State budget: Senate plan is better for Maryland over the long run

March 30, 2012

Your recent editorial on state finances preferred the House of Delegates' version of next year's budget over the Senate's budget plan because of its smaller tax bite ("A better plan," March 27). The House version, though, provides less ongoing revenue and a smaller year-end balance. The result: A $200 million shortfall for the legislature to resolve this time next year.

In order to bridge that gap, the state will either need to revisit its options for new taxes or make more cuts to local schools, college affordability, access to health care and other community services.

The House plan shifts teacher retirement costs to the counties and Baltimore City much more abruptly than the Senate version. The result: More local tax increases or cuts to local services. It turns out that local taxpayers are the same people as state taxpayers.

Also, the Senate plan leaves a much larger cushion in the state's general fund for June 2013 — meaning there's less risk of precipitous mid-year cuts in the event of a revenue drop caused by a worsening of the still fragile economy or federal budget cuts.

The Senate tax plan does affect most households in the state, but it calls for a fairly moderate contribution. For families in the middle of the middle class (around $55,000 a year) it's less than a dollar a week. For those at the upper reaches of the income range, it's still less than one fifth of one percent of their income.

It's better to provide adequate, responsible and sustainable revenues now. A revenue plan that's closer to the Senate version will be better for Maryland in the long run.

Jack Kinstlinger, Baltimore

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