Md. Gov. Moore releases millions in held funding; issues executives orders – WTOP News

It was all smiles during the transition to Maryland’s new governor, but the differences in how they’ll operate are quickly becoming apparent.

It was all smiles during the transition to Maryland’s new governor, but the differences in how they’ll operate are quickly becoming apparent.

It wasn’t uncommon for the previous governor, Republican Larry Hogan, to decide not to release funding for something he didn’t see eye-to-eye on with state lawmakers.

But on his first full day in office, the state’s new governor, Democrat Wes Moore, announced he was releasing around $69 million in funds Hogan would not. Changes to state law that took effect this year mean similar situations won’t arise again.

“We view the General Assembly as partners, not adversaries,” explained Moore. “We view these investments that we’re releasing today as critical to protecting the fundamental rights of all Marylanders.”

“I’m expecting an administration that works closely with the legislature, that acts like a partner,” said state Del. Kris Fair (D) of Frederick. “When everybody is rowing in a direction together, that they’re looking at the state from a holistic vantage point and say ‘how can we work with another?’ I think everybody benefits from that.”

“[Gov. Moore] gets a chance, everybody gets a chance,” said Del. Todd Morgan (R), who represents parts of Calvert and St. Mary’s counties.

“Under the Hogan administration we sort of knew what we were getting. In the Moore administration we’re not quite sure yet. I’m saying this pragmatically, I don’t know what I don’t know. When I figure it out we’ll figure it out together.”

Asked if Morgan is hopeful?  “Always hopeful. Always hopeful.”

Near the end of a Thursday news conference, Moore conceded that the various factors that came together to produce a record budget surplus, and allowed him to release tens of millions of dollars, also aren’t guaranteed to keep happening.

He promised future spending decisions would be “disciplined … thoughtful … and data driven and analytic.”

The bulk of the released funds, totaling $46.5 million, are related to the legalization of marijuana, which takes effect on July 1 after voters overwhelmingly supported it back in November.

“People of this state have spoken, and they have spoken loudly,” said Moore.

The governor said that $40 million of the $46.5 million will fund the Cannabis Business Assistance Fund in the state’s commerce department, which is tasked with supporting what will be a burgeoning recreational cannabis use industry.

The released funding will also be used to help create the regulatory framework that has to be enacted ahead of the legalization. Following an oft-lambasted rollout of legalized medicinal marijuana, Moore said the regulatory and taxation framework will be built around pillars of “equity, transparency, accountability, fairness and speed.”

He vowed licenses will go to small growers, retailers and manufacturers, “not just the corporate giants.”

Moore is also releasing money to help with the expunging of criminal records for convictions of anyone whose sole offense was the possession of marijuana. A legislative report issued last year said just over 1,000 people were arrested for marijuana possession back in 2020.

About $9 million will be spent on programs that deal with the impact of climate change. Nearly $4 million will help create what Moore describes as “a green bank” that helps leverage private and philanthropic investments in projects that reduce greenhouse gases. A similar $3.8 million will help install renewable energy generating equipment in multifamily, low- and moderate-income housing.

The Chesapeake Conservation Corps will also get more than a million dollars to help match up young residents taking a service year with environmental groups. The state’s healthy soils program will get the remaining $375,000.

The new governor is also allocating $19 million for paid family and medical leave programs. A little more than half of that will be spent to set up a program that currently doesn’t exist.

“These investments we’re releasing today bring us a step closer to fulfilling a promise of providing paid family and medical leave for all Marylanders,” said Moore.

“No working Marylander should be forced to choose between caring for a loved one or risking unemployment,” argued Moore. He said those choices disproportionately impact the state’s low-wage workers, and that 88% of the state supports the idea, including 77% of Republicans.

“This is a Maryland issue,” he said.

The last $3.5 million will be released to fund the Abortion Care Access Act. Noting that Maryland has stronger abortion access laws than other states, Moore told reporters, “Maryland needs to be a state that’s a safe haven for abortion rights.”

The program is aimed at guaranteeing abortion access around the state, and will provide grants for clinical training of abortion care providers and their teams. Moore also vowed to work with lawmakers to further expand abortion in the future.

Moore signs his first two executive orders

Maryland’s new governor also put pen to paper to issue his first two executive orders as governor. The first covers ethical standards he’ll enforce for his new administration — “establishing a benchmark” is how he described it.

The second provides for the creation of a new cabinet-level agency called the Department of Service and Civic Innovation. Moore, who spoke of the importance of public service and called for the creation of a service year option for graduating high school students, said this new agency would handle that initiative.

“High school graduates will have the opportunity to serve their communities in this state, be paid for their work, and learn the skills that will help prepare them for the future and help prepare them to become the civil servants and community servants that we need so desperately,” said Moore.

The creation of that new department will have to get legislative approval, and it’s expected Moore will reveal more details about it, including the service year option he’s touting in the budget, on Friday morning.


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