State Roundup, January 18, 2012

January 18, 2012 at 7:40 am

CLOSING BUDGET GAP: Aaron Davis and John Wagner of the Post report that Marylanders making six-figure salaries or more would pay higher income taxes to help cover the state’s budget shortfall and rising teacher pension costs under a spending plan that Gov. Martin O’Malley.

As part of a plan to address Maryland’s $1.1 billion budget shortfall, Gov. O’Malley will propose a groundbreaking shift of teacher pension costs from the state to local governments, Michael Dresser and Annie Linskey report for the Sun.

House Speaker Michael Busch told Nick Sohr of the Daily Record that he did not see “a whole lot of proposals to increase taxes” in the O’Malley’s upcoming budget proposal: “We talked about adjusting some of the exemptions that currently exist in the law, particularly on high earners.”

Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post reports that O’Malley will ask counties to shoulder the expenses to help narrow a projected $1.1 billion deficit in this year’s state budget.

O’Malley also will propose doubling the state’s $30 annual “flush” tax, which helps fund sewage treatment facilities, writes Hayley Peterson in the Washington Examiners.

SALES TAX HIKE: Annapolis Capital opinionators write that there’s no point in discussing any tax increase, let alone one as unpopular as the penny sales tax increase, without getting state Senate President Mike Miller on board.

HEALTH ZONES: In pushing for Health Enterprise Zones, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown said, “There is, I think, both a moral imperative and, quite frankly, an economic imperative and a case to be made that health disparities need to be eliminated.” Miranda Spivack writes the story for the Post.

The Sun editorial board calls this a promising idea that deserves further exploration; the need is obvious, the disparities are well-documented and a plan to test the program’s effectiveness through a series of pilot projects offers an affordable, relatively low-risk approach to the problem.

SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION: The Post’s Victor Zapana reports that Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed a slight cut in the school construction fund over the next six years — the first decrease in recent memory. In the meantime, state officials are aggressively pushing for more school construction.

School construction projects in Frederick County will be ahead of schedule if proposed funding is approved by the Board of County Commissioners, writes Blair Ames for the Frederick News-Post.

FLAWED ACCOUNTING: A flawed, outdated and ineffective method of accounting is the reason why the Developmental Disabilities Administration had a startling $33 million in unspent funds, and Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Joshua Sharfstein said that the agency is committed to fixing those problems, writes Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.

HALF & HALF: A new Gonzales poll finds Marylanders nearly split down the middle on two hot issues that will likely appear on the November ballot – same-sex marriage and tuition breaks for illegal immigrants, according to a story by Len Lazarick in MarylandReporter.com.

BUSINESS SURVEY: As legislators in Annapolis gather to debate new ways of generating jobs and revenue in an overall down economy, the Merrick School of Business is out with its fourth quarter survey of businesses, giving some fresh but dour insights into the state of Maryland’s economy, Mike Rosenwald blogs for the Post.

GLOBAL EDUCATION: While Maryland schools should be commended for achieving the highest marks in the nation in the recent Quality Counts survey by Education Week, writes the editorial board for the Frederick News-Post, U.S. schools need to be mindful that as members of a global community, we may not stack up.

BLUE RIBBON SCHOOLS: Erica Green of the Sun writes that six elementary schools have been added to the prestigious Maryland list of Blue Ribbon designees after they were recognized as the highest performers and for raising achievement of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

O’MALLEY CREED: Columnist Marta Mossburg cleverly lambastes O’Malley in the Sun with her take on his ambitious political creed.

COMPTROLLER RUN: State Sen. Jim Rosapepe is announcing a large list of advisers as he embarks on a run for the comptroller’s seat in 2014, blogs Maryland Juice.

HARRIS UNOPPOSED: While U.S. Rep. Andy Harris will likely run unopposed in April’s primary election, at least three Democrats are vying to oppose him in November, Patch.com’s Emily Kimball reports.

O’MALLEY MOCKS ROMNEY: Gov. O’Malley, in Myrtle Beach for the Republican primary at the behest of the Democratic National Committee, derided Mitt Romney as a “corporate raider” for his tenure at Bain Capital, slammed his job-creation claims as governor of Massachusetts and mocked for “his ability to take both sides of many controversial issues,” blogs John Wagner of the Post.

JONES OUT: Nicole Fuller of the Sun writes that the Anne Arundel County Council voted unanimously yesterday to remove member Daryl Jones from his seat when he reports to federal prison next week.

TRANSGENDER BIAS: Supporters of legislation meant to prohibit discrimination against transgender people in Baltimore County said the county must protect transgender people in the workplace and other areas. Opponents said they fear the bill would have dangerous consequences, including allowing men into women’s restrooms, Alison Knezevich writes for the Sun.

TERM LIMITS: The Sun editorial board writes that just on their handling of council members’ pensions alone, few legislative bodies in Maryland have shown themselves more richly in need of term limits than the Baltimore County Council. However, the county ought to reject term limits as a “solution” that merely creates new problems.

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