Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D) pressed their case in Annapolis on Tuesday for lawmakers to resume work on the state budget and take up a gambling bill this summer.
The leaders of two of Maryland’s largest jurisdictions met for about an hour behind closed doors with House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) about both issues, according to aides.
Baker also traveled to Baltimore on Tuesday to pitch the idea of a casino during an appearance on “Midday with Dan Rodricks”on WYPR, a National Public Radio affiliate.
“The reason gambling can’t wait until next year is you have to put it in a referendum,” Baker said on the radio show.
A bill that died in the House of Delegates on the final night of the 90-day session called for holding a public vote on allowing a casino in Prince George’s County as well as Las Vegas-style table games at Maryland’s five other slots locations.
Rawlings-Blake has argued that the addition of table games would significantly improve the quality of a slots casino planned in downtown Baltimore.
Baker said on WYPR that his preferred location in Prince George’s — National Harbor, the 300-acre mixed-use development on the Potomac River — would be “a nice complement to Baltimore City’s casino.”
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and legislative leaders have floated the idea of holding two special legislative sessions in coming weeks.
The first, in mid-May, would be devoted to passing a revenue package that did not come to a vote on the final night of the 90-day session. More than $500 million in cuts to education, local aid and other planned spending will go into effect July 1 if the legislature does not act.
Both Baker and Rawlings-Blake support the revenue package, though leaders of some other Maryland jurisdictions have been lukewarm about its necessity. Republicans argue that the state should live with the budget that resulted.
A second special session would be devoted to gambling.
It’s unclear how much support that idea has among lawmakers, particularly those in the House of Delegates. Both Baker and Rawlings-Blake were unable to convince all members of their legislative delegations to support the gambling bill that died in the House after passing the Senate.
The idea of a sixth casino is also strongly opposed by the developers of Maryland Live!, a venue planning a June 6 opening in Anne Arundel County.