Religious leaders trying to prevent ‘doomsday’ -- Gazette.Net


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More than 30 religious leaders called on Maryland’s political leaders Monday to conduct a special session without further delay, arguing cuts from the so-called “doomsday” budget would hurt the state’s low-income residents and vulnerable populations.

“In just about every incidence of political tug of war, you find that children end up the losers,” said Bishop Douglas Miles, co-chair of Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development.

“Baltimore has made tremendous strides in education over the past few years, after many years of continuing decline in test scores and graduation rates, and now is not the time to throw a roadblock in the way of that progress.”

Miles said the state legislature must reconvene as soon as possible so school districts across the state will know what funds will be in their budgets, and have time to effectively plan for the next school year.

The Rev. Dr. Peter Nord, general presbyter of The Presbytery of Baltimore, said the group stood to “demand the destruction of the doomsday budget before it destroys the state of Maryland.”

Nord said the doomsday budget goes against the teachings of religion and the U.S. Constitution because it fails to protect the general welfare of Marylanders.

“If we allow the doomsday budget to remain, it will doom the hopes of those who seek an education,” Nord said. “It will doom the hopes of those who yearn for adequate health care for all. It will doom the hopes of those who want to explore the life-saving potential of stem cell research. It will doom the hopes of all for great public safety. It will doom the hopes of those who will see their jobs disappear: police officers, firefighters, educators, librarians, 500 state workers who serve the public.”

The doomsday, or default, budget came into play when state lawmakers failed to pass a tax package and secondary budget bill that contains the revenues needed to support the General Assembly’s fiscal 2013 spending plan before adjourning April 9.

If the legislature does not act, the default budget, with more than $500 million in cuts, takes effect July 1.

Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has said he wants the legislature to reconvene in mid-May to reconsider the budget. A resolution is necessary before May 23, when the state’s Board of Public Works will meet to consider how $130 million in cuts will be allocated to balance the doomsday budget, O’Malley said.

House Republicans argue a special session is not worth the cost to taxpayers and the state should accept the default budget, which is nearly $700 million more than the fiscal 2012 spending plan, the group says.

A special session could cost about $25,000 per day, according to the Department of Legislative Services.

dgaines@gazette.net