Miller Outlines Goals For Special Session In Md.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller wants to expand the scope of a fall special session on congressional redistricting to cover the state’s structural deficit, teacher pension costs and transportation funding concerns.

In a letter dated Monday to Gov. Martin O’Malley, the Senate president outlined three areas he would like to address. Miller devoted much of the three-page letter to urging action on sharing teacher pension costs with local governments. A copy of the letter was obtained by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Miller has been an advocate of shifting some pension costs to local governments. He wrote that O’Malley had indicated before this year’s regular session that he wanted to focus on addressing the state’s unfunded pension liabilities, a plan the General Assembly approved in April.

“Once this difficult goal was accomplished, you indicated that the next step would be working on an equitable sharing of teachers’ pension costs with their employers, the local governments,” Miller, D-Calvert, wrote in a letter that was also sent to House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, and members of the House and Senate.

O’Malley, a Democrat, was not available for comment, and a spokesman did not immediately return an e-mail seeking comment.

Miller noted how high teacher pension costs have risen in recent years. Six years ago, the cost to the state was $475 million. The required contribution this year was more than $954 million. Next year, the cost is projected to rise to $1.07 billion — $60 million more in general funds than the state is spending on the entire University System of Maryland this year.

Maryland is one of the few states that pays all teacher pension costs. Miller wrote that next year’s costs will equal the state’s entire structural deficit of about $1.1 billion.

“There is simply no policy justification for the state funding the entire cost of this subsidy to local governments next year,” Miller wrote. “Teachers bargain with local school boards without one of their biggest benefits even connected to the bargaining table. Local governments freely raise salaries even in some of the worst economic times in history with no regard to the costs that must be then paid by state taxpayers.”

Miller pointed out that recent public discussions have focused on how to raise transportation revenues.

While the Senate president noted that he supports raising transportation revenue, he underscored that lawmakers do not have a constitutional obligation to balance the state’s transportation budget. Maryland must submit a balanced state budget every year.

When lawmakers convene this fall, Miller says lawmakers should come into the special session with “a carefully and jointly crafted plan” to address the teacher pension issue, close the remainder of the state’s structural deficit with increased revenue and address transportation needs by calling for “greater contributions from the users and beneficiaries of our public infrastructure.”

“You have my strong support and commitment to assist you in these efforts,” Miller wrote. “In that regard, I would ask that we start meeting as soon as possible with legislative leaders of both parties in the General Assembly to move these issues forward.”

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • ShadowDancer

    Miller also wants to close the remainder of the state’s structural deficit by increasing revenue, and he writes that the session is the right time to address transportation needs by calling for greater contributions from the users and beneficiaries of public infrastructure.

    AKA increase taxes on an already overtaxed population.

  • far left

    As a private contractor I will say this. Miller can’t even pay his own bills. He cheated my company out of a new air conditioning system for one of his several houses!

  • Shannon

    In other words lets tax the already overtaxed citizens of Maryland. I hear that they want to add an additional 23 cents to the already sky high gas prices. $4.15 per gallon at the Exon at Martin State Airport! That is the cash price. Ready to move !

  • overtaxed

    What Miller is forgetting is that the users already paid the taxes, tolls and fees for the transportation fund. Annapolis democrats took the money (stole) to fill in other budget gaps, and still are in a billion dollar debt.

    How about a special session where you thieves quit your spending habits and balance the ledger from that side?

    Thank you, oh great and wise liberals, for continuing to vote in the Culture of Corruption

  • Debbie

    Who are they kidding? The special session is to raise even more money to waste, fill more coffers to “borrow from” and never pay back and take every last cent out of the public’s pocket. Maybe a session to look at the “mismanagemnt” of our local government would prove more beneficial to the tax paying public. Anyone who would even consider a tax on gasoline when the nation is seeing the highest prices ever should just put on a mask and admit they are robbers.more concerned about “gemme mine” than the citizens of this state

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