Legislative leaders to seek to restore Md. education money

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland's lawmakers said Friday that they will work to boost funding for education in the state budget above the amount Gov. Larry Hogan has proposed.

House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, said they will try to find more room in the budget for education. They spoke at an annual summit organized by The Marc Steiner Show and The Daily Record.

Hogan, a Republican who entered office last week, said during his appearance earlier in the program that he is open to working with lawmakers. Hogan also noted that he inherited a $750 million shortfall and had to submit a $16.4 billion general fund budget two days after he took office.

"If they've got some better ideas on how we ought to allocate that money, we'll be happy to listen, but just to complain and say they want more money isn't acceptable," Hogan said.

Miller and Busch said they plan to search for alternatives.

"We're going to try to reprioritize his budget — at the same time working with him collaboratively," Miller said.

The House of Delegates will work on the spending plan first this year, before sending it to the Senate for additional work.

"I know in the House — the vast majority of people in the House — are not happy with the budget for K-12 education, and they will reprioritize those cuts and make sure that we mitigate as many of them as we possibly can," Busch said, speaking of a chamber with 91 Democrats and 50 Republicans.

Democrats hold an even stronger edge in the Senate, which has 33 Democrats and 14 Republicans.

Education funding has emerged as an early point of contention between the new Republican governor and the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Hogan is quick to point out that he still set aside a record amount of education funding, despite the budget gap. Hogan also has followed through with $290 million in school construction money.

Hogan's budget scales back what schools have become accustomed to receiving during the tenure of former Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat. For example, Hogan has proposed cutting in half about $136 million for jurisdictions where education costs more. That has prompted pushback from Democratic lawmakers in jurisdictions with larger populations, such as Prince George's County and the city of Baltimore. A per-pupil funding formula also is not as high as expected. On the whole, critics of the governor's budget say schools will receive roughly $143 million less than expected.

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