Hogan's budget includes some cuts, some status quo for economic development programs

Advocates for programs spending state dollars on stem cell research or investment in technology companies were nervous about what Gov. Larry Hogan's budget would hold for them, given warnings of "strong medicine" to cure fiscal woes.

But after Hogan's spending plan was unveiled Friday, they were relieved to find that the Republican's business-friendly message spared several economic development programs that were popular under Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.

The budget matches O'Malley's for a tax credit encouraging investment in biotechnology companies, and only trims the prior administration's commitment to stem cell research by a tenth. As part of efforts to close an $800 million state deficit, there are significant proposed cuts to tax credits for film productions and cybersecurity companies in the state.

Business advocates said they were relieved that cuts weren't deeper given the fiscal challenges, though they still plan to fight to maintain if not increase allotments for popular programs. But many said they see the budget overall as confirmation of Hogan's pro-business campaign message.

"I think you see that in the fact that there were not extremely large cuts," said Mathew Palmer, senior vice president for government affairs for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. "In these tough fiscal times, it's going to be hard to make any huge increased investments."

One Democratic lawmaker said he was "pleasantly surprised" to see so many programs linked to O'Malley's Democratic administration well-funded particularly the state stem cell fund, which Republicans frequently target for cuts and restrictions.

"It's hard to imagine Anthony Brown's budget would look much different," said Sen. Richard Madaleno, referring to O'Malley's presumptive heir who lost the election in November to Hogan. Madaleno represents Montgomery County and is vice chairman of the senate's Budget and Taxation Committee.

In general, Hogan's budget proposal was austere. The roughly $40 billion plan would take away cost-of-living raises for state workers and cut state agencies' budgets by 2 percent across the board, the latter an extension of action O'Malley took before leaving office.

The General Assembly is allowed to make further cuts or, to a limited extent, rearrange budgets, but it cannot add to Hogan's proposal.

Given warnings of budget pain to come, supporters of many programs feared worse. The balance of the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund, which provides grants to researchers at universities, institutions and companies across the state, had fluctuated over O'Malley's two terms and frequently was targeted by Republicans seeking to limit its use to research on adult stem cells including some tapped to serve in Hogan's administration, Madaleno noted.

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Hogan's budget includes some cuts, some status quo for economic development programs

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