Democrats face demonstration at fund-raiser

May 04, 2012|By Michael Dresser, The Baltimore Sun

When the state's leading Democrats gather for a fund-raising gala Monday evening in Greenbelt, they can expect to see members of the party's most liberal wing demonstrating outside.

The group Progressive Maryland will rally to urge Democratic lawmakers to vote for the income tax increase and other measures necessary to avoid the so-called Doomsday cuts that were left in the state budget for next year as a result of the General Assembly's failure to  pass those companion measures on the last night of the regular session that ended April 9.

That much the group can pretty well count on. Gov. Martin O'Malley on Friday issued a call for lawmakers to reconvene in Annapolis May 14, and he and legislative leaders appear to be on the same page regarding their determination to pass the measures needed to avoid cuts of more than $500 million to programs liberals generally support.

Where Progressive Maryland will have a harder sell is its call for the legislature to reopen the conference committee compromise reached on the last night of the session to reinstate a so-called "millionaire's tax" and close corporate loopholes.

Neither measure was included in the conference committee report, which House Speaker Michael E. Busch has said must be the starting point for action on the budget in the special session. Gov. Martin O'Malley has also said the agreement signed by House and Senate negotiators that night is the logical place to start.

Attempting to revive proposals that have been discarded already would likely bog down the Assembly in a session longer than two days -- something legislative leaders want to avoid.

But Progressive Maryland interim executive director Kate Planco Waybright said the group's members consider the millionaire's tax, which expired in 2010, and closing the so-called loopholes a priority.

Matt Verghese, a Democratic Party spokesman, said he expects a "very respectful" demonstration.

"We respect their right to demonstrate and influence policy makers," he said. "On the big issues, we all agree."

Verghese said the lineup of party heavyweights at the gala  includes O'Malley and U.S. Sens.  Barbara A. Mikulski and Benjamin L. Cardin. The guest speaker will be Bill Press, a syndicated talk show host on the Current Network. Verghese said the cost of tickets ranges from $250 for general admission to $25,000 to be a Platinum Sponsor. (The donation limits for parties are higher than the ones for candidates under Maryland law.)

Waybright is expected to be one of the attendees, Verghese said.

The Progressive Maryland chief confirmed that she would be at the gala at Martin's Crosswinds. She said she doesn't plan to demonstrate inside the hall.

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