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Lawmakers To See "Doomsday Budget"

State aid to education would be frozen. Promised new funding for nursing homes, drug treatment and children with disabilities would not materialize. Money available for stem cell research would be cut back. State funds flowing to the university system would not be adjusted for inflation. And counties would have to shoulder half the burden of paying teachers' retirement costs -- a $324 million hit to their budgets.

Those are among more than 150 steps Maryland could take -- without raising taxes -- to close a looming shortfall of nearly $1.5 billion in its $15 billion general fund budget. A document outlining the actions is scheduled to be presented to several legislative committees this afternoon.

The assessment was requested by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) to help lawmakers grapple with the budget and start making a public case for raising taxes.

Another group taking a hit in the "doomsday budget" prepared by legislative analysts is state employees, whose salaries would be frozen. A state prescription drug subsidy for retirees eligible for Medicare Part D would also be cut.

But counties are among the biggest losers. Montgomery County alone would lose more than $155 million in anticipated aid for education and other programs. Prince George's, meanwhile, could lose more than $90 million.

Cuts this severe are not likely to materialize, unless lawmakers cannot agree on a package of revenue increases, possibly including the legalization of slot-machine gambling. Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), a former Baltimore mayor, has also pledged to help protect local governments in the process.

By John Wagner  |  June 27, 2007; 9:55 AM ET
Categories:  John Wagner  
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