The General Assembly is likely to convene in a special session in May to address the budget, while gaming expansion could be taken up in yet another session later this summer, according to the governor.
A breakfast meeting Tuesday morning between Gov. Martin O’Malley and legislative leaders appeared to end without resolving the disagreement over the state’s budget, but both O’Malley and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. said reconvening in mid-May was likely.
O’Malley told reporters gathered at a State Board of Education meeting in Baltimore that he wanted to hold a meeting with his staff and budget negotiators from each chamber this week.
A budget resolution is necessary before May 23, when the state’s Board of Public Works will meet to consider $130 million in cuts required to balance the “doomsday budget,” O’Malley said.
“We probably need to resolve this budget issue separate and apart from issues affecting the future of gaming in Maryland, and we need to resolve those budget issues quickly,” O’Malley said in Baltimore. “We’re kind of under the clock right now. Either we resolve the budget in the next couple of weeks, or those cuts go into effect.”
If the budget is resolved in May, the General Assembly could reconvene to consider gambling bills in August, which would be early enough to allow a ballot question on the matter.
“I think that both issues deserve a hearing and some resolution,” O’Malley said. “I think that what made this session very disappointing, frustrating by the end was considering both of those issues at the same time.”
Linking gaming with the budget makes reaching consensus “very, very hard to find on either,” he continued.
A special session could cost about $25,000 per day, according to the Department of Legislative Services.
The governor met with House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis and Miller (D-Dist. 27) of Chesapeake Beach for a little more than an hour in Annapolis on Tuesday morning, but neither indicated that a budget compromise had been struck.
Budget negotiations between the House and Senate stalled regarding whether income taxes should be raised for those making less than $100,000. The stalemate, which some say became entwined with the question of whether to expand gambling in the state, 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.
The governor has previously said that he will not convene a special session unless there is consensus on the spending plan.
Miller proposed a compromise Friday that 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.
Busch said the tax rates were not discussed at Tuesday’s meeting.
“At the end of the day, it’s about determining a budget that would affect counties and different subdivisions in the state,” Busch said. “I have to take the opportunity to sit down with the leaders in the House and see if there’s a coalition we can build if, in fact, we do come back for a special session.”
Miller said the meeting was productive and that everyone was smiling. “We agreed to come together and have a special session and have this matter resolved in mid-May,” he told reporters, but did not provide further details.
House Republicans have already expressed opposition to holding a special session, arguing it is not worth the cost to taxpayers and that the state should accept the default budget.
The idea of yet another session to deal with gaming was even worse, said Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio (R-Dist. 37B) of Newcomb.
“We had 90 days to get this done,” she said.