$39.3 BILLION BUDGET: Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley unveiled a $39.2 billion budget Wednesday that offered few new initiatives but that he said would close a projected $421 million deficit without raising taxes and put the state on a path toward removing a structural deficit by 2017, reports Frederick Kunckle of the Post.
- But as the budget was distributed Wednesday afternoon, House Minority Leader Nic Kipke said there still “aren’t enough jobs to go around.” Kipke accused O’Malley of “setting up this budget to put pressure on the next governor to raise taxes.” Kipke said no matter what is said, O’Malley is still growing the budget by nearly $2 billion, reports Alex Jackson in the Annapolis Capital.
- To close Maryland’s $584 million revenue shortfall, Gov. O’Malley’s budget seeks to close the deficit without raising taxes. Instead, 74% ($457 million) of the revenue is made up through spending cuts while 26% ($163 million) comes from the sale of old helicopters and other transfers and payments. The budget also leaves $800 million (5% of the general fund balance) in Maryland’s Rainy Day fund and leaves $37 million unallocated, according to Maryland’s Money Matters blog.
- Frederick County is poised to see increases this year in state funding for education and local roads projects from this year’s budget proposal, reports Bethany Rodgers for the Frederick News Post.
- In an analysis for MarylandReporter.com, Len Lazarick reports that over seven years the budget largely grew in money sent to the counties for public schools, and to health providers to take care of low income residents. Higher education spending also grew, slowing tuition growth, but state universities now employ more than 3,000 more people.
HEALTH COVERAGE: Maryland health exchange workers are focusing the next few days on calling and emailing thousands of uninsured people to see if they need coverage for this month and to let them know they have until Tuesday at 5 p.m. to sign up for private health insurance that would be retroactive to Jan. 1, reports Jenna Johnson for the Post.
- The chairman of the Maryland Senate Finance Committee, after expressing frustration with not being informed of brewing problems with the state’s health exchange, has asked state officials to now provide updates on the status of the exchange every two weeks, Johnson writes in the Post.
- SORRY SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD: Sun opinionist Dan Rodricks writes that at Tuesday’s legislative hearing in Annapolis, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, point man on Obamacare in Maryland, refused to say he was sorry for the disastrous and embarrassing launch of the state’s health insurance website. Bad move.
- Fraser Smith of WYPR-FM opines that we are once again viewing a world of shocking government failure with Chris Christie’s George Washington Bridge caper and Anthony Brown’s health care sign-up fiasco. Are these people living in bubbles? Did they really think no one would find out what they were doing, or not doing?
VETERANS COURT: CNS’s Brandon Goldner reports in the Cecil Whig that a Maryland state task force has recommended that a veterans court, which are similar to drug courts, be established at the Circuit Court level in Prince George’s County. The county is home to the largest veteran population in the state.
AN EDUCATION GOVERNOR: Given the high level of educational attainment by Maryland residents and the demand by Maryland businesses for highly educated employees, being pro-education is a must for any candidate for the office of governor. The question for this election is whether any of the contenders will be the champion of major reform that is needed to move the state ahead in what is increasingly becoming an international competition, writes Laslo Boyd for Center Maryland.
ON THE FUND-RAISING FRONT
GOVERNOR: Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown surged into the lead in fundraising in the Democratic campaign for governor as he built up his treasury to slightly more than $7 million. Brown’s strong performance over the past year vaulted him above Attorney General Doug Gansler, who on Wednesday reported having $6.3 million on hand, writes Michael Dresser for the Sun.
- Meanwhile, a third Democratic candidate for governor, Del. Heather Mizeur and her running mate, raised more than $1.1 million during the past year and had roughly $750,000 on hand, reports John Wagner of the Post.
- Maryland’s three announced Republican candidates for governor have posted weak numbers in the campaign finance reports due Wednesday – leaving the door wide open for the expected entry of a new contender, reports Michael Dresser in the Sun. Larry Hogan, founder of the conservative advocacy group Change Maryland, plans to announce his candidacy Tuesday.
ATTORNEY GENERAL: Sen. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery) finished the year with more than twice as much money in the bank as any of his rivals for Maryland attorney general, reports John Wagner in the Post.
MO CO EXEC RACE: Bill Turque of the Post writes that according to reports filed Wednesday with the Maryland State Board of Elections, Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett has opened up a better than 3-to-1 cash advantage over Democratic primary opponent Doug Duncan in his bid for a third term.
ARUNDEL EXEC RACE: Pamela Wood of the Sun reports that in the race for Anne Arundel County executive, Republican Del. Steve Schuh has reported having nearly $865,000 cash on hand, more than three times as much money in the bank as either of his political rivals. His opponent in the Republican primary, County Executive Laura Neuman, reported having nearly $228,000 available.
ARUNDEL EDUCATION: Alex Jackson of the Annapolis Capital writes that while Anne Arundel delegates have disagreed over whether to have an elected school board or an appointed one, they all agree that the county needs more high schools.