- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 28, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — State budget analysts yesterday presented a “doomsday” scenario to state lawmakers that would require more than 1,000 layoffs and $1.5 billion in cuts to offset the state’s structural deficit without raising taxes.

But the exercise is not being considered as a serious proposal in Annapolis.

“I don’t think that anyone expects to take $1.5 billion cuts as far as the budgetary process,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat.

“I think everyone’s pretty much acclimated to the fact that there’s going to be some revenue enhancements that are going to have to take place.”

Mr. Busch reiterated comments he made to local leaders earlier this week that they should be ready to brace for cuts or prepared to support state leaders in whatever solution they develop.

“You can’t wish your way to $1.4 billion,” he said.

Mr. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat, sent a letter to the state’s Department of Legislative Services earlier this month, requesting budget analysts to show how to close the budget deficit without raising taxes.

The state’s $1.5 billion structural deficit continues to dominate debate in Annapolis, but state leaders have yet to decide how and when to balance the budget.

Mr. Miller and Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, support legalizing slot machines. Mr. Busch opposes legalized slots.

Mr. Miller supports a special session. Mr. Busch opposes a special session. And Mr. O’Malley has not said whether he will call for a special session.

The only thing the three appear to agree on is that taxes will be raised.

Republican leaders said the “doomsday” budget is the start of that sales pitch to the public.

“I see it as scare tactics. They’re trying to drum up support for these tax increases,” said Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley, Frederick County Republican.

When former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, took office in January 2003, he inherited a $4 billion structural deficit from former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, and left office with more than $1.8 billion in the state savings account without raising sales or income taxes.

Mr. O’Malley transferred $1.2 billion from the state reserves to balance his first budget, but that option will not be available to him next year, which has many pondering how he will balance the budget.

“Sometimes people say to me, ‘Do you think the solution to all of this may be raising taxes,’ ” Mr. O’Malley said yesterday morning to municipal leaders in Ocean City.

“We’re already paying a lot more in taxes every day. We’re being taxed by circumstance — the circumstance of overcrowded schools, the circumstance of traffic and gridlock.”



Click to Read More

Click to Hide