- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley still hasn’t made up his mind whether to call a special session of the legislature to address Maryland’s projected deficit — but he’s getting closer to making his tax proposals.

The governor will meet next week with top lawmakers to present his plan, an aide said yesterday.

Slot machine gambling and higher income, sales and tobacco taxes are likely components of the governor’s plans to solve a budget shortfall of roughly $1.5 billion next year. O’Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said yesterday the governor will detail his plan Tuesday to top lawmakers, with a decision on whether to call a special session expected by the end of the month.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Mr. O’Malley’s plan also will include some reduction in property taxes, something Mr. O’Malley did not address in a brief appearance but aides confirmed.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, said earlier this year that property tax increases hurt working families, although the state’s property tax — 11.2 cents per $100 in assessed value — makes up a small portion of property tax bills. The rest goes to local governments.

Maryland must raise taxes, or cut more than a billion in spending, because state spending is growing faster than tax receipts. The governor has already made some cuts but says the shortfall can’t be covered without some new taxes. Specifics haven’t been announced, though planning has been in the works for months.

On a Thursday visit to Bel Air, Md., Mr. O’Malley hinted that he may call lawmakers into a special session in November. Mr. Abbruzzese confirmed yesterday that a special session is Mr. O’Malley’s preferred course, but said a decision hasn’t been made.

“Nothing is set in stone,” Mr. Abbruzzese said.

Mr. Abbruzzese said an increase in the tobacco tax — from $1 a pack to $2 a pack — was part of Mr. O’Malley’s plan, but he didn’t say whether the revenue would be used to address the shortfall or to expand Medicaid, a goal of lawmakers working on health care.

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