House passes budget, pension shift, education mandate, tax increase and flush tax

March 23, 2012|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

The House of Delegates gave its approval to Gov.Martin O'Malley's proposed state budget last year, along with its version of his decision to shift part of the responsibility for teacher pension costs to county governments, an increase in income taxes and a mandate that counties keep up a minimum level of spending on education.

The vote on the budget was 95-43. The tally was mostly along party lines, with Baltimore County Democrats Michael H. Weir Jr. and Joseph J.  "Sonny" Minnick voting against and Garrett County Republican Wendell Beitzel voting for it.

The budget reconcililiation act, which included the pension shift, passed 88-50 as a handful of liberal Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the measure.

The bill requiring counties to keep up their spending on schools -- known as "maintenance of effort" -- passed by a vote of 93-44. Because the House passed the Senate bill unamended, it goes directly to the governor. The other three bills in the budget package will go to a conference with the Senate to work out differences.

The vote on the revenue bill -- which also increases taxes on tobacco products -- was 81-56. Fourteen Democrats joined 42 Republicans in opposing it.

The House bill concentrates its income tax increase on individuals making more that $100,000 and joint filers making $150,000 or more. The Senate bill spreads its increases more broadly among taxpayers, sparing only the lowest income levels.

The House followed up its budget action by passing a bill doubling the flush tax to continue improvements on the state's water and sewage systems to reduce pollution of the Chesapeake Bay.

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