January 19, 2012

State Roundup, January 19, 2012

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BUDGET UNVEILED: Gov. Martin O’Malley yesterday morning released a $35.9 billion state operating budget that shifts $293 million to the counties to pay for teachers’ pensions, the Annapolis Capital’s Earl Kelly reports.

The Gazette’s Steve Kelly looks at the highlights of O’Malley’s budget, focusing on all the new ways the governor plans to raise revenues.

INCOME TAX HIKE: O’Malley said the average family of four making $150,000 a year would pay $191 more in state and local income taxes. This would raise about $182 million for the state and $111 million in county piggy-back taxes, partly helping to offset a shift of the cost of teacher pensions to county governments, Len Lazarick reports for MarylandReporter.com.

The proposed changes to the income tax would keep the tax rate the same but deductions and exemptions would be phased out for those making over six figures, write Annie Linskey and Michael Dresser in the Sun. And the Sun’s Jay Hancock explains how this action won’t harm the state’s tax rate rankings with the Tax Foundation.

O’Malley defended his plan to raise taxes on residents who earn six-figure salaries or more, saying he considered it the “fairest way” to help close the state’s latest budget shortfall, writes Aaron Davis for the Post.

The Sun offers up a photo display to help explain how the proposed budget would affect various Marylanders.

PENSION TENSION: For the Annapolis Capital, Mike Bock and Lizzy Mclellan of Capital News Service interview a number of county executives who are bracing against the idea of their jurisdictions picking up more of the cost of their teacher pensions.

The governor’s plan to shift teacher pensions to local jurisdictions is estimated to cost Frederick County more than $1.4 million if adopted, even after relief measures water down its impact, the Frederick News-Post’s Bethany Rodgers reports.

O’Malley’s plan is expected to cost Washington County about $2.5 million, writes Andrew Schotz for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

Talbot County Public Schools could pay an additional $750,000 for teachers’ pensions in fiscal year 2013, significantly less than anticipated, writes Dustin Holt of the Easton Star Democrat.

The editorial board for the Frederick News-Post writes that while jurisdictions bristle at the notion, some type of teacher pension cost-sharing is inevitable.

DISABILITIES FUNDING: After a rocky six months for the Developmental Disabilities Administration,O’Malley’s fiscal 2013 budget proposal increases funding to it by about $31 million, and creates a new fund so unspent money will stay in the agency, writes Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com.

UM TUITION HIKE: Tuition at the University of Maryland would rise 3% under O’Malley’s budget proposal, Lisa Gartner reports for the Washington Examiner.

OTHER HIKES: The budget also calls for an increase in the state’s so-called “flush tax” and higher taxes on cigars and smokeless tobacco, David Hill writes for the Washington Times.

Revenue from the flush tax goes into the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund to upgrade sewage treatment plants, writes Daniel Menefee for MarylandReporter.com.

PARKS BUDGET: O’Malley has proposed $950,000 for parking lot improvements at Point Lookout State Park and $398,000 to renovate the Point Lookout Lighthouse complex as part of $23 million in the state’s fiscal 2013 budget for state parks, according to a story in SoMDNews.com.

ANIMAL ABUSE REGISTRY: State Sen. Ronald Young is proposing a bill to create a registry of those accused of abusing animals in an effort to keep pets from those who have a history of harming animals, Meghan McCorkell reports for WJX-TV. A similar registry is in effect in Massachusetts.

GAS TAX HIKE EXPECTED: O’Malley will recommend new ways to raise transportation revenue within the next two weeks, and is widely expected to include an increase in the state’s gasoline tax, writes Hayley Peterson for the Washington Examiner.

GUBERNATORIAL WARCHESTS: The Sun’s Michael Dresser reports that Attorney General Doug Gansler, the first of the expected Democratic contenders for the 2014 gubernatorial nomination to report his fund-raising totals for last year, has more than $4 million in the bank after taking in more than $1 million in 2011.

John Wagner of the Post writes that of the other Democratic hopefuls, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman said his report would show $1.3 million in the bank, while a summary released by Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown reported more than $810,000 on hand. An aide to Comptroller Peter Franchot said he has more than $1 million in the bank.

Over the past year, Ulman has received 1,500 donations to his campaign, coming from donors in 15 counties across the state, writes Lindsey McPherson for the Howard County Times.

CARDIN GETS 51%: U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin begins the election year with good marks from a bare majority of all Marylanders and a more sizable share of his fellow Democrats. Ben Pershing writes about the Gonzales survey for the Post.

BA CO GOP: When Baltimore County Republicans vote in primary elections every four years, they also cast ballots for the chairman of their local party. State Sen. J.B. Jennings, a Baltimore County Republican, introduced a measure in Annapolis that would let the county party’s central committee — rather than the general population — elect its leader, the Sun’s Alison Knezevich reports.

TRANSGENDER BIAS: Montgomery County Police Chief Thomas Manger says it is not true that his jurisdiction has had four rapes where men dressed as women to assault women in bathrooms. He was defending his county’s 2007 transgender anti-discrimination law as opponents of a similar bill in Baltimore County fight the proposal, Alison Knezevich writes for the Sun.

JONES’ BLOCK REJECTED: A retired Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge yesterday afternoon rejected Daryl Jones’ bid to remain on the County Council a day after councilmen voted to remove him from office, Allison Bourg reports for the Annapolis Capital.

But before Councilman Jones was unanimously removed from office by his peers, Bourg also writes in the Capital, he ticked off a list of accomplishments from his years on the council, including getting funds to renovate Belle Grove Elementary School in Brooklyn Park and helping to form the first county AIDS commission.

ELECTED SCHOOL BOARD: In his latest attempt to promote an elected Anne Arundel County school board, state Sen. Bryan Simonaire has not one, not two, but three different bills for lawmakers to consider, Pamela Wood of the Annapolis Capital reports.

LOWER SHORE DISTRICTING: The 2012 state legislative redistricting process has yielded a map that radically changes the political landscape on the Lower Shore — some would say for the better, and others, not so much, writes the editorial board for the Salisbury Daily Times.

FIRE & RESCUE FINANCES: Washington County’s state lawmakers yesterday reviewed a draft bill that would add new oversight to the finances of the Washington County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, Andrew Schotz reports for the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.