May 17, 2012

State Roundup, May 17, 2012

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NEW BUDGET PASSES: It took three carefully scripted days, write Michael Dresser and Annie Linskey in the Sun, but Maryland’s ruling Democrats finally put in place the budget deal that eluded them in the waning hours of the state’s regular session last month.

Under the $260 million package, income tax rates for most Marylanders who report annual income above $100,000 will increase a quarter percentage. For joint filers, the new, higher rates will kick in at combined taxable income of $150,000, Aaron Davis blogs in the Post.

County governments across the state will see an additional $31.4 million in revenue as a result of the income tax adjustments in fiscal 2013, according to a fiscal analysis. That revenue will help to offset a provision to shift 50% of the “normal cost” of teacher pensions, or $136.6 million, to counties beginning in fiscal 2013, report Danielle Gaines and Daniel Leaderman for the Gazette.

Bryan Sears of Patch.com reports that fees for death certificates will also be doubled as will the tax on smokeless tobacco.

On the budget vote, 10 Democrats joined the Republicans, and 18 Democrats opposed the tax hikes with all the Republicans, as Len Lazarick lists them in MarylandReporter.com.

House members debated the bills for three hours yesterday with Republicans and some Democrats railing against the revenue package as overburdening on taxpayers and local governments, David Hill reports in the Washington Times.

While there may have been a winner in this special session – the Republicans who hammered away at the tax plans, budget hikes and delays of the Democrats – that may not matter so much when it comes time to go to the polls, opines the editorial board of the Sun.

Dave Collins of WBAL-TV reports that the do-over session undoes the doomsday budget, but that opponents of the new budget package argued for letting the doomsday budget cuts stand.

John Rydell of WBFF-TV reports the story from Annapolis.

Lawmakers say the new tax increases will hit only a fraction of taxpayers in Maryland. But there’s a tax bombshell that may hit nearly everyone. WBFF-TV interviews residents, policy wonk Marta Mossburg and Howard County Exec Ken Ullman.

State legislators passed measures that will both give and take away from Frederick County by replacing almost $6.4 million in school funding cuts with millions in estimated teacher pension costs, reports Bethany Rodgers of the Frederick News-Post.

SPECIAL SESSION PART DEUX: Shortly after the conclusion of Maryland’s first special legislative session of the year, Gov. Martin O’Malley committed to holding a second — on a possible gambling expansion, blogs John Wagner of the Post.

Earl Kelly of the Capital Gazette writes that Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller may decide to consider additional issues, including whether to override a Court of Appeals decision that declares pit bulls inherently dangerous.

POLITICAL HOT POTATO: In an analysis for the Sun, Annie Linskey writes that Gov. Martin O’Malley succeeded in pushing his tax plans through the General Assembly in the special session, but that success may not help him when he seeks higher office. Maryland’s top earners now have the highest 7th highest income tax rate in the country.

MCDONOUGH RACE-BAITING? Baltimore County Del. Pat McDonough said yesterday that the governor should send in the Maryland State Police to control “roving mobs of black youths” at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, prompting a colleague to label the message “race-baiting,” Michael Dresser reports in the Sun. Here’s a Sun story by Peter Hermann about the mobs.

O’MALLEY HEADS TO NH: Gov. O’Malley is headed to Manchester, NH, next month, booked as the “special guest” at the New Hampshire Democratic Party Convention on June 2, a trip certain to stoke talk about 2016 presidential ambitions, blogs John Wagner in the Post.

ON HARRY HUGHES: Dave Wheelan of Chestertown Spy interviews former Gov. Harry Hughes in this profile of an Eastern Shore resident Wheelan says would be “at the top of most people’s list as one of our very best.” The video interview lasts six minutes.

TEACHER SALARY CHECK: While Frederick County teachers continue their salary negotiations with the school board, some county commissioners are pushing to compare increases in teachers’ salaries during the past decade to those of county employees, reports Margarita Raycheva for the Gazette.

PRAY FOR PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT: The editorial board of the Salisbury Daily Times writes that it was right for a federal court judge to issue a temporary injunction against the Sussex County Council to halt the practice of reciting the lord’s prayer before each meeting, saying that public engagement is needed in government, not a display of religion that serves to make others uncomfortable.