- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 19, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley said yesterday that he wants to increase sales and income taxes to close the state’s $1.5 billion budget shortfall.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, also wants to legalize slot machines to help raise $2 billion and call a special General Assembly session in late October or early November to resolve Maryland’s financial problems, said state budget leaders who attended a private breakfast yesterday at the Governor’s Mansion.

“It was a very congenial meeting,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Southern Maryland Democrat. “I don’t know that we’re close to an agreement. I think we’re in sync that the governor feels that there’s need for immediate action rather than waiting for January.”

The details of Mr. O’Malley’s plan were confirmed by several Democratic lawmakers. Republican lawmakers were not invited.

Mr. O’Malley said he would raise $750 million by increasing the sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent, raise $600 million by selling licenses for slot machines in Maryland and $200 million by increasing the state cigarette tax from $1 to $2 a pack.

He also plans to raise an undetermined amount of revenue by increasing the corporate income tax, titling fees for motor vehicles and the personal income tax on residents who earn more than $150,000 annually. The U.S. Census Bureau reports about 132,000 Marylanders make at least $150,000.

Yesterday’s meeting was cut short when Senate Budget Chairman Ulysses Currie, Prince George’s Democrat, fainted and was taken away by ambulance just after 9 a.m. He was released from Anne Arundel Medical Center yesterday afternoon.

The governor showed a PowerPoint presentation to lawmakers but did not distribute handouts of his plan.

Mr. O’Malley also told lawmakers he plans to increase the earned-income tax credit for low-income residents and decrease the state’s property tax, both expected to soften the impact from the other proposed tax increases.

Mr. O’Malley did not talk to reporters, and his staffers would not discuss the plan — except to contradict some of the numbers reported by lawmakers earlier in the day. Mr. O’Malley is scheduled to hold a press conference today in Towson to release the details.

Republican leaders were excluded from the briefings Monday and yesterday, but said they did not support the proposals they learned about elsewhere.

“There is an insatiable appetite to spend people’s money,” said Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley, Frederick Republican. “They still haven’t figured out which poison pills are the least toxic to the voters.”

Mr. Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, do not appear close to agreeing on how to make up the shortfall — Mr. O’Malley’s prerequisite for calling a special session.

However, lawmakers said they expect to return to Annapolis this fall for a special session and that Mr. O’Malley wants the session to last seven to 10 days.

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