Political Notebook: State lawmakers anticipate short special session

State lawmakers are tired of looking back to April 9, when the General Assembly adjourned without passing legislation that would have raised revenues needed to balance the budget.

Instead, they're looking forward to the special session scheduled for May 14, hoping they can go to Annapolis and quickly complete the work left unfinished before the legislature's regular 90-day session ended.


"I wish we could have worked it out during the closing days of the regular session and then it wouldn't have been necessary," Sen. Jim Robey, an Elkridge Democrat, said.

However, he added, "It's essential that we go back and fix what we should have done during the 90 days."


In the waning hours of the 2012 session, agreements on a plan to shift teacher pension costs to the counties, phased in over four years, and to raise income taxes on six-figure earners were agreed to by conference committees of Senate and House leaders but never voted on by the full chambers.

The failure to pass the revenue packages triggered the so-called "doomsday" budget, which would take effect July 1 and cut $500 million to largely Democratic-favored funding priorities, such as education and health care. Under the doomsday budget, the Howard County Public School System would lose $8.3 million in state aid and Howard Community College would lose $1.4 million.

Gov. Martin O'Malley last week announced his decision to convene the special session on May 14, explaining in a statement, "there is too much at stake not to move forward."

Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, a Columbia Democrat and chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said he expects the legislature to pass the income tax plan the conference committee agreed to the final day of the regular session, which would raise taxes on individuals earning $100,000 or more and couples or families earning $150,000 or more.

"The teacher pension shift will occur also as it was proposed," predicted Kasemeyer, who served as the Senate's lead negotiator on the budget conference committees.

Columbia Democrat Del. Guy Guzzone agreed.

"Going back and revisiting everything doesn't seem like it would be necessary," he said.

Guzzone, who served as a non-voting member on the conference committees, was the delegate who proposed the four-year phase-in for the teacher pension shift. The shift of teacher pension costs to the counties would start at 50 percent in the first year, reach 65 percent in the second year, 85 percent in the third year and be fully phased in by the fourth.


Guzzone, Kasemeyer and Robey said the special session is expected to last two or three days and will only address the two revenue plans.

Though they seem to be singing the same tune, Kasemeyer said Senate and House leaders have not gotten together to discuss the plan for a special session.

"We've all met with the governor's people separately, and I think we're all on the same wave length," he said.

Not quite all. The state's GOP leaders have said a special session is not needed.

"The Board of Public Works could certainly make some changes here and there" to balance the budget, West Friendship Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman said. "We don't need to come into special session."

Kittleman said it's hard to sell the budget the legislature ended up with after the regular session as a doomsday budget when it's $700 million larger than the budget lawmakers passed last year.


"You could call it a live-within-your-means budget," Kittleman said. He said he believes that's what the legislature should do, instead of go into special session to raise taxes.

If the same income tax plan the conference committee came up with is what ends up on the Senate floor, Kittleman said he will not vote for it.

"In Howard County, the tax increase is especially burdensome," he said.

Regarding the teacher pension shift, Kittleman said: "I'm not convinced it's the right time to do that."