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March 27, 2009

A few budget issues could be tough to resolve

The House and the Senate take turns on which chamber will deal with the state's annual budget first, and this year was the House's turn. That chamber last night passed a $13.9 billion operating budget after cutting out about $850 million. There's some talk in the Senate about what could be a big, fundamental shift in state budgeting -- the idea of freezing mandated spending formulas -- but it's unclear how far along those discussions are. Even if that doesn't materialize, there are a handful of issues that could become big arguments when the two chambers meet in conference committee.

*Stem cell research: The House wants to spend $18.4 million but the Senate wants to cut that to $5 million. The moral issue over whether the state should fund that kind of research was settled a few years ago, but does the federal government's recent loosening of pursestrings for embryonic stem cell research obviate the need for a large state investment? Or does Maryland need to keep it up to stay competitive with other states?

*Medevac helicopters: The House is sticking with expanding on Gov. O'Malley's proposal and plans to spend $55 million to begin replacing the state's fleet. One Senate committee has endorsed a plan to delay the purchase, but the Budget and Taxation Committee has yet to say whether it will keep the money in the budget. If Maryland starts replacing helicopters, it would effectively shut out a private medevac operator that has been trying to crack into the business here. Watch for some heavy lobbying on both sides of this one.

*Higher education: The House is planning steeper cuts for the University System of Maryland than the Senate has endorsed so far. System Chancellor Britt Kirwan has already raised the alarm about tuition increases if the cuts stand. O'Malley has made a huge political point out of tuition freezes, so watch for him to do whatever it takes to keep them.

Posted by Andy Green at 10:45 AM | | Comments (2)


My opinion only
Stem cell research; I will decide after I see how Martin O'Malley spins this in his favor now that he adamantly came out against the death penalty.
Then I will wait to see how The University of Notre Dame handles this come graduation time in May.
Medevac helicopters; Not that important to me spend my emotional welfare on.
Higher education; As a parent of yin yang boys I suggest you Do NOT send your kid to college if you know they are, and never will be college bound. For those who are college material, a parent's responsibility to their kids on the day they are born is this; open a savings account (if not used, take a needed Mom/Dad vacation). Only the strong survive. Your strength comes from family involvement, not government handouts.

The mighty carole hath must obey carole...pleez...

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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