First Click -- Maryland
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Tuesday, January, 26, 2010:
Budget and election-year politics collide
For weeks it has seemed that if Gov. Martin O'Malley's budget plan would factor substantively into re-election prospects, his trouble would come from Republicans and charges he failed to make the difficult decisions necessary to cut employees or services to bring spending in line with shrinking state tax revenue.
That calculus may have changed on Monday with a new front opening for O'Malley (D) as state budget woes and election-year politics converged in the surprise appearance of former Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry at the General Assembly's first major budget briefing.
Three days after a birthday party in Upper Marlboro for Curry that had nearly all the elements of a campaign kickoff, he worked the briefing room in Annapolis on Monday, fist-pumping and hugging members of the Baltimore delegation and stopping by afterward to register his complaints about the governor's spending plan with reporters.
Curry's gripe? Twofold, he said: There's unfairness laced into O'Malley's spending plan, that it takes money from Prince George's County and other poor areas and deposits it in rich areas, Montgomery County chief among them. Echoing Republican criticism, Curry also said the governor's plan fails to seriously deal with the state's long-term budget imbalance.
"Both speak of indifference of leadership," he said without uttering O'Malley's name.
Curry spent most of his time blasting a formula-driven change in disparity grants and other state aid to counties, saying he was baffled how "leadership" could consider it fair to increase funding to Montgomery County by nearly $74 million, while cutting aid to schools and other services in Prince George's by more than $27 million.
The funding changes were derived from last year's tax receipts and Curry insinuated the numbers were a recession-year anomaly that the governor's office should have worked harder to correct through a bill accompanying the budget.
"The formula wasn't ordained as the 11th commandment, it was enacted by code and so, code giveth, code changeth -- with leadership," Curry said. "It would be first time in my life that we [Prince George's County] ever got that close to anything regarding wealth with Montgomery County," he said. "Much remains to be seen and I'm going to apply myself to finding out how that can be."
On entering the governor's race, Curry would only say his future plans "remain to be seen." But if he plans to use funding inequity for Prince George's as an entry point, it's unclear how far a parochial issue could carry him in a statewide race.
-- Aaron C. Davis
News You Should Know
Budget analyst warns not to count on more stimulus
"A top Maryland budget analyst advised lawmakers on Monday that $389 million in new stimulus money assumed in the state budget may not materialize, and he counseled them on ways to make up for the money if it isn't approved," writes The AP's Brian Witte. First Click reported here last week that lawmakers would likely have to do so. "Warren Deschenaux, who is the director of the nonpartisan agency that reviews state fiscal matters, said there is enough cash on hand to make up for the gap. ... However, if lawmakers want to leave extra money in the budget to adjust for any further revenue drops Deschenaux advised them to look for other places to find the money."
O'Malley, Mikulski to tout GM investment
"Betting that hybrid and electric vehicles will play a growing role on American highways, General Motors is expected to announce Tuesday a $246 million investment to add production of electric motors at its White Marsh, Md., manufacturing plant," writes The Post's Peter Whoriskey. "Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) and local officials have scheduled a news conference there Tuesday."
Special order: Hold the ... entire restaurant
Pointing to studies that rank Prince George's residents among the least healthy in Maryland, community activist Arthur Turner and state Sen. David C. Harrington (D-Prince George's) want to limit new fast-food restaurants in the county, a far stricter approach than what has been enacted in such places as New York City and Montgomery County, which banned the use of trans fats in those establishments, reports The Post's Ovetta Wiggins.
Longtime legislative force Mathias dies
"Charles McC. Mathias Jr., 87 , a three-term U.S. senator from Maryland who often clashed with his fellow Republicans over court nominations, the Vietnam War and social issues and was one of the last unabashed Senate liberals in the GOP, died Monday at his home in Chevy Chase. He had Parkinson's disease," writes The Post's Matt Schudel.
Two of the state's most prominent Democrats were among the first to offer tributes through statements:
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Aaron C. Davis
January 26, 2010; 6:45 AM ET
Categories: Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner
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