- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 31, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley called for more spending on public schools, health care and the environment yesterday in his first State of the State address, but acknowledged that Maryland will need new sources of revenue to make his plan work.

“We will never be able to multiply bread and fishes to cover the multitude of needs without new revenue,” said Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat. “It’s a big, big challenge that we have for our future.”

The governor is asking for a 2.5 percent increase in the state budget. Among the proposed spending increases are $192 million more for higher education, a record $400 million for public-school construction and $10 million more for stem-cell research.

However, Mr. O’Malley already faces a four-year, $4 billion structural deficit, which he deferred for his first year through a $1.2 billion transfer from state reserve funds.

Republicans lawmakers said Mr. O’Malley’s plan, which does not include spending cuts, only delays tax increases and a budget battle.

“Next year the taxes are going to come,” said Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley, Frederick Republican.

House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell, Southern Maryland Republican, said Mr. O’Malley was “wasting another year” and told him to “quit beating around the bush.”

Democrats have expressed the same concerns. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. of Prince George’s County recently said the General Assembly likely will need to hold a special session next year to resolve budget problems.

Mr. O’Malley called for a freeze on college tuition, cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, tougher car-emission standards and a new agency to coordinate state technology.

He also touted StateStat — the statewide version of the government-management program he instituted as mayor of Baltimore that he expects to increase government efficiency and save money.

Among those at the speech were former Govs. Marvin Mandel, Harry R. Hughes and Parris N. Glendening, all Democrats.

Former Govs. William Donald Schaefer, a Democrat, and Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, did not attend the speech.

The governor asked lawmakers to support more than $1 billion in highway and roads projects, and $300 million in mass-transit projects.

“New revenue to Marylanders is new taxes, and we all will wait and hold our breaths to see what kind of new taxes that are going to be coming down the pike,” said Sen. Nancy Jacobs, Harford/ Cecil Republican.

Sen. Ulysses Currie, Prince George’s County Democrat and chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, acknowledged that the state will need new revenue but said specific proposals have not been introduced.

Democrats, who control the House and Senate, applauded Mr. O’Malley’s speech.

The governor asked lawmakers to help small businesses find more affordable health care coverage for employees. The Maryland Health Care Act would require insurance companies to allow Marylanders up to age 25 to be covered under their parents’ policies.

The governor called for a Cabinet-level information technology office and a sub-Cabinet position on base realignment and closure to help the state absorb more than 25,000 new households from an influx of military jobs.

Mr. O’Malley wants to adopt stricter pollution-emission standards for cars sold in Maryland, and a measure that would lease parcels of land in the Chesapeake Bay for oyster-restoration projects.

Mr. O’Malley said the “potentially polarizing debates this session,” include taxes, the future of Maryland’s 18,000 horse-racing jobs and “Maryland’s ineffective death penalty law.”

Mr. O’Malley did not mention slot machines, though the issue was included in his prepared speech.

Mr. Miller is campaigning again this year for legalizing slots.

“I say get it done now,” he said. “Get it over with. Stop agonizing. It’s the right thing to do, and let’s move forward.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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