The Maryland General Assembly passed a $63 billion budget on Monday, including a nearly $1 billion downpayment on future education reform efforts.
With much fanfare and little discussion, the Maryland Senate and House of Delegates gave final approval of a fiscal year 2024 spending package finalized by budget negotiators on Friday.
The approval caps the first year that lawmakers were empowered with budgetary authority approved by voters in 2020. For more than 100 years, the General Assembly had been limited to reducing appropriations set by Maryland’s governors; this year, they were able to increase, decrease and move money around Gov. Wes Moore’s proposed budget.
All told, legislators made about $1.45 billion in budget reductions, balanced with $1.13 billion in additions.
The final budget plan includes $900 million to shore up the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future fund, the state’s savings account for an ongoing ten-year education reform effort. The Blueprint Fund was projected to have a $2.2 billion surplus at the end of Moore’s 2024 budget, but would have a near-zero balance in the 2026 fiscal year and run into deficit in 2027, according to early budget analyses.
Total public school funding for the 2024 fiscal year is about $8.7 billion.
The approved operating budget also includes $200 million in tax relief; lawmakers separately passed legislation to expand the state’s earned income tax credit and child tax credit programs.
The budget also includes funding as part of a priority by Moore and legislative leaders to “rebuild state government,” which saw historic vacancy rates during the term of Gov. Larry Hogan (R). Some of those provisions include $421.2 million for salary increases and bonuses.
The spending plan is structurally balanced and retains about $2.85 billion in cash reserves, according to legislative analysts.
Legislative budget leaders and Moore administration officials said the first year of expanded budgetary powers under Question 1 resulted in a collaborative effort to adjust the state’s spending plan. With passage in the General Assembly, the budget plan becomes law and is not subject to gubernatorial veto.