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Special Session Expected In Mid-May
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May 02, 2012
Maryland’s legislative leaders have agreed on a date for a special session to clear up work left undone at the end of this year’s regular session. But they haven’t agreed on just what they will do when they get back to Annapolis. WYPR’s Joel McCord reports.
Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch said today their chambers will return May 14th and 15th to take up the tax increases and shift of teacher pensions to the counties that died on the last night of the session in April.
Miller said the remaining questions revolve around attacking Maryland’s lingering structural deficit.
“Are we going to wipe it out this year? Are we going to reduce it by half, or we’re not going to deal with it at all; and how it’s going to be done. It’s going to be done with revenues; it’s going to be done with cuts or a combination of both.”
Nonetheless, he predicted it would all work out in the end.
“I think we’re very close, and we’re ready to move forward. I think we’ll deal with it in a two day session, May 14th and May 15th and perhaps May 16th. But it will get done.”
As he waited for a bill signing ceremony to begin, Busch said Governor Martin O’Malley met with Senate leaders yesterday and will meet with House leaders tomorrow.
“I think things are progressing along and hopefully we have it all resolved by tomorrow afternoon and we set a date for a special session, yes.”
Bush said he has notified his members to keep their calendars clear for the week of the 14th. Yet he couldn’t say whether leaders had come to an agreement to avoid more than $500 million in cuts in what has been called the “doomsday” budget.
“Once we meet with the governor tomorrow, get a clearer direction, he talks with the member of the House, I think hopefully we’re all going to move in the same direction. That’s about as clear as I can make it.”
And the governor himself made only an oblique reference to the possible special session before he began signing nearly 300 bills that included one to limit growth on septic systems, another that doubled the so-called “flush tax” and one that create a health insurance exchange.
“This afternoon, even as we work to finalize some remaining open subjects, like the fiscal 13 budget we have the opportunity to join together to sign a number of important bills.”
Republicans, however, oppose returning to Annapolis. Delegate Michael Smigiel, of the Upper Shore, said a special session would be doomsday for Maryland’s taxpayers.
“We’re $700 million above last year’s budget in this. This is nothing but what you call entitlement math. If they promise you a billion dollars increase in entitlements and they only give you $400 million somebody sees that as 600 million in decrease. It’s not.”
It’s still an open question, however, whether measures to expand gambling in Maryland will appear on the agenda a week from Monday.
Bush said the governor has taken that off the table for the May session. But Miller, a long time advocate of expanded gambling, wasn’t ready to concede.
“You know you kill a snake when you got the hoe in your hand. You know what I mean? Do what you gotta do when you can.”
He warned that if a gambling bill doesn’t pass in time to go to referendum in November it will be two more years before it can come up again.
“And so right now, we’re listening to the cries of the mayor of Baltimore and the County executive of Prince Georges County and organized labor saying, look, this is 5000 union jobs at stake, this is a billion dollar investment, it’s the largest construction site on the East Coast. Let’s make it happen.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake, who was at the bill signing, said she wouldn’t disagree with leaders who want two special sessions, but she hopes they take up gambling before the end of the summer. I’m Joel McCord, reporting in Annapolis for 88.1, WYPR.
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