Due to an editing error, a story in yesterday's Metro section said Maryland's senators had sent the state's budget to Gov. Harry Hughes for his signature more than a week ahead of the constitutionally imposed deadline. The Maryland constitution requires that the budget be adopted by midnight April 1.
Maryland senators gave final approval today to the state's $7.5 billion budget for fiscal 1986, sending the measure to Gov. Harry Hughes for his signature more than a week ahead of the constitutionally imposed deadline.
It is 9 percent above last year's $6.9 billion budget, and includes a key increase in welfare benefits and a4 percent raise in state employes' salaries.
But the 34-to-7 vote in the Senate came only after one budget committee member took the extraordinary step of urging rejection of the compromise between the House and Senate, saying that key items had been negotiated improperly early Friday in a secret meeting among legislative leaders.
A court ruling and legislative rules require committee conferences to take place "in an open meeting, in front of God and everybody else, not negotiated in the back room or the side room or whatever room it was," said Sen. John Cade (R-Anne Arundel), a member of the Budget and Taxation committee and the Senate panel that irons out budget differences with the House.
Cade told his colleagues that he and fellow conferees had "cooled their heels" Friday morning, anticipating a meeting that never took place. He said he learned later that Senate President Melvin Steinberg (D-Baltimore County) and House Speaker Benjamin Cardin (D-Baltimore) had joined House Appropriations Committee Chairman R. Clayton Mitchell (D-Kent County) and Budget and Taxation Committee Chairman Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery) in negotiating a resolution of the major issues separating the two houses.
Cade later boycotted the conference committee meeting at which the compromise was adopted, and yesterday he told his colleagues that Levitan had used the opportunity to nail down $3.5 million in funding for roads in Montgomery County to which neither House formally had agreed.
The conference report settled on $13.2 million worth of cuts from the budget proposed by Hughes and restored a $5.8 million supplemental budget initially rejected by the Senate. The supplemental budget includes $1.6 million in aid for Baltimore City police and an increase in benefits for welfare recipients.
The House passed the measure Friday night, but Cade, saying Levitan had "caved in" to the House on too many items and acted improperly in holding the closed meeting, urged the Senate to reject the bill and direct the conferees to renegotiate the document.
Levitan urged the Senate to pass the document, saying that "it was not the first time the chairmen have gotten together to resolve some issues." Levitan added that he thought he understood his fellow conferees' positions and that he was merely working out a "proposal" to bring to their attention.
After the Senate budget vote, the Finance Committee had been expected to take up consideration of a proposal to allow the giant Citicorp bank to open branches in Maryland.
But the committee chairman, Sen. Dennis F. Rasmussen (D-Baltimore), said he was postponing action until Monday to give committee members and Hughes' administration more time to study a tentative legislative compromise that would restrict Citicorp to 20 branches in Maryland until 1988, after which the bank could open an unlimited number of branches.
Citicorp seeks broader banking privileges in the state in return for establishing a large credit card service center in the economically depressed Hagerstown area.
Legislation granting the privileges has cleared the House.