Legislators failed to approve a bill raising some state income tax rates by the time the Maryland General Assembly's regular session ended midnight Monday.
While the failure of this and another budget plan involving a shift in teacher pension costs to the counties will be welcome news among most Harford County residents, any euphoria locally is likely to be short-lived.
With the legislators failing to enact a new budget, a so-called "doomsday" budget with $500 million in cuts will be put in place at the beginning of the next fiscal year on June 1. At least it will stand that way until the governor decides to call a special legislative session, which most legislators say is almost certain.
The last time the legislature did not complete work on the state budget by the end of the legislative session was in 1992.
Besides the income tax measure, which would put individuals who earn more than $100,000 a year and couples who make more than $150,000 annually in a higher tax bracket, the assembly also didn't vote on a related bill that would allow a casino inPrince George's Countyand table games at all Maryland casinos, including at Hollywood Casino Perryville.
The last minute budget hold-up was "highly unusual," Western Harford Del. Kathy Szeliga said Monday.
"The only job we have to do in Annapolis is to pass the budget," she commented.
Monday afternoon before it became clear that work would not be completed by the midnight deadline, Szeliga had said: "I will be extremely disappointed with the leadership in Annapolis if they don't get it done tonight."
She was just that.
The delay on Monday that led to the budget fiasco, Szeliga said, was the result of "Senate President [Thomas V.] Mike Millerholding it [the budget] hostage until he can put gambling in National Harbor," the resort along the Potomac River south of Washington.
The budget was "virtually finished," she explained, but the measure to expand the state's slots venues and to allow table games was the big sticking point.
"I think we haven't even fully implanted the slots measure that was passed," Szeliga said.
She called the measure "hasty" since not all gambling venues, such as Arundel Mills Mall and in Baltimore City, haven't even opened yet.
Even though the gambling bill essentially died, Western Harford Del. Pat McDonough believes it will come back if a special session is called. Several local delegates also think the issue will go to referendum for a vote in November.
House SpeakerMichael E. Buschalso blamed the lack of budget action on the Senate.
"I think it is pretty evident that our counterparts in the Senate slow-played all the revenue bills," Busch to The Baltimore Sun.
Teacher pension shift
A huge component in helping to balance the state's $35 billion budget was to shift a portion of teacher pension costs over a period of four years from the state to the counties. The shift was expected to cost Harford County as much as $9 million annually to start.
This change also did not pass.