That's the first line on the Maryland General Assembly's official Web page. But this year, it's a lie. Because this year, lawmakers failed to act on the state's annual budget, ending their 90-day session at midnight before they could vote on a hastily arranged compromise reached by their leaders and prompting the so-called "doomsday" budget to kick in, a budget balanced by millions of dollars in cuts.
The doomsday budget, which would be disastrous to counties, is unlikely to come to pass. A special session almost assuredly will be called to clean up the mess, once the major players in this unfortunate drama stop bickering. But such a session, which will cost the taxpayers money, would not have been needed if those major players —who include Gov. Martin O'Malley; House Speaker Michael Busch; and, perhaps most notably, Senate President Mike Miller, with his ceaseless, carping insistence that a bill allowing casino gambling in Prince George's County be passed — had displayed more leadership and common sense. (It is worth noting that all three of the above are Democrats, proving once again that bipartisan squabbling is not necessary to grind the wheels of government to an ugly, embarrassing halt.)
These are tough economic times for the state, as they are for so many households, and there is nothing easy about the decisions lawmakers faced. Raise the income tax on upper income families? Raise income taxes for everyone? Raise the gas tax? Cut spending — and cut where exactly? These are difficult, important, core decisions that define Maryland's values and are not to be made lightly.
But they are to be made, not put off. And while some noteworthy legislation was passed this year, such as legalizing gay marriage, the important budget decisions were left in limbo, to the shame of our elected officials.