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Senate budget chief says his panel's largely on same page as House

The Baltimore Sun

The Maryland Senate is largely on board with the changes the House Appropriations Committee made to Gov. Larry Hogan's budget last week, the chair of the Senate's spending panel said Monday.

Sen. Edward J. Kasemeyer, chairman of the Budget & Taxation Committee, said he and his House counterpart have been consulting through the budget review process and are largely in agreement over which programs to cut and which to attempt to restore in next year's $40.7 billion budget.

"There's some small items where we're a little bit apart," said Kasemeyer, a Howard County Democrat. "We're 95 percent in lockstep."

Though both chambers have long been controlled by Democrats, in many years the House and Senate arrive at a conference committee with starkly different approaches and priorities -- leading to deadlocks that continue as long as the final hours of the 90-day session.

This year, however, Kasemeyer and House Appropriations Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh of Baltimore say their priorities are largely the same.

The House and Senate alternate which years they go first in voting on the budget, and this is the House's year. The House will begin voting Wednesday on amendments to the budget bill crafted by the Appropriations Committee and will take a final vote by the end of the week.

Led by McIntosh, the House panel found enough cuts in the Republican governor's budget to reinstate a 2 percent pay raise for state employees and to restore most cuts to education aid formulas and many of the trims to Medicaid reimbursements for health care providers. 

The largest and most-criticized of those cuts was a $75 million reduction in a supplemental payment the state was scheduled to make to the state employees' pension plan. Hogan's office on Monday distributed a Washington Post editorial criticizing the pension move.

Kasemeyer said the Senate might amend the House's approach to the pension system but is unlikely to change it dramatically.

Asked whether he expects a contentious conference, Kasemeyer said no. "I don't expect that but one never knows," he said.

 

 

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