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O’Malley’s Budget Proposal, Marijuana Policy, Gubernatorial Race Fundraising, and Pothole Repair

P. Kenneth Burns

Governor Martin O’Malley has unveiled a $39.3-billion spending plan for the coming fiscal year, one he’s calling a “jobs budget.” Plus, marijuana policy, fundraising in the governor's race, a report on states' fiscal conditions, pothole repair, and more.

O’Malley Unveils $39.3-Billion Spending Plan: Governor Martin O’Malley has put forth his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year. He calls it a “jobs budget,” and says it’s aimed at supporting some 48-thousand jobs – including nearly 75-hundred school construction jobs. The budget contains $4.3-million as a first step to pay for an expansion of pre-kindergarten programs. It includes $290-million for school construction. And it includes a 3% increase in college tuition rates. The spending plan seeks to close a $584-million budget deficit without any new taxes or fee increases… but some Republicans say the plan makes it likely that taxes will go up under the next governor. O’Malley says the proposal will put Maryland on track to closing its $1.7-billion dollar structural deficit by fiscal year 2017. The plan also includes higher tax credits for cyber security and biotech companies, as well as funds aimed at increasing security at the Baltimore City Detention Center. The governor's plan now heads to lawmakers in the General Assembly for revisions; lawmakers must agree on a final plan before the deadline of March 31st. An overview of the budget is here from Baltimore Business Journal. There’s more here from the Capital Gazette, here from the Washington Post, and here from WJZ.

MD Near The Bottom Of States For Fiscal Condition In New Ranking: O’Malley’s budget was released on the same day that a new ranking came out of the fiscal condition of America’s states… a ranking that put Maryland near the bottom. The analysis, conducted at George Mason University, ranked Maryland as 44th in the nation for overall fiscal condition… based on measures including cash solvency, budget solvency, long-run solvency, and service-level solvency. There’s more here from the Baltimore Business Journal.

Marijuana Policy (UPDATED): Lawmakers looking to legalize marijuana in Maryland unveiled their proposal this morning at a press conference in Annapolis. Their plan -- dubbed the Marijuana Control Act of 2014 -- would would regulate and tax marijuana, similar to the way alcohol is. It would allow for the cultivation, processing, and sale of industrial hemp. And it would legalize the personal use, possession, and limited home-growth of marijuana for adults 21-years old and older – the bill would not allow the drug to be smoked in public. The idea has the support of groups including the ACLU of Maryland, the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, and the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Backers of the idea cite a recent survey from Public Policy Polling, showing a majority of Maryland voters in favor of legalizing marijuana. The same poll finds more than 2/3 of voters in favor of decriminalizing possession the drug. Legalization has the support of State Senate President Mike Miller, and Montgomery County Delegate Heather Mizeur – who’s running for the Democratic nomination for Governor. But as Governor O’Malley is opposed to marijuana legalization, political watchers don’t expect it to happen this year. Also opposed: Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. As the Baltimore Sun reports, the mayor said yesterday that she does not endorse the efforts of one-time mayor Kurt Schmoke, an advocate of decriminalization. Instead, Rawlings-Blake said she endorses "diversion programs" that aim to prevent offenders from continued drug use. In related news, a bill to decriminalize marijuana possession in nearby Washington DC advanced yesterday in the DC City Council. The measure appears to have the support of the entire council and that city’s mayor, and will likely become law.

Onward Into The Breach: Anthony Brown & Maryland's Health Insurance Exchange: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s political-payback-bridge-backup and Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown’s Obamacare debacle didn’t make the kinds of headlines any politician wants. WYPR’s Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith comments in his weekly essay.

Campaign Coffers In The Governor’s Race: Campaign finance reports are rolling in; the deadline for candidates to tell the state about their accounts was midnight of last night. In the Governor’s race, Democrat Anthony Brown is in the fundraising lead; the Washington Post reports that the Lieutenant Governor and his running hate have about $7.1 million in the bank. Rival Doug Gansler and his running mate have $6.3-million cash on hand. And Heather Mizeur has about $¾-million in the bank, having raised more than $1-million this year. Harford County Executive David Craig has more cash-on-hand than any other Republican in the Governor’s race – about $183-thousand. The Daily Times notes that GOP rivals Ron George and Charles Lollar have about $15-thousand and $6-thousand, respectively.

Pothole Repairs: Road crews in Maryland are busy repairing potholes, created by recent rain and snow storms. The State Highway Administration says that work will be underway during non-peak travel times on weekdays… and that brief lane closures are likely while the fixes are being made. The SHA says crews generally fill potholes within one business day of getting reports about them. You can make such a report via this link.