The House has yet to act on
a proposed casino in Prince George’s County. And most of
the ambitious agenda that Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) introduced in January — including plans to promote wind power and curb the use of residential septic systems — is hanging in the balance.
So, too, are literally hundreds of lower-profile pieces of legislation affecting matters including liquor licenses and rules of the road.
And if O’Malley has his way, lawmakers, in the final days of the session, will begin to debate in earnest a proposal to pump more than $600 million a year in additional tax revenue into Maryland’s transportation system.
“I know that people are fatigued. I know that they’re tired
of even the talk of it,” O’Malley said of his transportation plan, which would apply the state’s 6 percent sales tax to gasoline. “But I’m going to try.”
In what may be a last-ditch effort to get lawmakers to move his bill, O’Malley said he is willing to delay the first installment of the tax increase to allow gas prices to settle down.
Just how much else remains to be done?
During last year’s 90-day session, lawmakers passed 707 bills, and this year’s output is not expected to be dramatically different. But as of Friday night, 59 bills and three resolutions had cleared both the House and Senate.
The only O’Malley initiative lawmakers have sent to his desk is the high-profile measure to legalize same-sex marriage — something legislative leaders wanted to get out of the way early so that the debate wouldn’t hold up other issues.
Asked to explain what has
become a predictable end-of-
session crush in Annapolis,
Del. Dereck E. Davis (D-Prince George’s) cited the many “very tough decisions” lawmakers face.
“People get locked into positions, and we seem to need deadlines to force compromise,” Davis said.
House and Senate budget
negotiators are starting the final week with some major differences in their tax and spending plans. An initial meeting Friday to start working toward some compromises was postponed.
Both plans honor O’Malley’s wish to continue funding education at record levels and to raise taxes rather than cut projected spending increases that outpace still-depressed state tax revenue.
The Senate plan would collect most of its new revenue from
an across-the-board income tax increase; the House version would target the top fifth of state tax filers, or most of those earning more than $100,000.
The plans also differ in how quickly they shift part of the financial burden of teacher pensions from the state to counties — a long-festering issue in Annapolis that could be on the brink of resolution.
Under the state constitution, adopting a balanced operating budget is about the only thing lawmakers must do each year while in Annapolis.