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Morning Read: Maryland Budget Unveiled Today

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Morning Read: Maryland Budget Unveiled Today

Win McNamee/Getty Images

Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley campaigns for reelection on October 27, 2010 in Frederick, Maryland. O'Malley is running against former Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich in the election to be held next week. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to unveil a spending plan today that would shift half of teacher pension costs to the counties and would require Maryland residents earning six-figure salaries or more to pay higher income taxes to help plug a $1 billion budget shortfall.

The governor discussed his budget plans with leaders Tuesday and, according to The Washington Post, individuals earning more than $100,000 and couples earning more than $150,000 would be limited to smaller personal tax exemptions for themselves and their family members and would face caps on personal deductions.

Along with other plans to tax some Internet purchases, the Post reports the income tax changes could raise more than $300 million.

The Baltimore Sun reports the most significant change in this year’s budget is shifting half of the state’s $1 billion in teacher pension costs to the counties. The state has historically been responsible for pension costs, and this proposed change would amp up the pressure for counties to raise taxes or keep teacher salaries down.

Counties are currently responsible for paying all of the Social Security costs, and the governor’s plan also calls for those costs to be shared with the state.

In all, this pension change is expected to save the state an estimated $240 million, the Sun reports.

Unsurprisingly, The Washington Times reports that county leaders didn’t quite back the governor’s proposed budget.

“It’s a difficult pill to swallow, and I’m not swallowing it,” Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett told the Times.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch called the pension plan a "balanced proposal by the governor," according to the Sun.

* Virginia had a busy Tuesday with election officials prepping for the primaries and the legislative session in full swing.

In a last-minute move, Virginia’s Republican party decided to scrap its plans for the controversial “loyalty oath” -- an oath that would have required Virginia’s March Republican presidential primary voters to pledge their support for the eventual GOP nominee at the ballot.

The State Board of Elections approved the “loyalty oath” back in December, but the decision has been met with heavy backlash since then.

In a state where voters do not register by party affiliation, Republicans saw the oath as a way to prevent Democrats and independents from meddling with the nomination process, The Associated Press reports.

But, according to the AP, the ACLU threatened to sue the party unless the oath was removed and Democrats ridiculed the oath, arguing that it defined the Republicans as an exclusionary party.

Even Republicans, including Gov. Bob McDonnell, criticized the oath, saying it was unappealing and could dissuade voters during a time when the Republican party need them the most.

The “Loyalty Oath” would have read “I, the undersigned, pledge that I intend to support the nominee for the Republican Party for president."

* Fearful that a newly Republican-controlled Senate would crack down on illegal immigration at the state level, the Virginia Coalition of Latino Organizations laid out plans Tuesday to oppose more than a dozen GOP bills and to push for legislation that would allow taxpaying undocumented students eligible for in-state tuition, according to The Richmond Times Dispatch.

One of the group’s biggest concerns is a bill that would allow local police to check the immigration status of those stopped or arrested as oppose to checking immigration statuses once they are taken into custody.

The Latino coalition, according to the Times Dispatch, also opposes legislation that would require local schools to collect information on citizenship or immigration status.

A House education subcommittee voted to table that legislation Tuesday.

* Mitt Romney is coming to Northern Virginia on Feb. 10 to talks job and economic growth.

Romney will be speaking at the Hyatt Regency Reston at a breakfast event sponsored by the Northern Virginia Technology Council and the Consumer Electronics Association.

With Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich seemingly unable to get on the ballot, it looks like the Virginia primary will be a duel of sorts between Romney and Ron Paul.

* Virginia Delegate Patrick Hope, a Democrat, is proposing a state cigarette tax bll that would increase the per-pack tax on cigarettes fourfold, from 30 cents to $1.45.

The tax would raise about $290 million, 92 percent of which would go toward helping cities and counties and the remainder being used for smoking prevention and cessation programs.

But The Associated Press reports that the Republican-controlled General Assembly have labeled the bill as “dead at birth.”

* Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced Tuesday that the state reached a settlement with a company that solicited funds for a fraudulent veterans charity.

Although the company has yet to admit any wrongdoing, the settlement required Michigan-based Associated Community Services Inc., to pay more than $65,000 in refunded contributions and penalties, The Roanoke Times reports.

The director of the company donated $55,500 to Cuccinelli’s campaign in 2009. The attorney general eventually donated that money to a veteran’s charity and sat out during the investigation of the charity.

* The District’s elections board met Tuesday and officially determined that former D.C. Council member Harry Thomas Jr..’s Ward 5 council seat is indeed vacant and a special election will be held to fill the seat on May 15.

Thomas, a Democrat, resigned earlier this month after pleading guilty to embezzling more than $350,000 in government funds and filing false tax returns, The Associated Press reports.  He faces more than 3 years in prison.

Read the latest about the Thomas scandal from NBC’s Tom Sherwood here.

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