March 30, 2011

Blog: Senate easily shoots down GOP changes as it passes budget

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Do you want to kill our budget amendments tonight, or save the steamroller for tomorrow?

That was the key question the 12-member Senate Republican caucus had to answer Tuesday evening as the Senate debated the governor’s $34 billion budget.

Senate Minority Whip E.J. Pipkin of the Upper Shore had the most amendments and wanted to save the debate till the morning. But Sen. J.B. Jennings of Baltimore and Harford counties had flown back yet again from his Air Force training in Georgia to vote against the budget and he wanted to do it Tuesday.

After some disarray, the dozen Republicans had a brief meeting off the floor in the Senate lounge and decided to take their poison Tuesday evening.

Following barely 80 minutes of debate on the budget and the legislation to implement it, the Senate approved it 37-10, with two Republicans voting for the budget as they had in committee.

In rapid order, and with minimal discussion in the often long-winded Senate, the senators defeated nine Republican amendments. The changes would have cut funding for Medicaid abortions and stem cell research, increased transit fares, eliminated new fee hikes and transfers from pension savings, and provided relief for businesses implementing a proposed alcohol tax.

For the first time in his nine years in the Senate, Sen. David Brinkley of Frederick County voted against the budget both in the Budget & Taxation Committee and on the floor. “We’ve reached a level of frustration,” Brinkley said. He blamed Gov. Martin O’Malley for dumping the problems in his budget plan on the legislators.

“The second floor [governor’s office] did nothing to help anybody,” Brinkley complained, leaving the lawmakers to come up with more cuts, fees and taxes. “It’s not right.”

But Democratic Sen. Jim Rosapepe of College Park defended O’Malley.

“Our governor has shown leadership” over the last four years, cutting billions in planned spending increases and raising revenues, Rosapepe said. “There’s a reason why he was re-elected with the biggest margin in 20 years.”

The Senate made some changes in the budget passed by the House last week, particularly on pensions. Those will have to be resolved in a conference committee before the legislature adjourns April 11.

—Len Lazarick
Len@MarylandReporter.com