Maryland General Assembly Passes New Budget

Gale Horton Gay | 5/23/2012, 12:25 p.m.

It took only three days of a Maryland General Assembly special session for legislators to hammer out and pass a new state budget for 2013 that includes a $264 million tax package.

The good news is the tax package averts the $500 million in spending cuts that would have resulted if the so-called "doomsday" budget had gone into effect July 1.

The bad news is the tax package means increases in the income tax rate for 14 percent of Maryland taxpayers.

The deal was approved by the House 77-60 on May 16 after which the special session was adjourned.

"With their leadership and willingness to come together, we have placed our state back on the path to fiscal stewardship, and avoided cuts to our shared priorities of job creation, education, affordable college, care for our most vulnerable Marylanders, and public safety," Governor Martin O'Malley said of the General Assembly.

Prince George's top official called the new budget "sensible, pragmatic and reasonable."

Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker, III cited several areas of restored funding specific to the county in the budget including: $38.3 million in funding to address the higher costs of educating students in metropolitan areas, $3.8 million in law enforcement grants that assist the county in reducing violent crime and strengthening drug enforcement and $2.2 million in disparity grant funding to enhance public services.

Other areas of restored funding that he cited are $1.3 million in formula funding for Prince George's Community College to support continuing education and $228,000 in funding to strengthen emergency preparedness and management. Baker also mentioned that an additional $9.6 million in supplemental teacher retirement grants was secured to help offset the state's partial shift of teacher pension costs to the county.

Baker applauded the efforts of the Prince George's delegation.

"I also want to specifically acknowledge the hard work of the Prince George's County delegation to protect the priorities and interests of the county's residents," Baker said.

O'Malley reiterated his message that Maryland's investments in jobs, education, health care and public safety are paying dividends and it is one of only eight states with a triple-A bond rating with a top-rated public education system.

"We cannot afford to go back," said O'Malley. "There is too much at stake."