Delegates send $14.6 billion budget to Senate
Annie Linskey reports:
The House of Delegates voted Thursday to approve a $14.6 billion plan to fund day-to-day state government operations, over the vehement objections from Republicans who had pushed for deeper cuts and opposed new fees.
Delegates voted 97 to 42 to approve the budget, with one Republican joining the Democrats to support the plan.
The budget calls for Marylanders to pay higher fees at the Motor Vehicle Administration to register new vehicle titles or use vanity license plates. Fees for recording land transactions would also go up.
The budget doesn’t contain any new taxes — yet. The plan now goes to the Senate, where a key committee voted yesterday to raise the sales tax on alcohol from 6 percent to 9 percent, an increase that would be phased in over three years.
House Democratic leaders touted extensive behind-the-scenes work during the first ten weeks of the legislative session to rejigger spending within Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley’s plan and restore $60 million in cuts to education. Their reworked plan would also give counties and cities some more money to fix roads.
“Good budgets are flexible,” said Del. Galen R. Clagett. The Western Maryland Democrat said the House proposal responded to concerns from constituents who worried the O’Malley proposed plan would “hurt” them.
“The message I got was we should be helping people,” he said.
But Republicans said the Democratic majority didn’t do enough: The House plan would only cut $6.5 million from the budget O’Malley’s proposed in January. House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell used a chart to show how state spending has increased in recent years.
Del. Michael D. Smigiel Sr., the leader of the House’s new tea party caucus, said the budget would “burden the taxpayers with all kinds of new fees” — just the type of plan that his supporters at home “went to the streets” to oppose.
The Eastern Shore Republican predicted that when lawmakers go home at the end of the session next month, they will see angry constituents “marching again”
Del. Wendell Beitzelwas the sole Republican to support the plan. A longtime member of the House Appropriations Committee, he said that he felt the majority had listened to many of his concerns.
Beitzel touted the restoration of a 3 percent tax credit for those who purchase coal produced in Maryland and the return user fees that Garrett County officials negotiated when they sold Deep Creek Lake to the state.