- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2012

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley is expected Monday to introduce most of his proposed legislation for this year’s General Assembly, but some Democrats are already criticizing the budget he submitted last week.

Among the bills the Democratic governor is expected to submit are one to establish offshore wind energy and another to legalize same-sex marriage, an O’Malley spokeswoman said.

However, the announcements will come as lawmakers continue to take deeper looks at the O’Malley budget, particularly leaders of the Democrat-controlled General Assembly who are talking about making additional cuts and dialing back some of the budget’s proposed tax increases.

“It’s hard to comment until you’ve really put everything under an electron microscope,” said House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve, Montgomery Democrat. “But I will tell you that there are provisions of that tax proposal that are not going to fly, for sure.”

The governor’s proposed budget includes income-tax hikes on the top 20 percent of wage earners and increases on the state’s cigar tax and so-called flush tax.

Mr. O’Malley is also widely expected to propose an increase in the state’s 23.5-cents-a-gallon gas tax later this month.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s Democrat, said Friday that he favors raising the gas tax but that the governor’s proposed income-tax hike reaches too far into the middle class.

The governor’s proposal would limit deductions for residents making $100,000 or more annually and would limit or eliminate personal exemptions for single residents making at least $100,000 and couples making at least $150,000.

“We’ll have to make more cuts and look at the revenues in a different manner,” Mr. Miller said.

Yet lawmakers are expected to take relatively fast action on the governor’s gay marriage bill that should draw national attention.

Mr. Miller has said the Senate will take up the issue before the House and could move to pass the bill as soon as possible.

The bill is expected to pass the Senate with support of from 25 of 47 senators but could have trouble in the 141-member House where it died last year.

Mr. Barve said Democratic leaders are working to gain support for the bill but remain three votes short of a majority.

“I believe we’ll get there, but it’s going to be a tough fight again,” he said.

Mr. O’Malley will also be in a tough fight to pass revised versions of two bills he fought unsuccessfully for last year: restricting use of septic tanks in new housing developments; and establishing offshore wind energy in the state.

Both bills are expected to be less ambitious than last year’s — with the offshore-wind legislation including incentives for utility companies to participate rather than requiring all utilities to do so.

Sen. Paul Pinsky, who sponsored last year’s wind bill, said lawmakers could be reluctant to pass the bill because of the recent cancellation of a planned wind farm in Delaware and ongoing concern over whether Congress will extend tax credits for the technology.

“I want the bill to pass, but the landscape has changed a little bit,” said Mr. Pinsky, Prince George’s Democrat.

Mr. Miller said the governor will have to stay heavily involved in this year’s General Assembly, after some critics accused him last year of being distracted by his role as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, which requires him to lead fundraising and frequently comment on national politics.

“Who the Republican nominee is right now has got to be the least of his worries,” Mr. Miller said. “Instead, he’s got to devote 24 hours a day to managing the state.”

• David Hill can be reached at dhill@washingtontimes.com.

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