Tuesday, April 10, 2012

CHAOS: Maryland Budget Stalemate Unfolds on Twitter // Doomsday Cuts Unless O'Malley Intervenes to Extend Session

UPDATE: According to remarks that appeared in The Baltimore Sun, Governor O'Malley plans on calling a special session -- but not before House and Senate leaders have come to an actual agreement.

Chaos unfolded as we crossed past midnight last night, on what was supposed to be the last day of Maryland's 2012 legislative session. Below we highlight comments from various politicos on Twitter that were made as the drama unfolded.

Notably, the Maryland General Assembly adjourned without a complete budget package. Most observers could not remember the last time this had happened. As a result of the budget stalemate, Maryland will lapse into a "doomsday budget" with massive education cuts, unless Governor Martin O'Malley intervenes and calls for a special legislative session. Below we highlight a few points of conflict between the House and Senate, and we flag a few interesting subplots and moments from yesterday's contentious legislative session. We kick off the post with a brief summary of what went down from an article today at Maryland Reporter (excepts below):
MARYLAND REPORTER: The members of the General Assembly passed a $35.6 billion balanced budget as they were required to do by midnight Monday. But without the income tax hike they failed to enact, it is the doomsday budget that contains $512 million in additional cuts, much of it to education.

A clearly angry Gov. Martin O’Malley told reporters the General Assembly failed to protect the priorities that state voters expected them to do. But in a brief press conference, he did not announce he would call a special session, as the Senate and House leaders expect him to do.

“There was 90 days to work all this out,” O’Malley said as he walked away....

The cuts include over $200 million to K-12 education and $63 million to colleges and universities. State employees would not get a 2% cost of living increase ($33 million) and agency operating expenses would be cut 8%.

The article at Maryland Reporter also highlights some of the key points of contention between the House and the Senate:
O’Malley and House Speaker Michael Busch both blamed Senate President Mike Miller’s insistence on a gaming measure for Prince George’s County for holding up action. But others, including delegates and senators on the conference committee, said the hard philosophical positions on both sides played a role....
The gaming bill, which passed the House Ways and Means Committee Monday afternoon, never came to the House floor.
The House never brought up the tax hike that the House and Senate negotiators agreed to around 8 p.m. An unhappy group of senators had given into adamant delegates over the form of income tax hikes.
The House version raised less money than the Senate, increasing rates by .25% on individuals making more than $100,000 and lowering their exemptions....
“We did the best we could,” Miller said. He admitted that there would be many constituents that would be happy about the drastic budget cuts.

FINGER-POINTING: Throughout yesterday, Maryland Juice was hearing rumblings from folks in Annapolis about the House and Senate spats. Each side was pointing fingers at the other, and at times things got heated. Take a look at the following photo posted on Twitter by The Washington Post's Aaron Davis yesterday. The image shows members of the Maryland House testily waiting for negotiators from the Senate to resume negotiations:

The Washington Times earlier in the day had coverage that highlighted sources of friction between the House and the Senate. They confirm some of the points in the Maryland Reporter coverage and also provide specificity about some budget items:
WASHINGTON TIMES: The House and Senate are locked in a standoff on the final scheduled day of the 2012 General Assembly, as leaders of both chambers have yet to compromise on a set of tax increases as part of the state’s budget....

The chambers have agreed to raise income-tax rates and lower the value of personal exemptions on single residents making more than $100,000 and couples making more than $150,000 but are divided on whether to also lower exemption values for residents who earn below those thresholds.

The Senate wants to lower the value of personal exemptions from $3,200 to $3,000 for earners below the mark, but the House is intent on making sure that no tax increases affect residents making less than six figures a year....

Either chamber’s proposal would produce a balanced budget, but Senate members argued larger revenue increases are needed to prevent further tax hikes in the near future....

Negotiators have resolved most other aspects of the state budget package, but talks took a more adversarial tone Monday as Senate leaders argued they have made all the compromises thus far and that the House refuses to reciprocate.

House leaders accused the Senate of intentionally holding up the budget to pressure the House into passing a gambling bill that could bring table games to the state and a casino to Prince George’s County.

THREE O'MALLEY PRESS CONFERENCES: You can see Governor O'Malley's displeasure with this situation as it grows throughout the day, by looking at three back-to-back press conferences he held. Maryland Reporter posted a video of the Governor speaking after the close of the legislative session, while the Patch published two video of Mr. O'Malley speaking to the press before the close of session. See the three videos below. We start with Governor O'Malley's comments made after the meltdown emerged. In blistering comments (see the first video), he stated:
GOVERNOR O'MALLEY: I have to tell you that sadly we did not protect the priorities of public education this session, like we should have, like we could have -- as we had the ability to do -- and we didn't protect affordable college. I'm going to talk to the Speaker, and I'm going to talk to the Senate President. There was 90 days to work all of this out. 


TWITTER DRAMA: Much of the drama could be seen unfolding throughout the day on Twitter. Below, Maryland Juice provides screencaps of an array of tweets that were sent by politicos during the budget battle. Our panel of conscripted Tweeters includes Washington Post reporter Aaron Davis, Examiner reporter Ben Giles, the Real Prince George's blog, Democratic Delegates Jill Carter and Ariana Kelly, Republican Delegate Justin Ready, Democratic Senator Rich Madaleno, and Governor Martin O'Malley. View a snapshot of the craziness below:





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