- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 9, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Maryland legislators face some tough election-year decisions, including whether to delay a tax cut and to approve salary increases for themselves, at the annual 90-day session that begins today.
The opening day schedule, usually devoted to routine but time-honored ceremonies, will include one substantial bit of business Gov. Parris N. Glendening's proposed new districts for election of the state's 47 senators and 141 delegates for elections in 2002, 2006 and 2010.
Legislators eagerly awaited the Democratic governor's decision. Drawing of new districts determines which lawmakers can expect to coast to re-election, which ones will have tough fights on their hands, and which ones will wind up in new districts where they have no hope of winning re-election.
The law requires the governor's proposal to be introduced on opening day. Unless the House and Senate can agree on an alternative plan, the governor's proposal will take effect on the 45th day of the session.
The legislature also will have to draw new districts for election of the state's eight members of the U.S. House of Representatives. That plan does not have to be approved until April 8, the last day of the session.
This year's session is expected to be dominated by the state's fiscal woes stemming from the recession.
Mr. Glendening will submit his budget Jan. 16, and aides say he likely will propose delaying the final step of a 10 percent income tax cut to help keep the budget in balance. That would produce about $170 million in additional revenues for the budget over the next 18 months.
But Democratic legislative leaders know that will be a tough vote for lawmakers who must face the voters at the September primary election and the November general election.
"We are firmly committed to completing our income tax reduction this year," House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. said yesterday.
He said that will be difficult to do, considering the sluggish growth in state revenues resulting from the recession.
"If we can find the discipline, we can do it. I think we can do it," said Mr. Taylor, Allegany Democrat.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, Prince George's Democrat, also said he will oppose delaying the tax cut.
Legislators also will be considering a proposal from the General Assembly Compensation Commission that would increase salaries for senators and delegates by $11,991 spread over four years. The Senate president and House speaker would get an additional $13,000 by the end of the four-year term.
Legislative salaries were increased just $6,509 over the previous 12 years, and members of the salary commission said pay for lawmakers had not kept pace with increases in the cost of living.

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