There was a lot of horsing around in Annapolis Tuesday, as a more than hundred representatives of Maryland’s diverse horse industry gathered to lobby legislators for an array of horsey priorities. Thoroughbred racing and the gambling that goes with it has often been the focus of the General Assembly, but leaders of the $1.6 billion industry have formed a coalition to emphasize the broader interests of the horsey set. Maryland has about 80,000 horses on 587,000 acres — 10% of the state’s land, more horse per square mile than any state, the industry says.
The good news on Maryland revenues is that there is no more bad news and some slight growth, leading to calls of “restrained optimism” and “caution” by top state officials. But the sobering news underlining the on-target revenue projections for this year and next is that they are only growing at 3 to 4% because middle class incomes have been largely flat. The slower growth with a static economy is the new normal for a state that had been used to 5% overall growth.
Gov. Larry Hogan will host the annual holiday party for state employees Thursday afternoon at the governor’s mansion. But outside Government House, members of the state’s largest public employee union, AFSCME, plan on protesting what they say is the administration’s failure to negotiate a new contract or respond to any union proposals, despite a Dec. 31 deadline in state law.
Talk about an uneven fight! When it comes to shaping the Maryland state budget Gov. Larry Hogan Jr. is the pre-determined champion.
Think of the budget as a balloon. The governor decides how much air gets pumped into the balloon ($40 billion). Once this is done, the legislature can let out some of that air — but it can’t expand the size of the balloon at all.
Though he’s listed as chief sponsor of a bill that would cut Maryland’s estate tax, Senate President Mike Miller said Wednesday he only “reluctantly” supports his legislation, and its House equivalent, which delegates passed last week.
But, Miller said, it is important to keep Maryland’s rate competitive to those of other states.
With minimal debate, the Maryland Senate rejected a half dozen Republican attempts to further trim Gov. Martin O’Malley’s $39 billion budget Wednesday, and gave preliminary approval to the spending plan that will be sent to the House this week.
The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee ultimately cut $492 million from the current budget and O’Malley’s proposal for next year, partly to make up for lowered revenue estimates in both years.
Much or all of an annual $300 million extra payment into Maryland’s pension system is on the chopping block as Senate budgeters seek to balance Gov. Martin O’Malley’s $39 billion budget at a voting session Friday.
The General Assembly’s Spending Affordability Committee recommended Wednesday that next year’s state budget be allowed to grow by 4% and Maryland’s debt limit be allowed to increase $75 million to $1.16 billion next year.