We're heading into a big week. Tonight, my Appropriations Committee Chair, Maggie McIntosh, will present the budget to the House of Delegates. Friday's approval by the Appropriations Committee was the culmination of many weeks of good, bipartisan work, and I'm told that for the first time in over 10 years, the Appropriations Committee passed the bill unanimously.
It was clear from the start that restoring funding to Governor Hogan's cuts to K-12 education was going to be a priority, and we've been able to restore those cuts to the original formula increases for which our local governments were planning. We were able to reduce the structural deficit -- the difference between what resources are coming in and what's expected to be spent -- by 74%, and it may even be higher if the Governor's 2% across the board cuts are aimed at structural areas. We were able to restore the 2% pay raises that our state workers had been promised and the reimbursements that doctors who treat Medicaid patients will be paid. We also found money for some of the most vulnerable among us: providers who care for people with disabilities, the Maryland School for the Blind, and providers of mental health care. The Governor has made a commitment to fight the rise in heroin use and deaths and we're hoping to expand substance abuse treatment to users, many of whom are outside of our urban centers. Traveling with the budget bill is the BRFA, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, a separate bill that enables us to implement these changes.
I'll provide more details about the budget in the coming weeks, but I wanted to give you a few highlights as the full House of Delegates begins its deliberation. A bit about process -- the House is expected to vote on final passage of the bill on Friday, and then it heads to the Senate, where they may make changes to our work (the Chairs have been collaborating throughout our process). The Senate passes a bill and then differences are ironed out in a Conference Committee made up of House and Senate representatives before each body adopts a final budget.
With regard to other General Assembly legislation, committees continue to churn out their work and we're spending more time on the floor considering bills. Not too much has been controversial, although many issues you're seeing in the newspapers or hearing on the news are likely to make their way to the floor soon. A bill to change the Law Enforcement Officers Bill of Rights - in response to the few police officers who abuse their power - may be headed our way and perhaps a death with dignity bill are two issues that may be considered soon.
I am hopeful that the two bills I'm most directly involved with -- HB 571, dealing with sexual assault on campus and HB 876, creating statewide standards for animal shelters, will be voted on in committee this week. Neither of them is without controversy, so I'm hopeful that the time and effort we've put into working the bills will smooth their way through the process. More on this soon.
If you're interested in visiting Annapolis, to see firsthand our work here, please let me know. We'd love to see you!
Please make note of my contact information:
Delegate Shelly Hettleman
Lowe House Office Building, Room 311
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
I look forward to hearing from you.