Maryland’s Special Session: Whose Doomsday Budget?

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Courtesy of Citybizlist – There is widespread frustration and anger that the Maryland General Assembly was unable to handle the business of the budget by the end of its 90-day session. Unless lawmakers and the Governor agree to raise taxes at a special session, the “doomsday” budget that “cuts” $500 million will take effect at the start of the state’s fiscal year on July 1.

According to Len Lazarick’s article in Monday’s citybizlist, not surprisingly, a coalition of 60 groups sent a letter to the Governor, Speaker and Senate President urging a special session to increase income taxes so that education programs aren’t cut, college tuition isn’t raised and a myriad of worthy social programs stay funded. Just as predictably, Republicans and a Tea Party Group oppose any special session.

But what caught my attention was an editorial in last Friday’s Washington Post.

The normally liberal Post argued that even the doomsday budget provides for a 2% increase in state spending, and while cuts to some programs like education aid to Baltimore City would be painful, other programs, like legislative scholarships, deserve to be cut. To keep all these programs would require tax increases on families that are barely above middle class and make Maryland even less competitive with neighboring Virginia, according to the Post.

The Post’s suggestion is to implement a little of both: a smaller tax increase so that education cuts are avoided, but cut everything else.

Given the hue and cry over the “doomsday” budget, most Annapolis lawmakers will feel tremendous pressure to choose the path of least resistance when confronted with unions seeking to keep benefits, deserving families needing services, students struggling to pay college tuitions and local jurisdictions like Baltimore that will lose funding they are counting on. Resisting this coalition is going to be tough. Few programs will be deemed unworthy of funding.

Still, voters and taxpayers need to be persuaded that the cost of tax increases for many is worth the benefit of keeping these programs. The ongoing stories of government waste and mismanagement, including recent revelations of large overtime payments to city school employees and lavish renovations to offices at North Avenue, make one skeptical that we need to be saved from all those doomsday budget cuts.

Read more at Citybizlist

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