- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — House and Senate representatives are expected to meet Saturday to continue budget negotiations as they try to craft a final state spending plan in time for Monday’s scheduled adjournment.

The chambers have been deadlocked for much of the week over their differing proposals to raise income taxes and shift a portion of teacher-pension costs from the state to counties.

The Senate-approved budget includes income-tax hikes on virtually all earners while the House budget raises taxes only on residents making $100,000 or more and couples making at least $150,000.

Senate negotiators offered a compromise Thursday night that would apply increases only on taxpayers who meet the House-proposed income thresholds but would call for larger rate hikes than those originally proposed.

Senators also offered to shift pension costs over three years as the House suggested, rather than the four-year plan members of the chamber had previously approved.

“It’s a compromise for my committee,” said Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chairman Sen. Edward Kasemeyer. “The question is whether their group looks upon it the same way.”

The General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn at midnight Monday night, but the session would continue if lawmakers fail to approve a budget by then. In that case, they would be allowed to work only on the budget until it is completed.

Both chambers will meet Saturday to consider dozens of others bills and could take action on high-profile proposals to implement offshore-wind energy and legalize table games and bring a casino to Prince George’s County.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas M. Middleton, Charles Democrat, said he hopes his committee will vote Saturday on the offshore-wind bill, potentially setting it up for Senate debate and passage on Monday. The bill passed the House last month.

Meanwhile, a House Ways and Means subcommittee is still weighing the Senate-approved gambling proposal.

Subcommittee chairman Frank S. Turner, Howard Democrat, said the panel could make progress on the bill Saturday. It would have to pass the entire Ways and Means Committee before heading to the House floor.



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