Maryland chancellor warns of budget cuts

With the leading players in Annapolis set to meet Tuesday morning, the chancellor of the University System of Maryland is urging the legislature to reconvene and take additional action on the budget in order to avoid deep spending cuts at the state’s public universities.

“It is imperative that we fully recognize and understand how much is at risk,” Chancellor William E. Kirwan writes in an opinion piece appearing the Baltimore Sun.

Maryland lawmakers ended their 90-day session on April 9 without enacting an agreed-upon tax package, triggering cuts of more than $500 million if the legislature does not reconvene before July. Under the so-called “doomsday” budget, funding for the university system would be cut by nearly $50 million.

Kirwan writes that the result would be reductions in financial aid, programmatic cuts and layoffs of faculty and staff.

“Most troubling of all, the doomsday budget would dictate a double-digit increase for in-state, undergraduate tuition, an increase significantly higher than the 3 percent included in the governor’s budget proposal,” Kirwan writes.

Kirwan’s piece was published in advance of a meeting Tuesday morning among Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and the two presiding officers of the General Assembly. O’Malley is scheduled to have breakfast with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).

In the weeks since the session’s collapse, Miller and Busch have traded accusations about the role a gambling bill played in the impasse over the revenue package, which would raise taxes on those with incomes of more than $100,000.

It remains unclear whether a special session would include debate over the gambling legislation.

Republicans have made the case that a special session is not needed, noting that the state’s overall budget would increase even under the “doomsday scenario.”

“The Democrats continue to push their stale ideas: more taxes, more gambling, and more spending,” David Ferguson, the executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said Tuesday morning. “Marylanders are not ATMs to be emptied by those who won’t properly manage the people’s business.”

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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