- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | Gov. Martin O’Malley said Wednesday the state should continue to pay the costs for teacher pensions, despite some Maryland lawmakers saying counties should help cover the expense.

“It has been my position and remains my position that these are things that should be covered by the state,” Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, said on WTOP Radio’s “Ask the Governor” program.

Maryland is one of the few states that shoulders the entire cost of teacher pensions, which has increased 22 percent, or about $135 million, in the fiscal 2010 budget. The total cost is roughly $770 million as the state now faces a roughly $2 billion budget shortfall.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Southern Maryland Democrat, is sponsoring a bill that would make counties responsible for some of the pension costs for new school employees, which he has described as a “compromise” proposal.

Sen. Edward J. Pipkin, Eastern Shore Republican, and Sen. David R. Brinkley, Western Maryland Republican, are sponsoring legislation to create a 50-50 split between counties and the state.

Mr. O’Malley said that since taking office in 2007 he has worked hard to avoid shifting costs to counties but understands why some lawmakers are pushing for a change in how Maryland pays for the pensions.

The governor said he expected strong debate on the issue in the General Assembly, where there is “plenty of room for differences of opinion.”

He also acknowledged the pension is a “huge cost” and said “the bottom line is this: We have to protect our big investment in education if we’re going to come through this national downturn quicker than other states.”

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