First Click -- Maryland
Your daily download of Maryland's top political news and analysis
Friday, December 18, 2009:
Lawmakers recommend zero percent increase in spending, a Baltimore slots bid fails, ICC tolls are set, O'Malley proposes unemployment insurance tax relief. And a Baltimore County lawmaker contemplates medical marijuana legislation.
Budget woes force historic vote
A joint legislative committee voted late Thursday to recommend Gov. Martin O'Malley produce a budget for the coming fiscal year with a "zero percent increase" in state spending. It was the first time the committee has recommended no increase whatsoever in state spending, reports The Post's Aaron Davis. The recommendation is not binding, but O'Malley (D) has respected the committee's work since coming into office.
Even if his budget follows the guideline, however, it will only cover about half of the state's nearly $2 billion budget gap for the fiscal year that begins next July. Republicans on the bipartisan Spending Affordability Committee pushed for a recommended 7-percent decrease in year-over-year spending to bring state expenditures and revenues into line. That vote failed in part because Democrats said it would be unreasonable to make such cuts because most education and Medicaid spending cannot be reduced while the state is still collecting federal stimulus spending.
The Gazette's take is here. The Sun's is here.
Baltimore slots bid derailed by state panel
"A bid to build Maryland's second-largest slots casino was killed Thursday by a state panel whose members said they were deeply frustrated by the developer's repeated delays in securing financing and providing other plans for the facility envisioned for downtown Baltimore," reports The Post's John Wagner. "The decision was the latest -- and arguably largest -- setback for the state's fledgling slots program and the promise of more than $600 million a year for education that supporters have said it would generate. The fate of the state's largest planned casino, at the Arundel Mills mall, could turn on a local zoning vote scheduled for Monday."
The Sun's take here. The Gazette's is here.
Meanwhile, The Maryland Jockey Club makes a late-hour case for slots at Laurel Park instead of Arundel Mills mall, Wagner reports.
Tolls approved for trips across the ICC
"A controversial new highway that will connect Montgomery and Prince George's counties will charge the most expensive tolls in the Washington area and some of the highest in the nation when it opens next year," reports The Post's Katherine Shaver. "The board of the Maryland Transportation Authority approved rates Thursday for the Intercounty Connector, an 18.8-mile, six-lane highway designed to ease congestion on some of the most jammed roads in the region."
O'Malley confronts rising unemployment insurance rates
"Battle lines were drawn Thursday in what promises to be one of the first and most contentious battles when Maryland's General Assembly reconvenes in Annapolis next month," writes The Post's Aaron Davis. Gov. Martin O'Malley released a package of proposals his administration said would keep the state's unemployment insurance trust fund in the black, while also reducing employers' projected 267-percent premium increase. O'Malley would accomplish that largely by bowing to changes that Congress and President Obama want states to make in unemployment insurance systems. Nearly every major Maryland business organization rejected the governor's plan, saying it would provide only short-term relief in exchange for requiring business owners to support a more expensive, permanent expansion.
The Sun's take here.
Morhaim considering medial marijuana legislation
"When Del. Dan K. Morhaim is in the emergency room, he can administer cocaine to anesthetize a patient. But he cannot write a prescription for marijuana as a pain reliever or nausea remedy," reports The Gazette's Alan Brody. "That's just one of the flaws in Maryland's narrow medical marijuana law that Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), an emergency physician at Sinai and Northwest hospitals in Baltimore, is out to fix during next year's legislative session.
December 18, 2009; 6:25 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner
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