Required State Budget Mandates

Required State Budget Mandates
By Bill Richbourg

Did you know that . . . Maryland is unique among the 50 states in that the governor has the power to set the state budget’s spending limit every year? The legislature cannot increase the budget.  If the legislature wants to add something to the budget, it must find somewhere else to cut that amount from the budget.  

Of course, to get around the fact that so much fiscal power is vested in the governor, the legislature found a "workaround."  By adding language into bills requiring the governor to appropriate certain amounts of money for certain purposes, a requirement called a mandate was created.  The governor at the time took this issue to court, arguing that it was an infringement on the powers granted to the governor in the Maryland Constitution.  But the court upheld the legislative use of mandates.

At the time of the court's decision, few mandates had been enacted and had little impact on the state budget.  Since then, however, the legislature has put mandates on more and more bills, creating the situation that today. Between entitlements and the spending mandated by the legislature, over 83% of the budget is set in stone beyond the reach of the governor.  Therefore, the governor can only control 17% of the budget to pay for all of the services that are not already mandated.  

And to no taxpayer’s surprise, the legislature passes more bills every year with higher price tags and more mandates. Although it has temporarily been voted down, unfortunately, the $32 billion price tag to fund the Kirwan Commission recommendations is not the sole spending increase requested this year. A recent summary coming out of the legislature shows over 40 pending bills with price tags between $1 and $535 million.   

Although this is completely irresponsible, it reflects the fact that the whole legislative process is biased toward fiscal irresponsibility because the legislators consider each bill separately and ignore the cumulative effect of legislation.  Every year this inevitably leads to common predictable budget problems:

  • Excessive spending has made the "structural deficit" a routine part of the budget discussion;
  • Excessive spending requires the elimination of some of the mandated expenses just to make the budget balance;
  • Excessive spending and fiscal irresponsibility creates large future deficits for Pensions and OPEBs

Legislators should be looking for ways to cut the budget -- not create more programs and continually increase spending.  Citizens do NOT want to pay more in taxes - even for more services.

 Would it be unreasonable to insist that legislators actually listen to and care about what the voting citizens of Maryland wanted…..and if they didn’t, to throw them out???

Bill Richbourgh is a member of the MCGOP Central Committee



Montgomery County Republican Party