ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ) — Maryland’s top leaders are crunching the numbers to keep the state moving. Budget talks in Annapolis are heating up again. Thousands of protesters rallied against planned cuts to state worker benefits in Annapolis Monday.
Andrea Fujii reports Governor Martin O’Malley says there is a $35 billion shortfall for state union workers’ benefits, so there must be change, but thousands of unionized state employees say the governor has turned his back on them.
Unionized employees flocked to Annapolis telling legislators to keep their hands off worker benefits, specifically pensions.
The governor says cuts may be necessary.
“We must also fix and save our state’s pension system, which has fallen out of the balance by threatening the long-term stability of our state finances,” said O’Malley.
“The commitment to us was that we would have a living wage, that we would have reasonable health benefits and that we would have support after 30 years of hard work,” said Tami Metz, Social Services worker.
Workers came in on more than 75 buses and they weren’t alone.
A small group of taxpayers also showed up saying the union is being too greedy.
“As taxpayers, that’s not OK for us to watch a bullying entity threaten legislators into not being wise about legislating,” said Cindy Sharretts from Harford County.
“I sympathize with them. I’m a worker, too. But nobody is paying my pension. We’ve all got to contribute to our own retirement,” said Lynn Beiber from Bowie.
This isn’t the only issue lawmakers have on their plate.
The House of Delegates will soon begin debate on a bill, which would give in-state tuition rates to illegal immigrants under certain conditions.
That proposal cleared the state Senate late Monday night. Meanwhile, committee hearings get underway Tuesday on other bills, including increased regulation on abortion clinics and another that would do away with the death penalty.
Supporters of repealing the death penalty say they have the momentum to get it passed now. The governor in Illinois just signed a similar bill into law a few days ago.
A total of 16 states, plus the District of Columbia, now ban the death penalty.