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Maryland Gov. Wes Moore to pitch budget cuts over higher taxes in new spending plan

Sam Janesch, The Baltimore Sun on

Published in News & Features

BALTIMORE — Gov. Wes Moore on Wednesday will release a plan outlining his preference for solving Maryland’s multibillion-dollar financial shortfalls through budget cuts rather than raising taxes.

The Democratic governor’s declaration will be the first time he’s specifically proposed “targeted and strategic spending cuts” — as he said in a guest commentary Wednesday in The Baltimore Sun — although his $63.1 billion state budget proposal earlier this year included trims in areas like higher education.

The reductions will not affect, or even “cut a penny for,” critical services like transportation and K-12 education, he wrote in the op-ed.

Maryland faces looming budget shortfalls that are putting at risk the future of government services and expensive, decadeslong plans like the Red Line transit project in Baltimore and the education-focused Blueprint for Maryland’s Future.

Though a final compromise with General Assembly legislators on this year’s budget included hundreds of millions of dollars to support the Blueprint and a $3.3 billion six-year transportation shortfall, questions about spending and cuts for future years were left unanswered.

Moore resisted calls from some Democratic lawmakers to begin considering a wide range of taxes and fees — including expanding the 6% sales tax and restructuring corporate and personal income taxes. Moore’s budget instead focused on pulling from the “rainy day” fund, borrowing more than usual and cutting back some areas that had grown in recent years.

His new plan Wednesday is expected to be an attempt to avoid raising taxes when budget negotiations resume early next year. Beyond any specific cuts, it’s also a sign of where Moore will continue to prioritize spending amid his often-repeated calls for fiscal responsibility.

“In coordination with our partners on the Board of Public Works, we’re increasing funding for two areas that will make Maryland more affordable and more competitive: Health care and childcare,” Moore wrote in his op-ed, previewing the plan he will submit to the three-member state spending board. He chairs the panel; the other members are Treasurer Dereck Davis and Comptroller Brooke Lierman, who are also Democrats.

 

It wasn’t immediately clear Wednesday morning how specific the plan will be in outlining spending and cutting priorities. And while the Board of Public Works vets and approves state contracts, most state budget decisions require the approval of the Maryland General Assembly, which doesn’t meet again until early 2025.

Moore will submit his next budget plan in January. Wednesday’s proposal, on the other hand, is not required by state law and while it doesn’t have to be detailed or balanced, should offer insight into what Moore may and may not include in the next budget.

It also comes as Moore receives both heightened national attention for his role as a surrogate for — and, for some, a potential successor to — Democratic President Joe Biden and while Republican U.S. Senate nominee Larry Hogan, Moore’s predecessor, hammers Moore for his budget decisions.

Hogan, a former two-term governor, has criticized vehicle registration fee increases that went into effect last week and Moore’s decision to restart the Red Line, a project Hogan killed in 2015.

Moore, as he’s done repeatedly in his first 18 months in office, referenced the state’s lagging economy under Hogan and targeted him for leaving the growing fiscal problems unsolved in the op-ed published Wednesday.

“The legislature was willing to work with the previous governor and make tough decisions, but too often their open hand was met with a closed door,” Moore wrote. “That untenable relationship was masked because Maryland and every other state in the nation benefited from billions of dollars in federal money to get us through the pandemic. But billions of dollars from the federal government was not a structural surplus — it was a sugar high.”

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©2024 The Baltimore Sun. Visit at baltimoresun.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 

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