Reporting Pat Warren
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—Under the ax. Millions of dollars in state budget cuts take effect July 1 unless the General Assembly agrees on a plan to raise taxes.
Political reporter Pat Warren has the latest on Maryland’s doomsday budget.
Governor O’Malley says he’ll meet with House and Senate leaders in the next few days. That meeting could include trying to come to an agreement on casino gambling before a special session is called to fill the budget gap.
“I’m fairly ambivalent when it comes to gambling,” O’Malley said.
The House and Senate agreed to compromise on the tax hike. The House also agreed to consider a bill to expand casino gambling.
“We have five sites in our state right now. Should we have six, or is five enough? I don’t know,” O’Malley said.
The Senate wanted slots at National Harbor in Prince George’s County.
“It is a huge tourist destination. It’s a money-maker for the state of Maryland,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike
But the House didn’t follow through.
“When an issue as historically contentious as gambling is inserted into the process as late as it was, it threw the whole deliberative process out of balance,” O’Malley said.
Expanded gambling muddied the waters, and the budget drowned in it.
“We made an agreement. We’re going to pass the gambling bill. We’re going to pass the gambling bill. We had the votes. Well maybe now we don’t have the votes. ‘Well, you don’t have the votes? Guess what? We’ll bring it to the floor. We’ll see what happens.’ It never got to the floor,” Miller said.
Gambling died in the House, and the budget stayed in the Senate.
“There’s always differences of opinion, but what we cannot do is allow the public good and the public interest to become a casualty of old fights and old wounds on the old chestnut of to what degree we should have gambling in the state of Maryland,” said O’Malley.
But that old chestnut is still on the table and will most likely have to be resolved in the process of getting an agreement on what taxes will be raised and by how much to avoid $512 million in budget cuts.
The governor has said he wants to be sure there’s a deal before he calls lawmakers back to Annapolis.