With the threat of the 'Doomsday budget' looming, lawmakers at the Annapolis statehouse are under the gun to pass a state budget.
It seems all but certain that Maryland's General Assembly will convene later this month for a special session to complete unfinished work on the state budget, according to key lawmakers in Annapolis.
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) is the only person who can call a special session, and he chose not do so during a bill signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon at the Maryland state house. Senate President Mike Miller was pretty determined that lawmakers will be coming back in less than two weeks to avert the so-called "Doomsday" budget, $512 million in cuts that will go into place July 1 unless an alternative is passed.
"I think we're very close, and we're ready to move forward," said Miller. "I think we'll deal with it in a two-day session: May 14 and May 15, perhaps May 16. But it will get done."
To avoid the steep spending cuts in the "Doomsday" plan, lawmakers will, amongst many plans, have to pass an increase to the state income tax. State Sen. Jamie Raskin (D) expects that to be the only major topic during the special session.
"All of us got a little egg on our face by ending without budget clarity," he said. "And I think everybody wants to go back into session and get the job done right. We were very close to an agreement between the House and the Senate when we left."
A measure to expand gaming and allow a casino license for Prince George's County held up budget talks during the regular session. Miller, the most vocal supporter of that plan, would like to see it addressed during the May special session, but he conceded Wednesday that doesn't seem likely to happen — which will delay the casino's construction.
"Unlike any state in the union, you have to go back and get everything approved by referendum," Miller said. Which is a very difficult way to run a business much less an operation as big as this. But if we don't get this done now, it won't go to referendum until 2014."