Marylanders continue to wait for news of a special General Assembly session so lawmakers can finish work on the budget, but House Republicans on Tuesday made their position on reconvening the legislature perfectly clear: Don’t bother.
“This budget is balanced and does not demand a special session,” House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby said at a news conference in Annapolis. But O’Donnell acknowledged that the final product wasn’t necessarily the budget Republicans would have written.
The legislature ended its regular session April 9 without agreeing on a tax package to accompany the fiscal 2012 budget. Without an increase in revenues, a so-called doomsday budget containing more than $500 million in cuts to the proposed spending plan will take effect July 1.
A special session, in which lawmakers could finish work on the revenue package, is expected, but Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has said lawmakers must reach a consensus first so there isn’t another stalemate.
But O’Donnell and several of his fellow House Republicans rejected the “doomsday” characterization of the $35.4 billion budget that passed, noting that in it spending “increases by nearly $700 million over last year’s budget,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell also rejected recent claims that the approved budget is unbalanced, explaining that any difference between revenues and expenditures was due to a common rounding error.
There wasn’t really a doomsday budget, only a default budget, said Del. Michael D. Smigiel (R-Dist. 36) of Chesapeake City.
“The only doomsday that looms out there is if we’re called back into special session,” Smigiel said. “It’s a doomsday for the taxpayers of Maryland.”
But some are arguing that a special session is essential. The Maryland State Education Association is scheduled to hold its own news conference Wednesday to encourage legislators to increase education funding. The teachers union is expected to unveil a “Doomsday Clock” that will count down to when the new budget takes effect.
The expansion of gambling, which became a stumbling block during budget negotiations in the regular session, would come up again during a special session, O’Donnell said. Local delegations could end up using their support for the expansion, favored by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach, as a bargaining chip to get concessions in the budget, according to O’Donnell.
“All of those things make coming back into session ill-advised,” O’Donnell said.