House and Senate conferees sounded like they are still at odds on one key point: Should Marylanders making less than 100K see new income taxes?

The Senate wants to raise about $50 million by making a temporary -- ie three year -- change to the exemptions that those making less than $100K can make. The change means about $40 for an average taxpayer, said Sen. Ed Kasemeyer. "It is a carton of cigarettes," he said.

Del. John Bohanan, a key House leader, said his chamber has taken a firm position. Nobody making under $100K should be taxed -- particularly because the extra revenue is not needed to balance the budget. "We are clear," he said.

DLS budget guru Warren Deschenaux suggested the differences could just be semantics. "The issue is really one of characterization," he suggested. He offered that the House could view the package as not having an "permanent" new tax on those making under $100K.

Bohanan wasn't buying it. "We are clear that we don't want to take anything under $100K," he said. "That is where we want to stay."

The talks were still on going when I left to cover the House Ways and Means committee ...