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In Failing to Pass Budget, Maryland Legislature Makes History

Creative Commons photo courtesy Flickr user jimmywayne

The Maryland state flag hangs near a home in Annapolis. Creative Commons photo courtesy Flickr user jimmywayne

This report is part of our ongoing Divided by D.C. project, exploring 2 Governors, 2 Visions, 1 Election Year.

For the first time in 20 years, Maryland legislators have failed to pass a revenue bill by the end of their regular session.

The budget drama puts Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley at odds with members of his own party in the state Senate. At a bill-signing session Tuesday, O’Malley called the budget situation a “damned shame,” according to The Capital newspaper.

Capital reporter Earl Kelly noted less pessimism from Senate President Thomas V. Miller, also a Democrat:

“We didn’t fail anybody,” Miller said. “This is a minor bump in the road. I have been here before in 1991 and 1992.”

Miller, D-Calvert, said O’Malley just needs some time.

“The governor, he’s not a happy camper, but he’ll get over it and the sun will come up tomorrow,” he said.

At the heart of the argument was a proposal to increase taxes on people earning more than $100,000 per year. When no agreement was reached on that portion of the budget blueprint before the Monday midnight deadline, lawmakers were forced to make more than $250 million in cuts that the tax hikes would have covered, for a total of $512 million in reductions to meet the state’s balanced budget requirement, according to the Associated Press.

The legislature’s failure to reach a compromise means a “doomsday” budget became the de facto spending blueprint for the next fiscal year. That plan includes reductions in the number of government jobs, in the tax credits for sustainable communities and stem cell research, and in spending that supports K-12 and higher education.

The legislature has until July 1 to reach alternatives.

O’Malley hasn’t yet called a special session, but The Washington Post reported that lawmakers believe he must.

A legislative session extension could allow time for lawmakers to consider other proposals, including:

  • tax reforms that would increase revenue from high-income residents
  • a new casino in Prince George’s County
  • a wind farm near Ocean City
  • a tax increase on gas
  • aiding local-level public services more fully, including education and police

The last time Maryland’s General Assembly needed a special session before it could agree on a budget was 1992.

See our report from last week on Virginia’s budget negotiations.

Have questions about the Divided by D.C. project or for reporter Katelyn Polantz and Political Editor Christina Bellantoni? Join a Twitter chat Friday April 13 with the hashtag #DividedbyDC. More details here.

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