Senate President Mike Miller, Governor Martin O'Malley, and House Speaker Mike Busch at a very tense bill signing ceremony Tuesday.
Bill signing ceremonies are typically joyous or triumphant affairs, but the one at the Maryland state house Tuesday was neither. Tension and awkwardness filled the air just hours after the General Assembly failed to pass a budget bill that would have, among other moves, raised the state income tax.
Maryland Governor O'Malley still won't say whether he will call a special session to devise a budget, which lent an awkward air to the signing ceremony. O'Malley sat between the heads of each chamber -- Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch -- as each lamented how the yearly session ended.
"We cannot change the past," said House Speaker Busch. "We can only change the future. And in many ways, thanks to the work of this session, we are changing that future for the better. In other ways, we are taking a step back."
Senate President Miller disagreed, saying, "Well, we didn't fail anybody. We didn't take a step back."
Miller continued to say he would not cast blame, but stated that the divisions in the House prevented delegates from coming to an agreement on taxes on time. Busch responded by placing the blame on the Senate.
"I learned one thing when I played sports: if you don't have the ball you can't score a touchdown," said Miller. "If you don't have the revenue package, you can't take a vote on it."
Without the funding measure, the state has a budget that will cut $500 million later this year, with most of the reductions coming in education. Miller says that may get lawmakers to act during a special session.
"See, that's the reason we put that Doomsday budget out there," said Miller. "If you don't have the chutzpah or the nerve or the guts or the gumption to pass taxes, that's what's going to happen. So now those people who don't want to vote on revenues will say 'We'll come together and we'll make it happen.'"
The only problem for Miller is that the governor is the only one who can call a special session. And O'Malley tersely pointed out that he made no mention of a special session during today's ceremony.