- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 19, 2010

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley, banking more on job creation than reducing government to bounce back from the recession, avoided many layoffs in his budget proposal Tuesday and helped fill $2 billion budget hole by taking on debt.

Mr. O’Malley, who is making job creation a main focus of his legislative agenda this session, included about 44 layoffs in the budget. He also cut roughly 200 unfilled positions, bringing the total number of eliminated vacant jobs to about 3,500 so far in his first term.

“The governor’s about creating jobs, and we’re bonding a lot of the operating budget, and we’re in a position where about 16 percent of the construction jobs in the state are going to be state of Maryland projects,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller after meeting with Mr. O’Malley.

While making room for a 3 percent increase for in-state tuition at public colleges after a four-year tuition freeze, the governor’s budget makes cuts to private higher-education institutions.

The budget still maintains funding for K-12 education, said House Speaker Michael Busch, who also met with Mr. O’Malley on Tuesday afternoon to talk about the budget plan.

The governor, a Democrat, also included 10 furlough days for about 67,000 of the state’s 80,000 employees, marking the third year in a row that state employees will have to take unpaid days off. State employees also will not get salary increases.

“It’s a very conservative budget, but it is one that is still socially responsible,” Mr. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, said.

Mr. O’Malley’s budget includes $20 million for a trust fund to help address pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, but that could be reduced by the General Assembly. Last year, Mr. O’Malley included $25 million for the Bay fund, but lawmakers reduced it to $10 million.

Kim Coble, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, cheered the governor’s decision to include $20 million for the fund.

“Last May, the governor set specific milestones for reducing pollution over the next two years, and this funding is an integral part of that plan,” Ms. Coble said in a statement.

The governor also included $20 million to fund a $3,000 tax credit for businesses that hire an unemployed resident.

Mr. O’Malley planned to talk more about the budget proposal Tuesday afternoon.

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