Maryland House Approves $40.4B Budget - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Maryland House Approves $40.4B Budget

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - The Maryland House of Delegates passed the state's $40.4 billion budget on Thursday, restoring added education funding and a cost-of-living adjustment for state employees.

The House voted 129-10 for the measure, with 89 Democrats voting for the bill, along with 40 Republicans. Ten Republicans voted against it.

The budget does not eliminate Maryland's long-running structural deficit in one year, as Republican Gov. Larry Hogan first proposed in January with some scaled-back education funding and a nixed 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment for state employees. Democrats who control the Legislature restored both of those, while cutting the structural deficit by more than a spending panel recommended in December.

"We did this by cutting 74 percent of our structural deficit, and we did it without a single tax increase," said Del, Anne Kaiser, a Montgomery County Democrat who is the House majority leader. "I believe the final budget, Mr. speaker, is a reflection of all of our shared values. I urge the body to join me in supporting this better bipartisan budget."

Republicans who supported the measure said it marked a positive first step without tax increases that spoke to the demands of Maryland voters who elected a Republican in a state where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-1.

"The fact of the matter is, it's a course correction, and that's what Maryland asked for," said Del. Anthony O'Donnell, R-Calvert.

Republicans who voted against the bill cited a lack of tax relief in the legislation. Opponents also cited a change to the state's pension system that taps about $70 million out of a scheduled $150 million payment above the required amount in order to strengthen the system. While supporters of the pension plan say the changes mean Maryland will still reach an 80 percent funding goal by 2013, opponents said all of the planned extra payment should be invested in the pension system.

The House also voted 122-17 for a companion bill needed to balance the budget. There were 89 Democrats who voted for that bill and 33 Republicans, with 17 Republicans voting against it.

The measures now go to the Senate. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert, said he was hopeful Democrats and Republicans will be able to point to a successful session, which is scheduled to end April 13. He said Democrats can highlight the added school funding and cost-of-living adjustment added back to the budget. Hogan, meanwhile, will be able to cite the end of state-mandated stormwater fees. Miller also said lawmakers will be working with the governor on his proposal to expand charter schools in the state.

"So, I think, you know, all and all, he's going to be able to declare his first session a victory as well," Miller said.

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