Republicans oppose calling special session, as unions organize to support one
Republican legislators and conservative groups are mounting a campaign against a special session of the legislature to raise taxes, as teachers and public employees advocates are organizing to bring the lawmakers back to Annapolis to do just that.
At a news conference Tuesday, Republican delegates downplayed cries that the the “doomsday budget” enacted by the General Assembly’s failure to pass a revenue bill last week would severely hurt Marylanders and said any special session would be “tax-laden” and costly.
House Republican Leader Anthony O’Donnell noted that despite cuts to the budget for fiscal year 2013, total spending still increases by nearly $700 million from fiscal 2012.
“We can survive until next year,” added O’Donnell, stating that the doomsday budget was a “lie foisted on the citizens of Maryland by those who want to come back in here and raise taxes.”
O’Donnell’s assertion was echoed by House Republican Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, who said cuts in the budget bill were crafted as a “coercion tool for tax hikes” meant to force reluctant Democrats to vote in favor.
Charts show spending increase
Flanked by several charts displaying data from the Department of Legislative Services, Republicans said that despite the focus on the additional $500 million in cuts that largely target education, overall spending and education funding actually increases to new highs under the budget.
Although O’Donnell said Republicans would have crafted a different budget, the silver lining of the “doomsday budget” was that Marylanders would face no new tax hikes.
“We should call it a day and give Marylanders a break,” O’Donnell said.
Petition drive by Americans for Prosperity
The Maryland chapter of Americans for Prosperity, which calims 38,000 members and was one of the original organizers of the Tea Party here, has launched a petition drive against a special session.
“During the legislative session, Annapolis politicians decided playing political games was more important than responsibly balancing our state budget – something working class Marylanders have to do every day,” said AFP-Maryland State Director Dave Schwartz, who recently left the staff of Rep. Andy Harris. ”Now they want a special session to spend more money and pass new tax hikes.”
Senate Republican Leader E.J. Pipkin also opposes the special session, saying the state could live with the budget for a year.
“The so-called doomsday budget cuts just 2% of the state’s general fund spending,” Pipkin said in an email. “It’s difficult to view a 2% cut as draconian. It’s not draconian. Actually, it’s modest.”
“What we have now is a budget that is balanced with spending cuts,” without raising taxes or fees, Pipkin said.
Bring lawmakers back, unions say
Those directly affected by the cuts have been calling on leaders to bring legislators back to the State House. A coalition of those most affected by the default budget, including educators and police officers, have organized a news conference at the Maryland State Education Association on Wednesday afternoon.
The Save Our State Coalition plans to unveil a “Doomsday Clock” that will countdown to the July 1 deadline legislators have to fix the default budget.
Although there remains no definitive plans for a special session to pass the revenue bill, it appears very likely that lawmakers will be summoned back to Annapolis.
Gov. Martin O’Malley, who has expressed disappointment at the failure of the General Assembly to protect education, was scheduled to meet with Senate President Mike Miller on Tuesday.
O’Malley met with House Speaker Michael Busch over the weekend and met with Senate President Mike Miller and three Senate Budget Committee members Tuesday afternoon.
According to a report by John Wagner of the Washington Post, after the meeting O’Malley told reporters: “The second we have a consensus, we’ll have a session. I’m just trying to bring us back to center here.”
O’Malley said the issue of a new casino in Prince George’s County continues to divide Busch and Miller.