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Carozza focused on budget


(Jan. 30, 2015) With Gov. Larry Hogan’s budget proposal delivered, Delegate Mary Beth Carozza spends nearly all of her time in meetings on the topic, breaking only for visits with constituents.

“We know the challenges are tough, and we’re working hard together in a bipartisan way to meet those challenges,” she said.

Carozza’s placement on the influential Appropriations Committee means she got a look at the proposal before it was made public.

“FY2016 aligns General Fund spending with revenues, and is a structurally balanced budget. We’re still funding education and we’re not eliminating agencies,” Carozza said.

The gap between last year’s budget and this one has fluctuated between $1.5 billion and about $450 million before settling into a range near $750 million. Hogan’s budget intends to zero out that shortfall in the next fiscal year.

The budget will make a number of cuts to this and future spending plans, a novel approach to a procedure that up until now was done on a yearly basis.

Per-pupil education funding will remain flat next year, according to the plan, with constrictions in place to limit growth in school funding over the next five years. Part of that will be cutting half the funding in the Geographic Cost of Education Index formula, something Worcester County Schools officials said they didn’t benefit from. The general formula governing state aid for education has relegated Worcester County to near the bottom in terms of state contributions.

Agencies are facing a two-percent, across the board unspecified cut borrowed from an O’Malley plan, “already in place,” Carozza said. This cut is separate from a cost-of-living adjustment implemented last year for state employees, but will now be treated as a bonus.

“This is where it becomes a little more challenging. They’re not filling vacancies. They’re not going forward with programs,” Carozza said.

The undefined two-percent cut has also drawn criticism for not delineating what cuts are needed and where. Carozza said the move was to give department heads flexibility.

The Maryland legislature is not empowered to add items to the governor’s proposed budget, only to remove them. Carozza said her committee will meet regularly to begin the process of “drilling down” to specify, as much as possible, what items should be removed.

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