Update, 5:45 p.m.: In an interview Wednesday afternoon, House Speaker Michael E. Busch did not back off an earlier claim that Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.’s “obsession” with the gaming bill was central to the session’s outcome.
“I’ll just say this: Everyone in the General Assembly, the executive and the media understands exactly what took place,” the speaker said. “I don’t think any letter of redemption is going to change that.”
Busch also disputed Miller’s characterization that his chamber had engaged in “press stunts,” and he said the state Constitution clearly would have allowed lawmakers to extend the session.
“It’s not that complex,” Busch said, adding that the Senate “certainly had the opportunity to do that.”
Speaking of the Senate, Busch said: “They’re the political body that failed to bring resolution to the state budget.”
Original post: Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. says in a letter to colleagues that is “patently untrue” that a gaming bill caused the impasse at the end of the 90-day legislative session.
The legislature adjourned last week without passing an agreed-upon revenue bill, a move that will trigger more than $500 million in cuts to education and other planned spending if lawmakers do not reconvene in a special session before July 1.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) has accused Miller of “slow-walking” the budget in the session’s final days in an attempt to gain leverage on a bill that called for a public vote on allowing a full-fledged casino in Prince George’s County. The bill would also have allowed table games at Maryland’s current five slots sites.
Both Busch and Miller have said they talked about the issue in the closing hours of the session, which ended at midnight April 9.
“It is not a secret that I am in strong support of allowing the voters to have the opportunity to decide on expanded gaming to resolve the state’s ongoing budget deficit,” Miller wrote. “However, I in no way sought to involve any gaming issue in the fiscal 2013 budget debate. I never once asked one member of the Senate not to seek a middle ground on revenues in connection to my support for the referendum. Statements to the contrary are irresponsible.”
Later in the two-page letter, Miller takes aim at House members for “press stunts” that he says “reached absurd levels” on the session’s final day. Miller cites an instance where House budget negotiators sat in a room after senators had left and “tweeted” pictures of themselves.
“Obviously the stunt was concocted to create the impression that somehow the Senate refused to meet, which was both immature and beneath the dignity of the General Assembly.”
Miller also takes issue with an attempt by the House to extend the session beyond the midnight deadline, which Busch did after consultation with state lawyers.
“I remain certain the Maryland General Assembly would have been sued by groups seeking to invalidate any legislation passed after the midnight deadline under the ‘newly discovered’ constitutional provision,” Miller wrote.
He closes the letter by telling colleagues he is “happy to return to special session” to seek a compromise.