Deadlock on special session could break soon -- Gazette.Net


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Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected to meet with legislative leaders Tuesday morning to discuss reconvening the General Assembly to finish work on the fiscal 2013 budget, ending two tense weeks that offered little movement toward a special session.

Whether the legislature also would address gambling issues during a special session isn’t clear, but the expansion of gambling into Prince George’s County remains a priority for Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach.

In a letter to O’Malley (D) and House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis on Friday, Miller suggested a budget compromise that modifies the calculation of a proposed income tax increase for Marylanders.

The proposal would lower the threshold for the increase from an adjusted gross income of $100,000 for a single filer to an adjusted gross income of $75,000, which Miller said would correspond to an overall income of $100,000. This would generate more revenues but “not tax salaries below levels sought by the House,” he wrote.

Busch could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.

O’Malley has said he will not call for a special session unless there is consensus on a budget plan.

Budget negotiations between the House and Senate stalled in regard to whether income taxes should be raised for those making less than that amount. The stalemate, which some say became entwined with the question of whether to expand gambling, prevented lawmakers from passing a tax package to accompany the budget bill before the legislature adjourned April 9. If the legislature does not act, a default budget with more than $500 million in cuts will take effect July 1.

Del. Justin Ross (D-Dist. 22) of Hyattsville, who was an advisory member of the conference committee on revenues, said both chambers had shown a willingness to compromise during the regular session, which boded well for the coming discussion.

“I’m confident that a deal can be reached,” Ross said.

In his letter, Miller again denied that the gambling issue was connected to budget talks, but wrote he remained frustrated.

“It is foolish to deny Maryland locations the ability to offer table games just like our neighboring states and to refuse to permit a sixth site,” Miller wrote.

O’Malley responded Friday with a letter of his own, thanking Miller for his willingness to complete the budget agreement. The governor did not mention the gambling issue, which he has called “a distraction” and “a silly bomb” that went off on the last day of the session.

The Senate passed two separate bills calling for an expansion of gambling during the regular session, but neither received a full vote in the House, where support was less certain than in the Senate, according to Busch.

The speaker told reporters Thursday that on the last day of the session only about 38 of the 141 delegates supported the bill. About 30 members were opposed, and the remaining votes were either undecided or unknown, Busch said.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), who wants to build a high-end, $1 billion casino at National Harbor near Oxon Hill that he says will bring in $69 million in revenue for the county, continued his push for the gambling expansion Monday, sending a letter of his own to O’Malley, Busch and Miller.

“We in Prince George’s want the opportunity to prosper,” Baker wrote in the letter. “I view it as a responsibility, not a casual luxury, to vigorously pursue that which can relieve the burden on taxpayers.”

dleaderman@gazette.net