That’s how much casino revenue has been redirected from schools on his watch.
Last week, Gov. Hogan spent a lot of time launching partisan broadsides against other elected officials for casino revenues in the Education Trust Fund being redirected away from their intended purpose of increasing school funding.
But here’s the thing. One person has redirected more of that money away from school funding than anyone else: Larry Hogan. His budgets have taken $1.4 billion from the Trust Fund that should have gone to increasing school funding and sent it elsewhere. And he’s done so while Maryland public schools are annually underfunded by $2.9 billion, according to an independent analysis.
During his time as governor, about $1.8 billion has flowed into the Education Trust Fund from casino revenues. As the governor rightly stated at his press conference, “the voters need to get what they were promised.” What they were promised was that this $1.8 billion would amount to increases in school funding. But how much has school funding increased during Hogan’s tenure? About $400 million, due to increases in enrollment and inflation that are required by the current formula and mandated thanks to the General Assembly. In other words, the governor has raided $1.4 billion from the Trust Fund and sent it to other parts of his budget. That’s just the type of broken promise and budget gimmick he has consistently decried — and unfortunately used — during his political career.
The main difference between Gov. Hogan’s bill and the Fix the Fund constitutional amendment is that Hogan’s bill would change Maryland law while the Fix the Fund campaign would change the Maryland constitution. While Hogan brushed off the difference at his press conference, it’s actually a big one.
If the law is amended, it can be changed, annually, by one person: the governor. Governors often submit a companion bill to their budget called the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA, or, as you may hear it pronounced in Annapolis, bur-fah). The BRFA can amend existing mandated spending levels and is the chief vehicle that governors have used to raid funds supposedly dedicated for specific purposes like transportation or the environment. Don’t like that pesky $5 million that the General Assembly mandated to be spent on teacher induction supports? The BRFA’s your ticket to eliminate it (which Gov. Hogan has done two years in a row, by the way). The General Assembly has very limited leverage to reverse these types of budget gimmicks and policy changes buried in the BRFA because they are prohibited from adding money to the budget. They can only shift funds from one priority to another or cut funding. This limited budget authority ensures the governor has all of the power in budget negotiations.
And here’s the thing: we have been here before with this governor. Gov. Hogan has repeatedly used the BRFA to amend the law and cut mandated education spending. From proposing more than $100 million in cuts to school funding in his first year as governor to cutting the aforementioned teacher induction supports, as well as after-school programs and college scholarships for low-income students, Hogan has repeatedly used the BRFA to cut promised education spending. And he could do the same if his bill passes rather than the constitutional amendment.
If a constitutional amendment is approved by the General Assembly before April 9 (the last day of session) and by Marylanders at the ballot box in November, no governor can ever again use a budget gimmick like the BRFA to touch that commitment to our schools.
Join hundreds of educators in Annapolis on March 19 at 6 p.m. as we March to Fix the Fund. Put an end to the shell game and make sure that schools get the funding that was promised. Click here to learn more and RSVP!