ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan highlighted initiatives to fight violent crime in Baltimore, improve education statewide and protect the environment Tuesday in his budget plan for the next fiscal year.
Hogan, a Republican, referenced a violent weekend in Maryland's largest city in calling on lawmakers to support his crime-fighting proposals this session.
On Saturday, 12 people were shot — five of them fatally in Baltimore. It marked the third time in the past month that at least eight people were shot in a single day.
“The No. 1 concern of Marylanders by far is crime," Hogan said at a news conference. "Citizens are demanding more accountability for the violent criminals for shooting and killing people in the streets of Baltimore.”
Baltimore had 348 homicides last year, the fifth straight year with more than 300 slayings in the city. It was Baltimore’s most violent year ever on a per capita basis.
Hogan's $47.9 billion budget proposal includes $74.5 million to fund police aid to local governments, as well as $38.7 million for local law enforcement grants. Hogan also is proposing about $2.6 million for 25 new prosecutors and support staff for the state's attorney general to prosecute violent crime.
The budget plan includes nearly $272 million to provide services to youth under the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services' supervision. His budget proposal includes nearly $7 million for crime prevention, prosecution and witness protection in the second year of the governor's Baltimore City Crime Prevention Initiative.
The budget includes $23 million for an initiative to tear down blighted buildings with a focus on high-crime areas, Hogan said.
The governor also underscored investments in education, which is expected to be a top subject of debate during the legislative session. The governor has proposed an initiative to invest nearly $3.9 billion in school construction over the next five years. His budget includes nearly $94 million to support the expansion of pre-kindergarten.
Leading Democrats, who control the General Assembly, also have proposed a measure to increase school construction funding.
However, the recommendations of a state commission to update the state's education funding formulas for K-12 and phase in billions of dollars in increased spending over the next decade continued to draw criticism from the governor, who says supporters have failed to identify how to pay for the plan.
The panel, known as the Kirwan Commission, focuses on five main policy areas in the plan. Those include early childhood education like pre-K, teaching and increased teachers' pay, college and career readiness, aid for struggling schools and accountability in implementation.
William Kirwan, who chaired the commission, told lawmakers Tuesday that the panel was tasked with making Maryland's public schools among the best in the world to make students competitive in the workforce globally.
“This was a real eye-opener. We recognize that Maryland has some excellent schools and excellent teachers, but we came to the conclusion we don't have nearly enough of either, and that's a problem for our state that's got to be addressed,” Kirwan said.
Hogan said his budget also will fully fund Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts for the fifth straight year. It also fully funds Program Open Space and land conservation programs, he said.
The governor proposes a budget each year to fund the state's government. He will make the entire budget plan public Wednesday. The General Assembly has the rest of the 90-day legislative session to work on changes before adjourning April 6.