A tax-weary legislature has no stomach to raise needed transportation revenues. Everybody agrees that a good transportation network of roads, highways, bridges and mass transit are an essential underpinning of the Maryland economy. But there’s no agreement on how to pay for this transportation system in the 21st century.
Two Maryland think tanks are proposing that the state charge a license fee as high as $500 million for new National Harbor Casino, saying anything less, such as the current $18 million license fee, “would be a giveaway, corporate welfare, or taxpayer rip-off.”
In its annual scripted performance, the Spending Affordability Committee in Annapolis Thursday decided to just about eliminate the state’s structural deficit, but allow spending to rise about 4% next year, for an overall state budget of $37 billion in fiscal 2014. The Board of Revenue Estimates approved a slight uptick in revenues, but the big unknown is what will happen in Washington on the fiscal cliff.
By the bare minimum of 71 votes, the House of Delegates Monday night gave Senate President Mike Miller the kind of “sine die” adjournment he had expected April 9: The delegates passed a bill asking voters in November to approve table games and a sixth gambling casino in Prince George’s County.
The delegate who chairs the House’s gambling subcommittee still doesn’t think there will be a special legislative session this summer to expand gaming in Maryland. And if there is one, the only topic should be permitting table games at the existing slots casinos, not adding a sixth casino at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Del. Frank Turner told MarylandReporter.com Sunday.
As one delegate put it, it was déjà vu all over again as the House of Delegates on Tuesday rejected amendments to a revised spending plan and $300 million in tax hikes that had often been proposed in the regular 90-day session. The Senate passed the bills earlier in the day, and the House is set to take a final vote Wednesday.
In this podcast, House Speaker Michael Busch spoke to reporters about the budget and the cuts that would have to be made if tax increases don’t pass. “Only 16% of Marylanders are being asked to pay a little more.”
The pressure is mounting for a special session to raise the taxes that failed to pass as the legislature adjourned April 9 and “fix” a “doomsday” budget with cuts that had been specifically designed to scare up votes for tax hikes.
Details have not been worked out, but legislators have been advised that Gov. Martin O’Malley will likely call a special session for the week of May 14.
Gov. Martin O’Malley addressed more than 60 business leaders from India and Maryland in an attempt to strengthen trade and investment. But in an interview, O’Malley said two special sessions for the legislature are likely — one in May to resolve budget issues and another in August to deal with gaming. He also suggested it might be time to create a new gaming commission to regulate gambling in the state.
At a forum sponsored by Maryland Business for Responsive Government last week, four journalists wrap up the legislative session and look ahead to the prospects for a special session to resolve the budget mess. The panel included Andy Green of the Baltimore Sun, Kenneth Burns of WBAL and WNAV, Len Lazarick of MarylandReporter.com and John Rydell of Fox 45.