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Maryland Legislature Adjourns Without Final Funding Deal

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Members of the Maryland General Assembly did adjourn on time Monday night after working all weekend to finish up their legislative session. But they did so in an unprecedented way that will likely bring lawmakers back to Annapolis very soon.

Both the Senate and the House passed operating budgets, but they did not pass the bill to fund the spending plan, which included an increase in the state income tax. If nothing changes, $500 million in budget cuts would go into effect later this year.  

When the chamber adjourned at midnight, Senate President Mike Miller (D) sounded hopeful.

"I'm not casting any blame on anybody. We got a lot done, and what we have to do now is come back into special session," he said. "And we can get all our work done in one or two days."

While Miller wasn't casting any blame, plenty of others were -- and many of them were pointing at Miller. Throughout the assembly's last day in session, House leaders accused the Senate of holding up the budget because the House had not taken any action on a bill to allow a casino in Prince George's County -- a measure that Miller vocally supported. 

"And in the end, we didn't get the slot machine bill for Prince George's County either," said House Majority Leader Del. Kumar Barve (D).

The House had actually okayed extending the session past midnight to solve the standoff, despite much uproar from Republicans. But the Senate did not do the same, much to the irritation of House Speaker Del. Mike Busch (D).

"The Senate opted not to extend the session and stay here and do the work of the people. They decided to adjourn with a doomsday budget," Busch said. "So, they felt the best course of action for the state was an all-cuts budget."

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) had the final word. Speaking to reporters just before 1 a.m. Tuesday, O'Malley did not mention Miller by name, but it was clear he was talking about him.

"The republic was not founded on gambling gimmicks, on bingos, or bake sales," he said. "If we want a better state for our kids, then we better come together and make decisions that protect the people's priorities."

Only the governor can call the assembly into a special session. When asked if he he will, O'Malley didn't give a definite answer. 

"I'm going to talk to the speaker and the senate president," he said. "There were 90 days to work all of this out."

The three jurisdictions that would be hurt most under the so-called 'doomsday budget' would be Prince George's and Montgomery counties and the city of Baltimore. Combined, the three would lose close to $100 million in education funding alone.

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