Maryland Lawmakers Talk about Upcoming Session, Budget Woes - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland Lawmakers Talk about Upcoming Session, Budget Woes

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(Photo: MGN) (Photo: MGN)
 CAMBRIDGE, Md. (AP) - State and local officials in Maryland are wondering what will be cut next due to budget challenges.
    
Two days after outgoing Gov. Martin O'Malley brought budget cuts to the Board of Public Works for the current fiscal year, leading lawmakers made forecasts Friday as to how Gov.-elect Larry Hogan and lawmakers will close an estimated $750 million deficit for the next fiscal year. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch spoke on a panel at a conference of local officials about the upcoming budget challenges and where some of the needed savings might be found.
    
"Nothing is going to be sacrosanct, and we're going to get through it," Miller, D-Calvert, said at the Maryland Association of Counties conference, with less than a week before the start of the 90-day legislative session.
    
One potential budget target is the Geographic Cost of Education Index, a budget formula that sends extra state money to school districts in areas with higher education costs. Cutting the GCEI entirely would save the state about $126 million.
    
Funding for higher education could be another area for cuts, as well as initiatives aimed at protecting the environment, Miller said.
    
Busch, D-Anne Arundel, said a reduction in health care provider rates under Medicaid could be another area for cuts. Disparity grants for counties with exceptional needs also could be eliminated or reduced, the speaker said.
    
"So, there's a lot of tough decisions that have to be made, and, you know, I just think everybody has to take a deep breath when they get to Annapolis: Take a look at what you have and then take a look at all the options and what's going to be in the best interest to provide the services that make Maryland the great state that it is," Busch said.
    
Sen. Chris Shank, the Senate minority whip, also spoke on the panel. Shank, R-Washington, noted that budget pressures also are coming from higher debt-service costs to the state's general fund. He said the problem needs to be addressed head on.
    
Hogan, a Republican, will submit a budget plan to the Legislature on Jan. 23, two days after he takes office. Hogan campaigned almost exclusively on economic concerns, particularly tax increases in recent years and state spending practices. He has been working with advisers in recent weeks on assembling a cabinet and putting a budget plan together. However, he hasn't mentioned many details on the budget. At a news conference Thursday, he said tax cuts will be part of his first legislative agenda. He also said he will outline more details just before he submits the budget to the General Assembly.
    
Talk about issues other than the budget has been quieter than usual in the days before the start of Maryland's annual legislative session. That's partly because the state will have a new governor. Another factor is that the House of Delegates will have about 60 new members out of 141.


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