Under extraordinary circumstances, the Maryland Legislature passed a $48 billion budget for fiscal 2021, nearly three weeks ahead of schedule — over concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The abbreviated session came after the presiding officers of both chambers and the administration of Gov. Larry Hogan agreed on Sunday to cut the session short and limit gatherings in the state to 50 people or less.
The operating budget is the Assembly’s only legal obligation.
A historic joint meeting of the Senate Budget and Tax and House Appropriations committees ironed out a slew of amendments in one room ahead of time in order to guarantee quick passage in both chambers.
Del. Jay Jacobs, R-Kent, said this was a historic first in Annapolis.
“In normal times a joint conference committee would be appointed to negotiate differences in the spending bill, which takes considerably more time,” he said.
On Tuesday the House went first and passed the budget in a landslide 126-8 vote that garnered significant Republican support in the Democratic controlled legislature. The Senate concurred on Wednesday, 45-0, with just moments left in the session.
Jacobs said the budget gives Gov. Larry Hogan the resources needed to deal with COVID-19.
“This was a reasonable budget with no tax increases,” Jacobs said.
The rainy day fund will carry a $1.2 billion balance and an additional $230 million is made available in the general fund to deal with circumstances that may arise combating the COVID-19.
The budget bill also authorizes Gov. Larry Hogan to take an additional $100 million from the rainy day fund toward that effort.