“Our leaders weren’t able to come to the consensus necessary to protect education,” an agitated O’Malley said at a previously scheduled bill-signing ceremony in Annapolis, where the legislature’s two presiding officers sat stone-faced on either side of him.
He made no mention of plans to call a special session, a move that would be necessary to enact a proposed tax increase on high earners and a series of other revenue plans that died at midnight Monday.
But leading lawmakers predicted that the governor would summon the General Assembly back once the impact of the forced spending cuts had time to sink in and he and legislators could reach an informal agreement on what to pass.
“This is a minor bump in the road,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. “We’ll deal with it in a one- or two-day session, and everything will be fine.”
Not reaching an agreement by July 1 would probably result in the elimination of about 500 state jobs, cuts to local police aid and higher tuition at public universities, among other steps.
What else might be taken up in a special session is not clear. Miller (D-Calvert) said he is hopeful that a gambling bill would be part of the mix, along with a tax increase for transportation projects.
A late-moving gambling bill, which could have allowed a full-fledged casino in Prince George’s County, became entangled in budget negotiations in the session’s final days — but was not a priority for O’Malley or House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel).
Busch said that rounding up votes for proposed tax increases to offset the cuts could be more difficult than during the regular session, when the agenda was far broader. “It’s going to be a bigger lift when you’re coming back to town and everyone says you’re there to raise taxes,” he said.
State budget analysts were still working to unravel the full effect of the legislature’s having passed only two of the four interconnected bills that made up Maryland’s spending package. In all, it appeared general-fund spending would have to decrease by about 1 percent over the current fiscal year, to about $14.8 billion, though some parts of the budget would be reduced far more.
The budget as passed Monday would cut 10 percent, or more than $60 million, from higher education, probably necessitating tuition increases at state universities and community colleges.
Funding for grade-school students would be reduced by $44 a pupil. Grants to cover the higher cost of education in the suburbs of the District and in and around Baltimore would be cut, accounting for nearly $129 million.