House Republican leaders present alternate budget
House Republicans today presented colleagues with an alternative to Gov. Martin O'Malley's $14 billion general fund spending plan.
Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell told members of the House Appropriations Committee that the GOP plan "envisions a smaller, less intrusive state government." The proposal calls for a $621 million deeper cut than O'Malley's budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Republicans would achieve that reduction by making major changes to how the state allocates K-12 education money and by and snipping at many state agencies and programs. At the same time, they'd cut the sales tax from 6 to 5 percent and the corporate income tax from 8.25 to 7 percent -- reductions that O'Donnell said would help lure taxpayers and companies to Maryland.
"We think it's a new vision," O'Donnell said.
House Republicans have also cast an eye toward the future, recommending the state hold spending growth to 2 percent over the next few years and bumping it up to 4 percent in fiscal year 2016.
This is the second year in a row that Republicans have countered the Democratic governor's budget plan with a proposal of their own. The General Assembly, also controlled by Democrats, is in the process of assessing the O'Malley budget.
Members of the committee had few questions for O'Donnell and Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio.
Chairman Norman Conway, a Democrat, noted that the Republicans don't aim to close the entire structural deficit next year. O'Donnell said he believed that could only be done "if everyone's committed." The GOP would close the deficit over two years.
O'Donnell said Maryland, which fared better than many states in the national recession, must brace for uncertain times ahead. Changing leadership in oil-rich countries, the earthquake in Japan and a potential contraction of the federal government all could contribute to Maryland's fiscal picture.
That, he said, underscores the need for a conservative budget approach.
"This is tough stuff," he said. "We understand and acknowledge that."
Several Republicans, including Del. Andrew A. Serafini of Washington County, also presented the House Appropriations Committee their ideas on state worker pension reform. O'Malley is seeking more employee contributions to the retirement system -- an idea that thousands of union members protested yesterday in Annapolis.