2:03 PM, Mar 26, 2015

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Maryland Senate unanimously passed the 2016 budget Thursday.

The $40 billion budget, Gov. Larry Hogan’s first in office, was endorsed by the House of Delegates last week.

In a news release, Hogan, a Republican, said he believes the state is headed in the right direction. But he added he’s still concerned about the General Assembly’s reallocation of funding originally intended to address shortfalls in Maryland’s pension system.

“As the budget process moves to conference committee, my administration will be seeking assurances from leadership in the legislature to ensure that pension funding will be addressed in a responsible way,” Hogan said. “We cannot ignore our responsibility to current and retired state employees.”

The budget passage was lauded by health advocates Thursday, who praised lawmakers for restoring funding for mental health and substance use disorder services.

“We applaud the Senate in its passage of a budget that restores funding for our most vulnerable Marylanders. Similar to the House budget passed last week, this is a significant step toward addressing the growing need for mental health and substance use disorder services,” Dan Martin, director of public policy for the Mental Health Association of Maryland, said in a statement.

The Senate budget includes $2 million to expand substance use disorder treatment targeted at individuals with heroin addiction, $6.5 million to maintain the current community mental health provider rates and funding to partially restore rate reductions in Medicaid for psychiatric evaluation and management rates.

The Maryland Health Care for All! Coalition also released a statement, saying the budget continues the health care progress Maryland has made.

Lawmakers have restored cuts to services for pregnant women in the Medicaid program, and restored funding for reimbursements to doctors.

The budget also retained funding for Maryland’s health exchange, Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative President Vincent DeMarco said.

Last modified: March 30, 2015