State legislators iron out details of budget, set stage for passage

April 09, 2005|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Senators and delegates agreed last night on the final details of Maryland's $26 billion budget for the coming fiscal year, setting the stage for final passage as early as today.

Most details of the two chambers' spending plans were worked out Thursday, when House leaders backed down from a property tax reduction and instead dedicated more money to school construction.

Yesterday's conference dealt with a few remaining details, such as the amount of money to be dedicated to land preservation programs.

As has been the case in the past few years, money collected through the state's transfer tax was diverted to pay for general expenditures instead of its intended purpose, land preservation programs. This year, however, the budget negotiators agreed to leave $120 million for land preservation, most of it in Program Open Space.

The fiscal leaders from the House and Senate also agreed on budget language that will require the governor to trim 451 positions from the state employment rolls, most of which are vacant. The legislators dedicated the savings to reducing health insurance cost increases for state employees.

Although the Senate refused to budge on the House's proposed property tax reduction, which would have saved homeowners $48 for every $100,000 in the assessed value of their homes, it did agree to consider a cut next year.

Budget negotiators also agreed to language prohibiting the administration from spending any money to develop new slot machine-like lottery games, unless it is authorized by the General Assembly.

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