January 17, 2013

State Roundup, January 17, 2012

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2014 $37.3 BILLION BUDGET: Maryland has all but weathered the economic downturn, Gov. Martin O’Malley said yesterday, releasing a $37.3 billion state budget that for the first time since he took office more than six years ago would require no new taxes or significant cuts to finish the year in the black, Aaron Davis of the Post is reporting.

Amid a stronger economy, Gov. O’Malley also proposed to boost the pay for state workers, expand tax credits for some high-tech industries and set aside more money to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, Michael Dresser and Erin Cox write in the Sun.

The budget O’Malley inherited in 2007 from Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich — a name he still refuses to utter – totaled $28.7 billion, writes Len Lazarick for MarylandReporter.com. The fiscal 2014 budget will be $8.5 billion higher than that, a 30% growth. Federal funds to Maryland have grown 55% over that time period to $9.8 billion.

O’Malley said he and Senate President Mike Miller were still discussing options for funding transportation projects, which many see as a top priority for lawmakers this session, Daniel Leaderman of the Gazette writes.

The Sun offers a quick list in pictures of how the budget proposal would affect individuals.

Steve Doty of the Washington Examiner has a 2-minute video report on the budget proposal.

PUBLIC SAFETY AID: Touting a 30-year low in violent crime, O’Malley proposed a nearly 50% increase in aid to local law enforcement agencies to keep Maryland safe in the coming fiscal year, including $67.5 million in aid to local governments and municipalities for police aid, reports Ben Weathers for the Capital-Gazette.

ENVIRONMENTAL WIN: Environmentalists came out big winners in the state budget proposal, writes Pamela Wood in the Capital Gazette. The governor is planning to put $31.5 million in the Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund, which pays for on-the-ground projects designed to improve water quality.

ARUNDEL SCHOOLS: At the end of his article, Tim Pratt of the Capital-Gazette lists Anne Arundel schools and what they would see in construction funding among a “priority” education budget that tops $6 billion.

FREDERICK ED AID UP: Locally, the governor is proposing a roughly $8 million increase over last year in funding for K-12 education in Frederick County, reports Bethany Rodgers in the Frederick News-Post.

WASHINGTON COUNTY’S LOT: Washington County’s Winebrenner Wastewater Treatment Plant will receive $9.1 million for miscellaneous improvements while Hagerstown Community College is slated to get $4.5 million to expand its student center as part of O’Malley’s budget, Kaustuv Basu writes in the Hagerstown Herald-Mail.

LANDMARK REPAIR: O’Malley has included cash for several aging Anne Arundel County landmarks in need of updating, including $500,000 for Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts in Annapolis, writes Alex Jackson of the Capital Gazette.

JUVIE JAIL PLAN SCRAPPED: After years of community opposition, state officials have abandoned plans to build a new Baltimore jail for juveniles charged as adults, citing declines in youth crimes as they unveiled a plan yesterday to send more teens to treatment programs and renovate a smaller facility for defendants in violent offenses, Yvonne Wenger reports in the Sun.

The Sun editorial board calls the decision to scrap the plans to build a $70 million youth jail a major win for the city and its youth, made possible both by the significant successes of recent years in reducing violent crime and by a renewed effort on the part of the Department of Juvenile Services to place troubled youth in more appropriate settings.

DEATH FOR TEACHER KILLERS: While some want to debate the repeal of the death penalty, Senate President Mike Miller would like to add “teacher killers” to the list of capital punishment eligible cases, Bryan Sears writes for Patch.com. Miller, who has six sisters who are teachers, said “… in my opinion teachers are the front line of democracy. Some thug comes in with a [Bushmaster] assault rifle and mows down the kids, in my opinion they should pay the ultimate price.”

FOCUS ON TRANSPORTATION FUNDING: Donald Fry, of the Greater Baltimore Committee, discusses with Lisa Harris Jones and Damian O’Doherty of Center Maryland why it’s critical that members of the General Assembly focus on funding for transportation this year. He also explains why 2013 is the perfect window of opportunity for meaningful energy legislation to be approved.

RECORD COMMITTEE MEETINGS: In his General Assembly Notebook, Bryan Sears of Patch.com highlights some noteworthy and unusual occurrences during the session, such as Sen. Allan Kittleman suggesting that committee voting sessions be audio-recorded for more transparency and a misunderstanding between Sen. Ron Young and Senate President Miller.

PG CASINO BIDS: Maryland is likely to launch the bidding process for a Prince George’s County casino on Jan. 31, John Wagner reports in the Post.

CRAIG UNDISCLOSED: Serious candidates for governor do not miss financial disclosure reporting deadlines, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun. But Harford County Executive David Craig is the only one of the six candidates believed to be considering a race to succeed O’Malley whose campaign disclosure was not posted before midnight. Repeated calls to the campaign and the county executive’s office yesterday were not returned — a strange departure for the normally accessible Craig.

BROWN’S FUND-RAISING: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown reported raising $1.25 million during the past year, enough to edge out his top Democratic rivals in the 2014 governor’s race. But, reports the Post’s John Wagner, Brown ranks third — behind Attorney General Doug Gansler and Howard County Executive Ken Ulman — in cash on hand as the jockeying to succeed O’Malley as governor starts to intensify.

ULMAN WAR CHEST: Campaign fund-raising totals from 2012 released yesterday show Howard County Executive Ken Ulman had just as successful a fund-raising year as any other potential candidate for governor in 2014, raising $1.14 million last year with an account that contains $2.13 million in available cash, Blair Ames reports in the Laurel Leader.

BGE RELIABILITY QUESTIONED: Howard County residents yesterday questioned why Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. should be allowed to increase rates on electric and gas customers after power reliability in the county has been a source of frustration, Blair Ames writes in the Howard County Times.

MORE SANDY AID FOR SOMERSET: Liz Holland of the Salisbury Daily Times reports that U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who was instrumental in getting federal disaster aid for Somerset County, said she intends to send more money to help Crisfield and the rest of the county rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.

LEOPOLD JURY SELECTION: A jury is expected to be seated this afternoon in Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold’s criminal misconduct case, writes Allison Bourg for the Capital-Gazette. If that happens, opening arguments could be heard by the end of the week.

About 336 residents were called for jury duty in the case, in which Leopold is charged with misconduct, the Gazette’s Margie Hyslop reports. According to the indictment, he used his security detail to transport him to parking lots for sex, hide the affair from his live-in girlfriend, compile dossiers on political enemies, collect campaign contributions, maintain his campaign signs and stand by while he removed opponents’ campaign signs.