The Maryland Senate passed legislation today aimed at limited growth in state spending to no more than the percentage rise in personal income each year, but the proposal faces an uncertain fate in the House of Delegates.
Today's action came on a constitutional amendment which, if approved by the House and then by the voters in November 1982, would authorize the legislators to impose a ceiling on spending. A separate measure approved today ties any spending increase to growth in personal income but allows the lawmakers to exceed the limit by a simple majority vote.
The package is opposed by Gov. Harry Hughes and House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin, who have tried to defuse support for mandatory limits by proposing a new oversight committee to recommend spending ceilings. Last year, Hughes lobbied successfully in the Senate to defeat the package.
In today's action, the constitutional amendment was approved 33 to 13, four votes more than necessary, while the companion will passed 34 to 10. "If you've got the votes, you don't have to talk," said Sen. Francis X. Kelly (D-Balt. Co.), the main sponsor who spent much of the afternoon counting votes but remained silent during floor debate.
Critics, however, were vocal in their concerns. Minority Whip John J. Bishop (R-Balt. Co.), a proponent of many mental health bills he said were often victims of budget cuts, said to support the measure would be "falling on my sword."
Sen. John A. Cade (R-Anne Arundel) said the approved amendment allowing the limit to be exceeded by a simple majority instead of three-fifths as first proposed "made the bill virtually meaningless . . . This whole thing is a snow job."
With the Reagan administration shifting the fiscal burden for government services to localities, he predicted, in time "state and local governments will need tax increases" to meet citizens' needs. "Mark my words," he pleaded."Don't tie the hands of the General Assembly."