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First Click -- Maryland

Your Daily Download of the State's Top Political News and Analysis

Tuesday, August 25, 2009:

Details of Gov. Martin O'Malley's plan to help close a budget shortfall through cuts to employees' pay emerged Monday.
Tens of thousands of state workers - including State Police and others who work around-the-clock - will be forced to take as many as 10 days of unpaid leave; more than 200 workers will be laid off; and state offices will shut down for five days around the holidays, The Post's John Wagner first reported.
The plan dwarfs O'Malley's use of furloughs to date to help close a budget gap. Last year, employees were forced to take as many as five days off without pay.

Union leaders said the cuts amount to about a 2-percent reduction in pay for most workers and would have been worse if they hadn't negotiated with the governor, but Patrick Moran, director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Maryland, said furloughs still balance the budget on the backs of state workers and residents.

There was no word yesterday if unions might sue. The governor's furlough plan comes a week after a federal judge struck down furloughs in Prince George's and ordered the county to repay workers millions in lost wages. Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler's office says it is confident Prince George's was an isolated case and that the state could defend furloughs in court.

Gov. O'Malley will meet behind closed doors this morning with powerful Democratic lawmakers and then brief reporters on additional budget cuts he'll propose Wednesday to the Board of Public Works.

With the furlough plan, as well as the governor's previous announcement that he'll cut aid to local governments, questions remain about where O'Malley will trim roughly $150 million from the budget.

Possibilities include deeper cuts to social services. (Check back here after 12 p.m. for updates).

All 46 acute-care hospitals in Maryland have agreed to participate in a "biosurveillance" program aimed at quickly identifying possible flu outbreaks, the governor announced Monday.

The electronic surveillance system -- known by its acronym, ESSENCE -- gathers symptom data reported by patients in hospital emergency rooms to track possible outbreaks, as well as other suspicious patterns of illnesses.

O'Malley made the announcement as he acknowledged the state's seventh swine-flu death - that of an elderly person this month in the Washington suburbs. He spoke at
Prince George's Community College in Largo where he touted $18 million in funding this year to break ground on a new Health Studies Center for nursing and other majors.


  • Many of the 25 members of O'Malley's new Economic Development Commission aren't visionaries, but made livings off winning government contracts for their businesses, writes Marta Mossburg, a columnist for The Washington Examiner and senior fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute. Several also are donors to state Democrats, including O'Malley.

  • Most state lawmakers have free E-ZPasses for official state business, writes Adam Pagnucco, at Maryland Politics Watch. Should they?

  • By Aaron C. Davis  |  August 25, 2009; 8:29 AM ET
    Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click  
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    Next: O'Malley Outlines Next Round of Budget Cuts

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