Coalition calls on Governor Larry Hogan to reconsider budget cuts
SALISBURY, Md. – The Maryland Board of Public Works is expected to consider proposed budget cuts by Governor Larry Hogan Wednesday. Some local leaders are worried about how far reaching the effects of the cuts could be. “In Salisbury and on the lower shore in general, we have a large – or not insignificant – portion of the population that are state employees,” said Salisbury city council member Michele Gregory.
Governor Hogan has proposed $1.45 billion in budget cuts to help offset projected losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The cuts are expected to be voted on Wednesday by the Maryland Board of Public Works – which Governor Hogan is a part of. The Lower Shore Progressive Caucus put together a coalition to call on the governor and the board to reconsider cuts to state employee funding. “Our local businesses are struggling enough as it is with the effects of the Coronavirus. Why would we pull more money out of the local economy by cutting people’s salaries?” said chair Jared Schablein.
With the meeting fast approaching, the coalition says that the impact of these proposed budget cuts would hurt the most on the local level. “It’s going to affect our economy. We need to be able to keep small businesses afloat. People need their income to be able to spend money at those small businesses,” said Gregory.
Schablein says the cuts could have a detrimental impact on individuals, as well as the economy in general. “It’s pretty much saying hey thank you so much for keeping the state open. Thank you so much for risking life and limb. Now we’re going to go ahead and cut your salary and benefits. It’s pretty much a slap in the face,” said Schablein.
Schablein says that the board should reconsider where they’re making cuts. “The first thing that’s always suggested to cut is we need to cut workers’ benefits, we need to cut education, we need to cut construction money – instead of actually some of the more wasteful spending proposals,” said Schablein.
Gregory says she agrees. She says cuts to education and state employees’ salaries is not the right step towards economic recovery during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I think we need to be more honest about who we’re protecting, and I think you can find the cuts somewhere else. If you need to make budget cuts, that’s great, but austerity is not how to do it,” said Gregory.
Schablein says that before state officials make any major moves with the budget – they should meeting with local government officials and have a discussion about their concerns. “They don’t have direct power over the state budget as a city councilor or a county councilor, but they do represent our voice in town hall, in Annapolis,” said Schablein.
The coalition says that those discussions would probably include speaking with small business owners about how the budget cuts would impact them. Gregory tells 47ABC that she’s looking into ways to hold meetings like that in the future.
Comptroller Peter Franchot is also on the board of public works. Franchot has previously announced that he is not in support of many of the budget cuts. Governor Hogan says on a White House call with the nations governors this week, he continued to stress the urgent need for federal aid to help states like Maryland. Tuesday Govenor Hogan announced that the National Governors Association has joined a coalition to call on Senate leaders for that federal aid.