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Busch Urges Financial Restraint in House

Rosalind Helderman

House Speaker Michael E. Busch has announced that any bill proposed in the House of Delegates requiring new spending will get a special review by the body's leadership before it comes to a vote.

The group of 10 delegates, which includes Busch, the speaker pro tem, the majority leader and the whip, as well as the chairs of all six House committees, will need to agree the spending is necessary the bill can move forward.

The measure is designed to impose new fiscal restraint as the state works to close a $2 billion budget shortfall.

"The real priority here is to make sure that we don't have any new expansions of programs...which are good policy initiatives but cost the state money that we just can't afford at this point," he said.

And if delegates who sponsor those bills don't agree with leadership's position on whether their bill be considered?

"That's why there's leadership, and that's why there are members," said Speaker pro tem Del. Adrienne A. Jones (D-Baltimore County) at a press conference today.

Busch stressed that all legislators understand the tough budget environment and the goal of the new review is to ensure a "flow of communication" between House leadership and members and between committee chairmen making policy and the appropriations committee, responsible for budgeting. The reviews take place yearly--but are ordinarily reserved for more costly bills.

The House will also be imposing a new test for approving "bond bills," local bills that provide matching grants for individual nonprofit organizations for capital projects. To get passed in the House, sponsors of such proposals will have to show that they are construction ready and will create jobs.

Delegates will also reexamine such bills approved in the past where funds have not been drawn down, in some cases because nonprofit groups were never able to raise a matching grant that would allow them to access the funds.

Jones, chairwoman of the capital budget subcommittee, said there are $14 million in such unaccessed funds, dating between 1984 and 2003 and that delegates would be looking to see if some of those languishing bills should be deauthorized.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) wrote a letter to senate chairmen and vice-chairmen yesterday with similar themes, asking that they give careful consideration to bills that would have financial impacts.

By Rosalind Helderman  |  January 30, 2009; 1:37 PM ET
Categories:  Rosalind Helderman  
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