Maryland Gov. Hogan Vetoes Major Education Bill, Cites Virus Budget Impact

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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed a major K-12 education measure on Thursday as well as other measures with a significant cost, citing the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican governor also vetoed a bill to settle a longtime federal lawsuit involving the state's historically black colleges for $580 million over 10 years. Measures to raise revenue for education also were vetoed. They were all high-profile bills prioritized by the Democrat-led General Assembly, which approved them before adjourning nearly three weeks early because of the virus.

“The economic fallout from this pandemic simply makes it impossible to fund any new programs, impose any new tax hikes, nor adopt any legislation having any significant fiscal impact, regardless of the merits of the legislation,” Hogan wrote in a veto letter.

House Speaker Adrienne Jones, a Democrat, said she was “extremely disappointed” with the governor's decisions.

“While we are in the midst of a public health and economic crisis of an extraordinary magnitude, stopping progress on education and school construction puts us even further behind,” Jones, of Baltimore County, said in a statement. “We know that there are students across this State that are losing millions of hours of learning."

Lawmakers in both houses of the legislature approved the bill with enough support to override the veto of the sweeping education measure the next time the legislature is in session.

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“Over the next couple of months, we will have conversations with Senate leadership and members, and Speaker Jones to make a determination on next steps,” Senate President Bill Ferguson, a Baltimore Democrat, said.

Hogan also vetoed measures to raise revenue to pay for the K-12 education measure. They included a first-in-the-nation bill to tax digital advertising on major social media platforms like Facebook. The governor also vetoed a bill to raise the state's tobacco tax and a tax on digital downloads.

“With our state in the midst of a global pandemic and economic crash, and just beginning on our road to recovery, it would be unconscionable to raise taxes and fees now,” Hogan said.

A $389 million plan to rebuild the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore that is home to the Preakness Stakes to keep the second leg of the Triple Crown in the city will go into law without the governor's signature.

The education measure, known as the Blueprint for Maryland's Future, was a top priority of leading Democrats in the legislature. It was based on recommendations that a state commission worked on for three years. The panel was known as the Kirwan Commission after its chairman, former University System of Maryland Chancellor William Kirwan.

The plan focuses on five policy areas, which include expanding early childhood education like pre-K and increasing teacher salaries. College and career readiness, aid for struggling schools and accountability in implementation also are among the main policy areas.

The General Assembly already approved money to fund the first three years of the plan. The measure went further by phasing in more funding over the next decade. Under the bill, it would cost an additional $4 billion in fiscal year 2030.

Last month, the governor announced that Maryland faces a potential revenue loss of up to $2.8 billion this fiscal year due to the impact of the coronavirus on the state's economy. He said at the time it was “very unlikely” he would sign legislation with a significant cost.

Even before the coronavirus presented budget challenges, Hogan criticized the cost of the proposal. While he said it was “well-meaning," he criticized the tax increases it would bring.

Maryland last updated its school funding formula for K-12 education in 2002.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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