The muddle that is Maryland's budget future cleared a bit this week as the three most important people in cleaning up the mess edged closer to an agreement on how to do so.
The mess, of course, was left by state lawmakers when they ended the 2012 legislative session April 9 without reaching an agreement on next year's budget.
This week, Gov. Martin O'Malley, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch emerged from a morning meeting to reveal the outline of a solution, one that would involve two special legislative sessions for lawmakers, one to deal with the budget, the other to consider expanding casino gambling in Maryland.
A special session limited to tackling the budget is a first-rate idea. After all, it was debate over casino gambling — specifically, Miller's insistence that such gambling be allowed inPrince George's County— that helped doom a final budget vote during the regular session.
Taking gambling out of the picture should make for a quick, clean, relatively easy special session, at least if Senate and House leaders can agree beforehand on the major budget sticking points, such as tax increases.
More problematic, however, is this notion of a special session to deal with gambling. Maybe the idea is a sop to the powerful Miller, seen as the only way to get him to the budget table. But it's a bad idea nonetheless.
Special sessions, in which all state lawmakers and all the apparatus that accompanies their work must be called back to Annapolis, do not come cheaply and should not be employed lightly.
Ignoring the fact that lawmakers should have finished up the job during their regular session, crafting the state budget — which is, after all, the General Assembly's main job — is a good reason to call a special session. Expanding gambling to one specific county, on the other hand, is rather less of a good reason. It is, in fact, a poor reason.
Finish up the budget this year. Leave the gambling for next year, when lawmakers meet again in their regularly scheduled session..