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Annapolis leaders considering two special sessions

Lawmakers might deal with budget in May, gambling in August

April 24, 2012|By Michael Dresser and Liz Bowie, The Baltimore Sun

Busch said he would feel more comfortable moving forward on gambling expansion if the legislature had expert, unbiased advice on casino-related issues.

"The question is how do you make these facilities competitive with the surrounding states," he said.

On the issues of taxes and the pension shift, O'Malley said the starting point should be the agreement the two chambers reached at the end of the regular session, though he suggested there could be further "adjustments and some tweaking."

"I think we were very close to having a budget we could live with," he said.

Miller has suggested reopening the deal reached by House and Senate conferees in the final hours of the session – a deal that was struck on terms that left many senators unsatisfied. But Busch said he doesn't expect many changes to a package that avoided tax increases on individuals making less than $100,000 and couples earning less than $150,000.

"That was a compromise everybody agreed to and signed off on," he said.

O'Malley said he hopes that this week a small group of House and Senate fiscal leaders and members of the governor's staff could meet to start hashing out the details — something Busch said was possible. The governor said the proposed first special session would have to be called soon because otherwise he would have to submit $130 million in budget cuts to the Board of Public Works at its May 23 meeting.

A mid-May session to resolve budget questions would also give local governments information on how much state aid to expect in time for them to make their own budget decisions by June 1.

While Democratic leaders have been talking about a special session since the gavel fell at midnight April 9, Republicans have opposed any move to bring legislators back to Annapolis, saying they prefer the budget the Assembly adopted with no new taxes.

O'Donnell said there's no need for a special session to raise taxes because the state already has a balanced budget. He also pointed to the cost of bringing lawmakers back to Annapolis, estimated by the Department of Legislative Services at about $21,000 a day.

"It's going to cost Marylanders an additional hundreds of thousands of dollars, not once but twice more," he said.



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