislation in recent years requiring districts to maintain per-student spending levels.

“This is disappointing that the state is going to do less while local governments are, in fact, maintaining if not in most cases doing more,” he said.

via Washington post

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Md. Gov. Hogan wants to set up state grants that benefit private schools.

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan discusses the budget debate in the final week of the state’s legislative session during an interview in his office on Monday. (Patrick Semansky/AP)

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s proposal to compensate companies for donating to private schools is one of many sticking points in budget negotiations with the General Assembly.

A supplemental budget proposal submitted by Hogan to the General Assembly last week does not fully fund public education, but it would provide $5 million to reimburse businesses for no more than 50 percent of the “certified amount” they contribute to a student assistance organization to provide financial assistance to students attending non-public schools.

Pushing for the grants that would benefit private and religious schools has elated non-public school administrators, angered public school parents and teachers, and divided lawmakers.

Hogan has called the Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers (BOAST) Maryland Tax Credit “common sense reform.” Opponents call it a back-door maneuver to vouchers.

The grants are one of two education initiatives put forth by Hogan in his first year as governor. The other is an expansion of charter schools.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said late last week that the effort to provide additional funding to private and religious schools as a “dividing point between Democrats and Republicans.

“There is tremendous resistance from a lot of people who believe strongly in public education that this is not the appropriate way to go and this has cost other states money and that we shouldn’t be diverting that money,” Busch said, noting that the state provides $10 million in grants to non-public schools to pay for textbooks, technology and infrastructure.

Ray Leone, president of the Maryland PTA, said the organization opposes Hogan’s proposal because it diverts funds from public schools.

“We urge you to stand up at this point for schools that serve all of Maryland’s children, and for protecting the integrity of regular order in the legislative process,” Leone said in a letter to members of the budget conference committee. “We do not believe that last-minute, privately-bartered deals regarding funding for education (or any other public service) inserted into budget conference committee reports that have not previously considered such issues are in the best interest of Maryland taxpayers and families.”

A bill that would provide tax credits to companies that donate to private and public schools has previously failed in the General Assembly.

>>> Read more

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Maryland Senate panel approves watered-down charter school bill.

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A Maryland Senate committee voted Tuesday to approve a watered-down version of a bill proposed by Gov. Larry Hogan (R) that was designed to increase the number of charter schools in the state.

Hogan’s original bill made sweeping changes to the state’s charter law, giving schools the ability to hire and fire teachers, doing away with a requirement that charters fall under state collective bargaining rules and giving charters more say over who can attend.

The amended bill does not change hiring rules, but it does provide some leeway on enrollment. It also offers some flexibility regarding certain state educational requirements for charter schools that have been in existence for at least five years, are in good financial shape and have a student achievement record that exceeds the local school system’s. Those charters would be exempt from specific requirements about scheduling, curriculum, and professional development.

“The bill isn’t perfect, but it offers a path toward giving charter schools more flexibility — a definite improvement from the current law,” said Erin Montgomery, a spokesman for Hogan. “The governor plans to work with legislators in the House to strengthen the law.”

>>> Read more 

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Confirmation of Hogan’s higher ed nominee in doubt.

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Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera

Gov. Larry Hogan‘s nomination of Jennie C. Hunter-Cevera to be Maryland’s secretary of higher education has run into trouble in the General Assembly.

A key Senate committee has twice postponed votes on Hunter-Cevera’s nomination to review complaints about her leadership years ago of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute.

The latest delay came after Sen. Jamie Raskin, chairman of the Executive Nominations Committee, said Monday he had received “more information” on Hunter-Cevera that he considered relevant to her qualifications to oversee the state’s system of higher education, including public and private colleges and universities.

Raskin, a Montgomery County Democrat, declined to release or discuss the information. But former U.S. Sen. Joseph D. Tydings of Maryland said in an interview Tuesday that he had contacted the committee and Hogan’s office to relay his concerns about her management of UMBI over a decade ago. Tydings said complaints about her came to his attention while he served on the University System of Maryland Board of Regents in 2001.

“If they do any sort of research at all,” Tydings said, “I think they’ll find that the governor really should withdraw her name. Her record was not in my judgment one that would recommend her for this job.”

Tydings said he objected to Hunter-Cevera’s use of a consultant at the institute and to her management of efforts to apply and commercialize technology developed by university scientists. As an example, Tydings contended that Hunter-Cevera squelched a promising enterprise formed by a researcher from College Park.

>>> Read more 

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As new school assessments begin, Hogan and legislators…

 …weigh the issue of testing.

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As 71,000 Maryland public school students begin taking new tests aligned with the Common Core standards this week, a small group of parents, legislators and advocates are pushing to scale back or eliminate some testing.

And one state legislator is hoping to convince Gov. Larry Hogan to use a nearly forgotten clause in a 2010 agreement with the federal government to ditch the new tests completely.

A spokeswoman for Hogan said the governor is concerned about new standards put into place in public school classrooms across Maryland last school year. He appears to be leaving open the possibility that he would work to remove both the standards and the test.

“He will be reviewing ways to improve them if they work, or remove them if they don’t. He has not made any firm commitment,” said Shareese Churchill, Hogan’s press secretary.

>>> Read more Baltimore Sun.

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Md. Senate President Apologizes for Hitler Comment.

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Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller has apologized for citing Adolf Hitler while disputing a statement by the state’s governor about the number of tax increases in recent years.

Miller, a Democrat, was responding Friday to statements made by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan that Maryland lawmakers approved more than 40 tax increases in the last eight years.

Miller told reporters Friday, “Hitler said that the bigger lie you tell, the more easily it’s believed. I’m certainly not equating anyone with Adolf Hitler, but this 48 tax increases over the past eight years is total horse s—.”

Miller later issued a statement saying the purpose of his comment was to illustrate “the absurdities” of attacks on Maryland’s economy, and apologized to anyone offended by his comments.

“As I said at the time, I was not equating the governor with Hitler, nor pulling the ‘Hitler Card,’” Miller said. “The purpose of my comment was to simply illustrate the absurdities of the attacks on Maryland’s economy. I truly apologize to anybody who was offended by my comments.”

The comments reflect lingering frustration between Democrats and the new Republican governor, who angered Democrats in his State of the State speech this month for describing Maryland’s economy as “floundering” due to high taxes, over-regulation and an anti-business attitude. Hogan’s campaign focused almost entirely on economic issues, particularly tax increases approved in the last eight years. Hogan’s victory came in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin.

Hogan and Miller have met privately since the speech. They also attended a University of Maryland basketball game together this week.

Frustration by Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, has played out in delayed votes in the Senate to confirm Hogan’s Cabinet appointees. Hogan’s speech was specifically cited as a reason why a vote was delayed for a week by the Senate, so senators could take more time to make sure the nominees were up to the jobs. They were approved a week later in a unanimous vote this month.

A hearing on other Cabinet nominees this week was extended to Monday.

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Flanked by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (L), newly inaugurated Maryland Governor Larry Hogan gives his first State of the State address to lawmakers in Feb. 4, 2015. 

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Say “NO” to – HOUSE BILL 597 – Outdoor Synthetic Turf Fields.

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Md. Charter School Bill Supporters, Opponents Face Off.

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Dozens of supporters and opponents of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s charter school expansion proposal squared off in a crowded room in Annapolis Thursday to share their hopes and concerns for the bill.

Hogan’s bill would allow charter schools to qualify for funding through the state’s capital improvement program and exempt employees from state teacher certification. Charter schools could also apply for a waiver from the state that would free it from all laws and regulations that govern public schools.

Supporters argue the legislative proposal would promote flexibility and freedom in the school system.

“This legislation is about allowing innovations and flexibility in the ways we educate our children,” said Keiffer Mitchell, special adviser to Gov. Larry Hogan. “A one-size-fits-all model does not work for education.”

Critics, however, warned the effort would set a dangerous precedent.

“The bill before you is an extreme bill that proposes a radical approach to charters that’s proven a failure in other states,” said Alison Perkins-Cohen, executive director for the Office of New Initiatives at Baltimore Public Schools. “It undervalues teachers, it threatens some of our most vulnerable students and attacks the principle of local control of education.”

>>> Read more 

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In the meantime, Mike Klonsky reports that Chicago suburban districts have thus far been able to block charters from moving in.

These are not affluent school districts. >>> Read more

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Larry Hogan aims to kill Martin O’Malley’s ‘rain tax’

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan delivers his State of the State address Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015 in Annapolis, Md. Hogan outlined plans for tax relief, charter schools and reforms to the state’s legislative redistricting process. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

– The Washington Times – 

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan took the first step toward repealing the state’s “rain tax,” which is levied on property owners for land with impervious surfaces to pay for EPA-mandated programs to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

“Passing a state law that forces counties to raise taxes on their citizens against their will is not the best way to address the issue,” said Mr. Hogan, a Republican. “Marylanders have made perfectly clear that further taxing struggling and already overtaxed Marylanders for the rain that falls on the roof of their homes was a mistake that needs to be corrected.”

He made the announcement surrounded by county executives, legislators and business leaders.

“The rain tax is less about cleaning up the Bay than it is about imposing another tax on our citizens, as Carroll County found out last year when the attorney general threatened us with a $10,000 a day fine for not levying one,” said Delegate Haven Shoemaker, Carroll Republican.

The “rain tax” was one of the most unpopular taxes levied under former Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat who is considering a 2016 presidential run.

If the repeal is successful, the state will have to replace the revenue to comply with the Environmental Protection Agency’s unfunded mandate for the $14.8 billion clean-up plan, which seeks to decrease stormwater runoff into the Bay.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/feb/10/larry-hogan-aims-kill-martin-omalleys-rain-tax/#ixzz3RomoCgB8

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Miller overreacts, Hogan benefits.

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We doubt Gov. Larry Hogan intended to make Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller’s head explode with his State of the State speech last week, but it might wind up working out for him politically, if not for the people of the state substantively. The governor’s address was heavy on recycled bromides from his stump speech and not equal to the occasion, but it looks downright statesmanlike in comparison to the ensuing petulant overreaction from the Senate president and his loyal lieutenants. Nonetheless, it may have given Democrats an excuse to kill legislation they didn’t like anyway.

On Friday, the Senate delayed confirmation votes for the first five of Mr. Hogan’s cabinet secretary nominees to come before it, and senators were not at all subtle about the connection between that decision and the State of the State speech. The contrast with Mr. Miller’s attitude on the opening day of the legislative session, when he predicted before even holding any hearings that all of Mr. Hogan’s nominees would be confirmed, is not flattering. It suggests that the Senate’s role to advise and consent is a function of the Senate president’s mood and not the quality of the nominees.

Even before last week’s speech, Mr. Miller was creating some space between himself and Mr. Hogan by saying lawmakers would need to work to restore some of the governor’s cuts to education funding formulas. At the time, he exhorted his caucus to “do this with smiles on our faces.” It would be entirely conceivable that after Mr. Hogan asked for a fence-mending meeting Sunday, things will settle down again.

After the State of the State, both Mr. Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch said they did not expect most of Mr. Hogan’s agenda to pass. That may well have been the case regardless of what Mr. Hogan said in his address — tax breaks were always going to be a tough sell (and rightly so) at a time when aid to education and Medicaid coverage for low-income pregnant women were on the chopping block. But the governor needs to be concerned about whether a general climate of acrimony gives Democratic leaders an excuse to kill bills he might otherwise have embarrassed them into supporting, such as redistricting reform, replenishing the fund that provided public financing for Mr. Hogan’s gubernatorial campaign, and a strengthening of Maryland’s charter school law.

The governor also needs to be mindful that in his effort to mollify Mr. Miller he doesn’t ignore the other key player in Annapolis: Mr. Busch. It was a blunder for Mr. Hogan’s administration to release a statement last week affirming the governor’s “utmost respect” for Mr. Miller but failing altogether to mention Mr. Busch. Governor Hogan has requested a meeting with the speaker, too, so perhaps he can make amends.

>>> Read more Baltimore sun

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