March 15, 2010

Senate subcommittees cut $200 million from governor’s budget

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By Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com

Two Senate budget committees cut about $200 million from Gov. Martin O’Malley’s $32 billion budget, with community colleges and private colleges taking major hits, along with dozens of other health and education programs.

“What we’ve done is ugly,” said Sen. Nancy King, D-Montgomery. “We still may have to cut more.”

The cuts must be approved by the full Budget and Taxation committee [CORRECTION] Thursday. They put the senators halfway toward a vague goal of cutting $500 million in fiscal 2011. Senators are hoping those cuts will carry over into the following year.

“You just give people something to work for,” said Sen. Nathaniel McFadden of $500 million target. McFadden, a Baltimore City educator, acted to stem millions in proposed cuts to school programs, including fine arts education. He said school administrators had pushed back with strong justification for some of the programs.

“There’s still a long way to go,” said Sen. David Brinkley, R-Frederick, a committee member and co-sponsor of a Republican budget plan that includes shifting half the costs of teacher pensions to the counties.

The health and education subcommittee held off action on a $60 million reduction in funding of teacher pensions or other aid to education.

“We have not decided to do that,” said Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, D-Baltimore-Howard, chair of the health and education subcommittee.

The subcommittee cut about $148 million from a variety of programs, and it approved a transfer of $389 million from the a reserve fund to pay for local income tax collections in case additional Medicaid funding from the federal government does not materialize.

“We thought about not doing it,” Kasemeyer said, but he said the budget would be hard to justify on the Senate floor without a contingency plan for the federal cash.

Some of the largest cuts were $22 million for Sellinger aid to private colleges and universities and $23 million for community colleges, both of which had been proposed by O’Malley.