Challenging Maryland Session Begins - NBC4 Washington
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Challenging Maryland Session Begins



    Maryland lawmakers will tackle several hot-button issues over the next 90 days including the budget deficit, taxes and same-sex marriage.

    Unions representing state employees want an end to five years of budget cutting, which they say increased unemployment and resulted in fewer services for those in need.  

    "Tax the millionaires and tax the corporations that aren't paying one penny in taxes," said Sue Esty, of AFSCME.

    Gov. Martin O'Malley's priorities for this legislative session include building schools, creating jobs and finding more money.
    Increasing the state gas tax 5 to 15 cents per gallon is one of the alternatives, but Republican lawmakers are against it.

    "We are going to absolutely say no to the job killers of increasing taxes, especially the gas tax on the hard working families and small businesses of Maryland," House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell said.

    Montgomery County needs state money for transportation projects. Prince George's County wants to make sure the state doesn't shift the burden of funding teacher pensions to the counties.

    "Right now we're facing a $126 million budget deficit, and if you shift the pensions down, that’s potentially another $11 million to the county and that's going to hurt in our programs and salaries," Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker said.

    Last year, the same sex marriage bill passed the Maryland Senate but failed by three votes in the House of Delegates. This year, advocates and opponents of same sex marriage say they are geared up to do battle again.

    “We’re absolutely going to say ‘no’ and we have a strategy to beat it and we’re going to bring out that strategy and we’re going to defeat that bill anyway possible,” said Delegate Don Dwyer Jr., R-Anne Arundel County.

    This year, Gov. O'Malley is making marriage equality one of the priorities on his legislative agenda.

    “Ask yourself, Is it right that we should have a lesser protection of the law for children of gay households than for other children?” he said. “I don't think that's right."

    "In Maryland, we have a strong governor in Martin O'Malley,” said Senator Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery County. “We have a very talented governor, so I'm very hopeful that will help us get just the handful of votes left to nail down."

    One of the main reasons same-sex marriage has failed in the Maryland legislature is because of strong opposition from religious leaders -- most notably the clergy in Prince George's County.