Miller says gambling bill did not cause budget impasse

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller sent out a letter this week to the 46 other members of the chamber saying that there has been "tremendous misinformation" circulating about the final day of session and insisting that he did not hold up the state's budget over a bill to expand gambling.

"It has been alleged that the impasse was somehow connected to gaming," Miller wrote. "That is patently untrue."

The tone is different from the one Miller took the day after session ended. In a gaggle with reporters on the Tuesday after sine die, the Senate President was asked if is chamber if the budget was held hostage by the gambling bill. Miller responded by saying he thought the problems was a "lack of trust" but added that he and Busch had "made an agreement we were going to pass the gambling bill."

"When you reach an agreement, you’ve got the votes," Miller said at the time. "I don’t ever tell somebody that you are going to get the bill and I don’t have the votes. If somebody says 'I don’t think I have the votes,' then you don’t have an agreement."

Maryland's General Assembly adjourned last Monday without passing a budget that leaders had agreed upon. It was the first time in 20 years that the Democratic-majority legislature was unable to reach an intra-party compromise. Instead, the state legislature passed a 'Doomsday budget' which includes deep education cuts and was never intended to be the final spending plan.

During the last minute budget negotiations a key sticking point was over an income tax increase. The House wanted to hold harmless those making less than $100,000. The Senate wanted to slightly increase taxes at that income level.

"The House refused any compromise with the Speaker even going so far as to say that the Senate conferees compromise of 95 percent of the House revenue plan was not enough," Miller wrote. "This unprecedented unwillingness to compromise on the part of the House of Delegates led to the conference reporters not being agreed upon until almost 8 p.m."

Miller also points out that the House failed to pass the Budget Finance Reconciliation Act, companion legislation that would have erased many of the cuts in the so-called 'Doomsday' budget. Miller notes that the measure passed the Senate "over an hour" before the midnight deadline. Busch has said that his chamber did not have time to act on it.

In the letter Miller also accuses the Speaker of attempting to use a "stunt" to extend the legislative session. Around 11:40 p.m., Busch introduced a measure to add time to the session. It passed -- and in the final moments of the session observers watched the clock expecting.

It was only clear to the body that the Senate would not act when a delegate yelled from the back of the chamber "The Senate has adjourned sine die."

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