First Click -- Maryland
Your daily download of Maryland's top political news and analysis
Thursday, December 17, 2009:
Maryland reaching recession's end?
"With luck, Maryland will someday look back at Wednesday as The Bottom," writes The Post's Aaron Davis. "For the first time in more than two years, state budget officials reported that tax revenue had stopped falling significantly faster than expected and, in fact, would probably begin growing again by the end of the current budget year." Gov. Martin O'Malley and the state's Democratic-controlled General Assembly, however, still face a projected budget gap of nearly $2 billion in the coming fiscal year -- a shortfall as big as at any point since the recession began. Honing a message he began using early this month, O'Malley said Maryland needs more federal aid to help fill the gap until state revenue rebounds.
The Sun's take here. The AP's here.
Taxes on alcohol, millionaires aired
"Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) opened the door -- but only slightly -- to the possibility of an increase in alcohol taxes next year during an appearance Wednesday night on Maryland Public Television," writes The Post's John Wagner. "It's a possibility that the votes will be there to move in that direction," Miller said during an hourlong program that also included O'Malley (D) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel). In other highlights: O'Malley remained noncommittal about whether a temporary surtax on millionaires that passed in 2008 should remain in place beyond the 2010 tax year, when it is scheduled to expire; O'Malley also said he is increasingly hearing from county leaders that the state should delay its transition to a paper-verified voting system next year; and Busch voiced strong support for an O'Malley proposal for a temporary, $3,000 business tax credit for every unemployed worker hired. The AP hones in O'Malley's voting machine comments.
Deep cuts sought in Prince George's schools budget
Hundreds of jobs would be eliminated, furloughs would be imposed and student-teacher ratios would increase in many grades under a $1.67 billion budget for 2010-11 proposed by the Prince George's County superintendent Wednesday night, reports The Post's Nelson Hernandez.
Franchot insists on slots vote delay
"The Maryland Board of Public Works on Wednesday reluctantly delayed until next year a decision on whether to award an Italian-owned company a $21.5 million contract to manage the state's slot machine operations after Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) raised concerns the deal could be unconstitutional," write Davis and Wagner. "Franchot, a slots opponent, said it didn't appear the state had carefully considered how it might pay for the services if slots casinos fail to materialize on schedule."
Slots on the agenda again today
A state panel tasked with picking Maryland's slots locations will turn its attention this afternoon to a planned 3,750-machine casino in downtown Baltimore. Commission members are frustrated with delays by the developer in lining up financing for the project and submitting revised plans to the state. An artist's rendering of the project appears here. Meanwhile, the Anne Arundel County Council is expected to fill a vacancy tonight that could become a key vote there in a zoning battle over Maryland's largest planned slots casino, a 4,750-machine facility planned for Arundel Mills mall. The zoning vote is expected Monday night.
State approves lease of Port of Baltimore
"The state Board of Public Works approved an agreement to lease the Seagirt Marine Terminal in Baltimore to Ports America Chesapeake for the next 50 years on Wednesday, even as the company's president said it plans to sell its stake in the operations in the next seven years," writes The Gazette's Sean Sedam. "Under the agreement, Ports America will spend $105.5 million to build a 50-foot berth to allow larger ships to dock at the terminal by the time the Panama Canal expansion is completed in 2014 ... The company intends to sell its operations at the Seagirt terminal in five to seven years, either through a public offering, to another infrastructure fund or to a strategic port operator, said Christopher Lee, president of Ports America Chesapeake. The state has right of first refusal of any sale."
The Sun's report here.
Tyler steps down for FDA post
"Maryland Insurance Commissioner Ralph S. Tyler, a former top aide to Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), is stepping down early next year to become general counsel at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration," writes Wagner. "Tyler served as Baltimore city solicitor while O'Malley was the city's mayor and then moved with O'Malley to Annapolis in 2007 to serve as his top lawyer in the governor's office. In both positions, Tyler played a big role in O'Malley's efforts to combat rising energy costs, through litigation and negotiation with Baltimore Gas and Electric."
Red Maryland says good riddance.
AFSCME blasts raises for state lawmakers
"The head of the state's largest public employee union reacted angrily on Wednesday" to a recommended salary increase for the governor and other statewide office holders, write Len Lazarick and Andy Rosen at MarylandReporter.com. O'Malley said he would not accept the raise if re-elected. "The governor Maryland voters elect next year should get a $5,000 pay raise in 2013 and 2014, bringing the salary up to $160,000, the Governor's Salary Commission unanimously recommended Tuesday night. The seven-member commission also recommended similar 3.3 percent and 3.2 percent pay increases for the lieutenant governor, the attorney general, the comptroller and the state treasurer, bringing their salaries to $133,333 in the final year of the next four-year term."
Maryland next for same-sex marriage?
The Sun's Editorial Page asks if Maryland will be next to recognize same-sex marriage. With approval in the District, "the issue of gay marriage has now arrived at Maryland's doorstep, and that increases the urgency for Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler to issue an opinion on whether the state is permitted to recognize same-sex marriages from other states"
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Aaron C. Davis
December 17, 2009; 6:45 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner
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