Maryland's General Assembly Greeted by Budget Woes

By Chris Gordon
|  Wednesday, Jan 12, 2011  |  Updated 9:15 PM EDT
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The 90-day General Assembly session got underway with <a title=Maryland facing a growing budget deficit. Lawmakers are considering deep spending cuts and tax increases." />

The 90-day General Assembly session got underway with Maryland facing a growing budget deficit. Lawmakers are considering deep spending cuts and tax increases.

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The Maryland General Assembly convened Wednesday facing a $1.6 billion budget deficit that will require deep spending cuts.

Gov. Martin O'Malley addressed the lawmakers, saying cooperation is needed in these tough economic times to make the hard decisions.

For the Montgomery and Prince George's county delegations, a top priority is to resist shifting the funding of teacher pensions from the state to local governments.

"It would be devastating to Prince George's County," County Executive Rushern Baker said. "It would add $40 million to the deficit for 2012."

Maryland state workers are lobbying to avoid cuts in their pensions and health care.

"We will try to fairly spread the pain," said House Majority Leader Kumar Barve, of Montgomery County.

One Democratic lawmaker said there will be tax hikes, but Republican leaders don't necessarily agree.

"The Republican position is that the state doesn't have a revenue problem," Senate Minority Leader Allan Kittleman said. "It has a spending problem."

A proposal to raise about $200 million by raising taxes on alcohol in Maryland is "insanity personified," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, D-Calvert. Miller said on WEAA-FM Tuesday that he could support a moderate increase on taxes on beer and wine, but a proposal to raise $200 million goes too far.

Miller said he hasn't seen O'Malley's budget proposal but cuts will have to be made to Medicaid, education and the environment, the Associated Press reported.

Maryland is facing financial challenges without the benefit of federal stimulus dollars, which it has relied on the past two years.

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