House and Senate leaders talk taxes

The presiding officers of the Maryland's House and Senate offered their thoughts this morning on the the upcoming legislative session.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch threaded the needle on new taxes saying to local elected leaders: "I don't think the legislature will take up new revenue measures on its own."

But, the door was not slammed shut. He floated the idea that a "consensus" could emerge on new taxes, maybe after the local leaders get a look at cuts Gov. Martin O'Malley presents in his new budget.

And he added this tidbit: Even after O'Malley submits his budget the General Assembly may want to cut even more in order to leave a cushion that would prevent mid-year cuts from occurring at the Board of Public Works where the legislature has no voice.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller was far more blunt on the topic. In recent appearances he has pushed a hike to the gas tax and disparaged recent candidates who'd taken a "no new taxes" stance: "Those people aren't worth the powder you'd blow them up with," Miller said. Some additional points from the talks:

* Busch speculated that the state would again take local roads money from the counties; bond capital projects and make cuts to Medicaid.

* Miller and Busch both took the locals to task for cutting the local property tax and providing COLAs and step increases to employees while state workers have had three years of 10-day furloughs. Both said that 12 counties have lowered the local property taxes. Miller noted that in 2010 teachers in 10 counties received COLAs and this year teacher in five counties are set for COLAs.

* Miller said in-state tuition at some colleges for the children of illegal immigrants will be on the table again. He described legislation that requires the parents to be in the process of obtaining citizenship and is possibly limited to community colleges.

* Miller said he'd vote against gay marriage or civil unions -- but he'd vote to cut off a filibuster for either bill. Senate GOP leader Allan Kittleman just announced that he'll introduce a civil unions bill, surprising many conservatives.

* House GOP leader Tony O'Donnell said he agrees that teacher pension costs should not be shifted to the locals. His stance is important because the idea passed last year in the Senate with GOP support, but stalled in the House in part because the Republican caucus there fought it.

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