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STATE BUDGET Gov. Martin O'Malley said that the state budget he proposes next month would be "more painful" than the last two, and hinted at deep cuts in spending, Annie Linskey reports for the Sun.

CUTS LIKELY And four state delegates from Howard County said they would try to maintain funding for health and human service programs, but with the state facing at least a $1.6 billion deficit, indicated that cuts are likely. Lindsey McPherson reports for the Howard County Times.

REVENUE UP Scott Dance of the Baltimore Business Journal reports that Maryland tax revenue estimates are edging up for the first time in three years helped by rising expectations for corporate and sales taxes.

In fact, for the current 2011 fiscal year, analysts are now projecting $57 million more in tax collections and other revenue than thought a few months ago, blogs the Post's John Wagner.

WBAL-TV's Dave Collins reports that, even so, the state's economy remains sluggish. Megan Poinski of MarylandReporter.com writes that O'Malley said the state is on "our last year or two" of the prolonged recession.

FRANCHOT PROTESTS DEBT The $33 million state debt burden for the State Center parking garage, as well as the absence of a formal agreement on labor costs or local hiring, led Comptroller Peter Franchot to vote against approving the parking garage lease agreement at yesterday's Board of Public Works meeting. The agreement was ultimately approved, reports Megan Poinski for MarylandReporter.com.

HANDFUL OF BUYOUTS Thus far, "a handful" of state employees has volunteered for buyouts, and the hope is that 1,500 eventually will, Gov. O’Malley said, the BBJ's Scott Dance reports.

Annapolis Capital opinionators call the state buyouts the "next step toward austerity."

CUMMINGS BIDS U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings is asking colleagues to support his bid to become the top-ranking Democrat on the House’s investigatory panel, blogs the Sun's Matthew Hay Brown.

IKE DISAPPOINTS SUN It was disappointing to hear Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett tell O'Malley that the county that provided so many of the votes to re-elect him governor should not be regarded as the "ATM machine for the rest of Maryland," opines the Sun editorial board.

MO CO MODERATION The editorial board at the Gazette writes that now that Montgomery's leaders have a menu of options to restore the county to fiscal health, a prevailing philosophy of moderation and fairness will help make some of the difficult decisions ahead more palatable.

RECALL BILL: Del. Barbara Frush of Beltsville will introduce a bill that could let residents recall officials charged with illegal activity, but she warned that the measure currently has little support from other state leaders, reports Daniel Valentine for the Gazette.

STOLTZFUSES DONATE Outgoing Sen. Lowell Stoltzfus and his wife, Sharon, set aside 52 acres of their land in Somerset County for conservation, a donation that abuts a larger parcel the couple agreed not to develop several years ago, blogs Annie Linskey for the Sun.

BA CO CABINET The Baltimore County Council is expected to approve County Exec Kevin Kamenetz's 18 cabinet appointees early next week, reports Steve Schuster of the Towson Times.

ASTI OATH Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge-elect Alison Asti will privately take the oath of office Monday and begin formal training over the next few weeks in the hopes that she can start hearing cases shortly after the ceremony, Scott Daugherty reports for the Annapolis Capital.

WORCESTER LIQUOR BOARD Lower Shore lawmakers who could take legislative steps to do away with Worcester County's Liquor Control Board are still weighing whether to do so, Brian Shane reports for the Salisbury Daily Times.

COSBY'S POL PITCH Comedian and actor Bill Cosby comes to Baltimore next month in an unexpected role: political fundraiser for Otis Rolley. Rolley, a former city housing and planning official, is challenging Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in the Democratic primary for mayor, reports the Sun.

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