With less than eight hours remaining before the General Assembly would have to go into an exteneded session, the House and Senate remain divided over income taxes and -- some believe -- casino gambling. As of late afternoon Monday, legislative leaders were doing more fingerpointing than negotiation as the clocked ticked down toward the scheduled adjournment at midnight.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller accused the House of intransigence in negotiations over the state budget and related bills. He said the Senate had passed a bill raising more than $400 million to solve the state's persistent revenue gap -- an amount he said would be enough for the foreseeable future. The House bill, he said, would raise too little to solve the problem.
Miller said the House's position reflected divisions in their own ranks.
"It's their politics, their problems and they're trying to blame us," he said.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch had earlier given a news conference at which he called upon senators to focus on the budget and give up what he called their obsession with "a certain issue," which he later made clear was that of expanded gambling.
Miller has been pushing for a bill that would add a new casino, which would be the state's sixth, in Prince George's County and permit table games. Busch has shown little interest in doing so, but the House Ways and Means Committee is considering a response to a bill the Senate sent over Saturday.
In what could be a sign of movement -- or not -- Sens. Edward Kasemeyer, D-Howard, and Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery, slipped off the Senate floor together shortly before the chamber took a break. The two are core members of the conference committees negotiating the budget issues and are the two senators who would be expected to conduct sensitive talks with their House counterparts.
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