House Speaker Michael E. Busch left the door open Thursday to continued negotiations toward reaching a consensus on a gambling expansion in time to call a special session this summer, saying he expects to talk with Gov. Martin O'Malley and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller in an effort to resolve the remaining issues.
Busch's statement came 25 hours after a work group set up by O'Malley to try to reach an accord on the touchy issue reported it had failed to reach an accord that would have cleared the way for a special session July 9. The Senate members and O'Malley's appointees agreed on a plan, but the three House members dissented because they would not support a cut in the slot machine gambling tax that the other members believed was necessary for an expansion.
The speaker characterized the results of the work group's deliberations as getting "98 percent" of the way toward a consensus. But in a news conference at the State House Thursday, which followed an earlier session in which he offered less hope of renewed talks, Busch said he expects to continue negotiations at the highest levels of state government.
The work group's apparent impasse over a proposal to cut the state's 67 percent slots tax in order to pave the way for a Prince George's casino and legalization of table games "doesn't put an end to any of this," Busch said.
"Everybody should keep an open mind here so everybody can get back together," he said.