ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor O’Malley joined the presiding officers, House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Miller, today to sign the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2014 (BRFA) in support of the FY15 budget, a spending plan that includes record support for education and jobs-focused initiatives for Maryland. The Governor also signed legislation expanding protections for transgender individuals and the expansion of the State’s designated wildlands.
“Working with members of the General Assembly, our Administration has once again put together a balanced budget that invests in education and jobs in order to grow the ranks of an upwardly-mobile, increasingly diverse middle class,” said Governor O’Malley. “We also took another important step to protect the dignity and equal rights of all Marylanders and preserved pristine wildlands across our State — these efforts will ensure that we continue to make critical progress toward a better shared future for our State.”
“Today, with the signing of the Fairness for All Marylanders Act, we’re taking a critical step forward in protecting all Marylanders from discrimination,” said Lt. Governor Anthony Brown. “This is important legislation at a time when more than half of transgender residents in our state have reported harassment in their community. I’d like to thank and congratulate all of the lawmakers, advocates, and community leaders who made this legislation possible, and fought to ensure that all Marylanders are treated and protected equally under the law.”
The FY15 budget cuts $760 million and includes no tax or fee increases. The enactment of the budget brings the Administration’s total spending cuts to $9.4 billion, the most in modern Maryland history. Maryland is one of only 7 states to maintain a AAA bond rating from all three ratings agencies throughout the global recession.
The FY15 budget contains $7.4 million for the Maryland Economic Development Assistance Authority and Fund (MEDAAF), the State’s primary business development and job creation program. The administration will also continue to fund important tax credits for Maryland businesses including: a 20 percent increase in the Biotech Tax Credit; a 12 percent increase in R&D Tax Credit; and a 33 percent increase in the Cybersecurity Tax Credit. And with a $4.1 billion investment, the Capital Budget supports 48,000 jobs and contains $1.5 billion for State facilities and Capital programs, along with $2.6 billion in transportation investments.
In addition to the budget, Governor O’Malley signed a proposal to expand the The Maryland Wildlands Preservation System, another piece of the Administration’s 2014 legislative package, into law. Known as the Wildlands bill, the proposal will promote and support a stronger, more sustainable future for Maryland through the designation of new wildland areas on state lands including State Parks, State Forests and Wildlife Management Areas.
The Governor also signed the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, which provides stronger protections in public accommodations, labor and employment, and housing. This builds on the Administration’s long record of advocacy for equal protection under the law. In 2012, Maryland became the 8th state in the nation to enact marriage equality. The O’Malley-Brown Administration also extended state benefits to same-sex partners and protected property rights and hospital visitation rights for same-sex couples in 2009. As mayor of Baltimore, Governor O’Malley signed similar anti-discrimination legislation for city employees.
“We are proud to have worked with the O’Malley-Brown Administration on passing The Fairness for All Marylanders Act,” said Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland. “We especially want to thank the Lt. Governor for testifying before the House Committee this session, and the Governor for addressing our rally.Their efforts were effective and helped continue the momentum for passing the bill.”
This year’s budget continues the Administration’s record investments in education with nearly $6.1 billion allocated for K-12 education, including $6.9 million to expand Maryland Meals for Achievement, one of the State’s leading programs in the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in Maryland, to an additional 40,000 students; $4.3 million to expand Pre-Kindergarten to 1,600 more children; $3.5 million for the Digital Learning Innovation Fund to assist local school systems in accelerating conversion to digital learning environment; and $1.4 million for the Early College Innovation Fund to support creating and expanding early college access programs that provide accelerated pathways for students.
The FY15 budget includes $275 million in school construction investments, bringing the Administration’s total school construction investments to $2.7 billion. The Administration’s average yearly investment of $335 million in school construction is the highest in Maryland history, 34 percent higher than the Kopp Commission’s recommendation of $250 million per year. According to College Board, the State has done more since 2007-08 than any other state to hold down the rising cost of tuition. and the FY15 budget contains $1.4 billion for public colleges and universities, including additional funds to support the State’s efforts to hold down tuition costs.
The budget also funds the Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) program at $4.5 million for the second consecutive year. This training initiative prepares Maryland’s workforce to succeed in key 21st century industries.