By Kevin Lair
Senior Elm Editor
Over the past few weeks, there has been an incredible amount of news coverage on two budget proposals—one authored by the president of the United States, the other by the governor of Maryland. Despite countless differences, both budgets have vast ramifications for college and K-12 students.
President Barack Obama’s $4 trillion budget proposal carries a $474 billion deficit in Fiscal Year 2016, is followed by 10 consecutive years of deficits, and adds more than $6 trillion to the national debt, according to “U.S. News.” This massive spending represents a truly unsustainable fiscal path that will saddle our children and future generations with colossal debt.
Further illustrating the president’s disconnect with the middle-class, Obama recently announced his plan to end the tax advantages of 529 student savings accounts that countless families rely on to save for college. While the president claims that these plans are only used by the rich, the College Savings Foundation found that nearly 10 percent of these account holders have incomes below $50,000, and more than 70 percent of the seven million accounts in use are owned by households with incomes below $150,000. In 2007, the Obamas said that they deposited $240,000 into 529 plans for their daughters’ college futures, and now the president wants to get rid of these plans. Luckily, widespread pressure from both sides of the aisle led Obama to scrap this idea.
In addition, Obama’s plan to “lower the cost of community college — to zero” carries a real price tag of $60 billion over 10 years to the government, including a quarter needed from states, according to the Associated Press. Teachers and other educators fear that such an emphasis on community college education may sway students and scholarships from four-year schools and degrees in favor of two-year institutions. Not only will many students not qualify for the president’s plan, it will make it harder for students who seek four-year institutions and degrees.
In contrast, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s “structurally balanced” budget for Fiscal Year 2016 includes record funding for K-12 education aid, school construction, and higher education. All of these feats are accomplished without raising taxes, by cutting spending by more than half, and turning an inherited $1.25 billion budget shortfall into a $47 million surplus. Still, Democrats try to paint Hogan as cutting education spending. In reality, Hogan’s $16.4 billion budget proposal scales back the rate of spending increases, a move very different than cutting, in order to provide record investment in education while maintaining a balanced budget.
Hogan has also declared his intent to re-evaluate the nationally-imposed Common Core standards, highlight the success and opportunities fostered by charter schools, and focus on maximizing every dollar of state spending to provide world-class education. This illustrates the Governor’s focus on providing affordable, top-notch education for the state and citizens who call it home.
Unlike Obama’s budget proposal, Hogan’s plan demonstrates sound economics and a true understanding of kitchen table finances—you cannot spend more than you make. Politicians should be held to the same standards as middle-class families who have to balance their checkbooks.
Both budgets directly and indirectly impact education for students in K-12 and college but are done in philosophically different ways. Obama’s budget seeks to increase taxes on already struggling families, imposes additional regulations and obstacles, and makes it financially harder for students seeking higher education. Hogan’s budget provides for record investment and opportunity for students to achieve regardless of their background.
Governor Hogan has also illustrated his intent to work with members of the Democratically-controlled Maryland General Assembly to bring about common-sense solutions to issues like education, while President Obama has declared his unwillingness to work with a Republican-controlled Congress.
Education should never be a political issue—it is a necessity, a means of personal growth, and investment in one’s future. Of these two budgets mentioned, only one makes education a bipartisan priority, and Marylanders should be proud.