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O'Malley's budget gets initial OK in House

With only minor changes, the House of Delegates on Wednesday gave initial approval to Gov. Martin O'Malley's $37 billion budget, the governor's first spending plan in several years that doesn't propose significant cuts.

While a final vote in the House is expected Friday, Wednesday's actions signaled the last cuts the chamber will make before the budget proposal moves to the Senate.

Delegates cut about $80 million in state spending, scaling back one of O'Malley's initiatives to improve digital learning in classrooms and nixing another that would have created a $5 million fund for innovative ideas. Most of the cuts came from Medicaid costs that were $45 million less than expected.

The budget does not raises taxes. Separately, however, a transportation plan unveiled last week would raise money for projects by increasing transit fares and taxes on gasoline. That proposal will be debated in coming weeks.

On Wednesday, delegates amended the budget to make available up to $300,000 for the legal bills of an Eastern Shore poultry farm sued for alleged pollution violations. The Hudson family farm won the lawsuit brought by the New York Waterkeeper Alliance and litigated by the by the environmental law clinic at the University of Maryland.

Del. Norman Conway told his fellow lawmakers the Hudson family's finances had been strained fighting the case. The farm raised cornish hens under a contract for the poultry giant Perdue, which helped the family defend its chicken operation and last month joined the Hudsons in seeking $3 million for legal fees from the Waterkeepers.

Under the provision in the budget bill, the Board of Public Works would have authority to grant legal fees to the Hudsons.

ecox@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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