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As legislature confers, Hogan says he's pleased with Maryland state budget process

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan can't remember seeing a budget process go so smoothly.

Maryland lawmakers are making fast progress on the final details of the next state budget.

Versions of Gov. Larry Hogan's $42 billion budget already sailed through the state Senate and House of Delegates, and members of a conference committee settled more than half of their differences during an hour-long meeting Thursday afternoon.

Warren Deschenaux, executive director of the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services, opened the meeting with the observation that senators and delegates on the conference committee faced "an unusually small number of problems to address."

The conference committee's progress means that a final version of the state budget could be set for votes in both chambers early next week -- about two weeks before the end of the 90-day General Assembly session at midnight on April 11.

Hogan said he's pleased with the budget, which includes no tax increases.

"I can't remember ever seeing a budget process go so smoothly," Hogan said in an interview Thursday. "Ninety-nine point nine-nine percent of our budget is passed through intact through both houses, with overwhelming support on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers."

Lawmakers also are still considering a package of tax cuts and tax credits that Hogan supports.

The Senate already has passed a bill that reduces income taxes for high earners, increases the income tax exemption for middle-income families and expands the Earned Income Tax Credit, which helps the working poor.

For middle-income taxpayers -- especially those in the $50,000 to $100,000 range -- the personal income tax exemption would gradually increase from $3,200 to $3,400, resulting in a savings of $16 per person per year.

The plan leaves out several of Hogan's tax-cut proposals, including a break for retirees.

"It doesn't go far enough, as far as I'm concerned, but it's sort of 'a half a loaf is better than none,'" Hogan said. "The fact that we've actually got people in Annapolis talking about lowering taxes instead of raising taxes, we think is a major accomplishment."

The House of Delegates has not yet made any decisions on the tax cuts.

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