Annapolis Digest

Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Senate president.
Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Senate president. (Kathleen Lange - AP)
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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Panel Votes to Recover Overpayments

The House Appropriations Committee voted yesterday to recoup about $36 million in state education and library funding that went to counties this year because of a formula error that shortchanged Montgomery County.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) had indicated that Montgomery would be made whole and that other jurisdictions could keep the overpayments.

In light of the state's deteriorating budget outlook, the House backed away from the pledge to the other counties, seeking payment over the coming two years.

The action was among dozens taken by the appropriations panel as it worked into the night to shave hundreds of millions of dollars from O'Malley's $14 billion general fund proposal for fiscal 2010.

The full House is expected to consider the budget next week before shipping it to the Senate.

The House appropriators rejected several proposals put forward by legislative staff to save more money, including a plan to reduce state workers' salaries by 1 percent next year that would have saved about $68 million.

Some counties would feel more pinched than others by the return of the education and library overpayments. Because of variables in the funding formula, Prince George's County would be required to return about $235,000, a small fraction of its payments. Baltimore would have to send back nearly $6 million.

The repayments are one of several hits counties are taking. This week, an appropriations subcommittee recommended cutting $102 million in local highway maintenance funds for each of the next two years, leaving $368.5 million a year in state aid.

The full appropriations committee was expected to consider that plan last night.

-- John Wagner

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