Education, health care and law enforcement advocates Wednesday urged the General Assembly to reconvene, arguing that more than $500 million in cuts included in the so-called doomsday budget would be catastrophic.
“Cuts to schools [mean] larger class sizes” said Henry Bogdan, policy director for Maryland Nonprofits, which advocates for the state’s nonprofit organizations, at a press conference hosted by the Maryland State Education Association in Annapolis.
Cuts to social service providers could mean thousands of layoffs, and reductions in university funding could lead to a steep tuition hike, Bogdan said.
The governor and legislative leaders needed to come back and finish work on a revenue package to avoid the cuts, Bogdan said.
To drive home the point, Bogdan unveiled an ominous visual aid: a “doomsday clock” counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until July 1, when the cuts will go into effect.
The General Assembly ended its regular session April 9 before approving a tax package to accompany the fiscal 2012 budget, prompting calls for a special session.
Bogdan was joined by stakeholders including a teacher, a librarian, a crime scene technician and a University of Maryland student.
“If this doomsday budget takes effect, then the scholarship program that has helped me go to college will be eliminated,” said Tokunbo Okulaja, a junior majoring in government and politics at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens’ Health Initiative, argued that the legislature’s failure to pass a revenue package also put lives at risk, because it killed tax increases for some tobacco products.
Both the House and Senate agreed that the tax on little cigars would have increased from 15 percent to 70 percent, while the tax on smokeless tobacco would have gone from 15 to 30 percent, according to DeMarco. Lawmakers should enact the increases during a special session, he said.
“Maryland needs to do what it’s always done, which is take the lead in saving our kids,” DeMarco said.
But not everyone agrees that a special session is needed.
House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby, speaking at a news conference Tuesday, said that while the budget that passed was different from what they would have written, it was balanced and lawmakers should accept it.
O’Donnell and several of his fellow House Republicans rejected the “doomsday” characterization of the $35.4 billion budget, noting that in it spending “increases by nearly $700 million over last year’s budget.”