At a press conference in Annapolis today, Senate and House Republicans cautioned state budget leaders against using federal stimulus funds to expand new spending programs in the state’s operating budget during the 2009 session.
“We began this session with a serious debate about restraining budget growth and controlling Maryland’s pattern of chronic overspending,” said House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell. “Now, with the prospective of a multi-billion dollar bailout from the federal government, the Administration is giddy about starting up new spending programs. If federal funds are used to fuel new operating budget spending, it will have long term negative consequences on Maryland’s budget.”
Senate Minority Leader Allan Kittleman urged that any federal stimulus funds be used only for one-time expenditures in order to prevent growth of the state’s structural deficit. “We need to follow the advice of the legislature’s chief budget advisor, Warren Deschaneaux, and insure that the federal stimulus does not fuel future commitments in spending. Otherwise in three years our state budget will be much worse than it is today.”
Republicans urged adoption of a three-point plan for the legislature’s consideration of the stimulus funds:
1. Federal stimulus funds should be used primarily for capital projects and one-time programs instead of to boost on-going spending in the operating budget.
2. New spending initiatives should be rejected by the legislature unless accompanied by a new dedicated revenue source.
3. Legislators should pass the “Taxpayer’s Protection Act” to establish a higher threshold for the creation of any new or expanded taxes on Maryland hard-working families.
The joint caucus position unanimously supports the “Taxpayer’s Protection Act” which would require a 3/5th majority in each chamber in order to pass any legislation that increases existing taxes or levies new taxes.
Under the current rules in the General Assembly, the only legislation that requires a 3/5 majority are constitutional amendments and emergency bills. A 3/5 majority is 85 delegates and 28 senators. Of the tax increases that passed in 2007 Special Session, none received a 3/5 majority.
“Maryland’s budget has mushroomed to the point where current levels of state spending cannot be sustained,” said Senator Andy Harris, the lead sponsor of the Senate bill. “This legislation is necessary to impose the fiscal self-restraint that is currently lacking in Annapolis.”
“The purpose of this bill is to protect the taxpayers”, said Delegate Steve Schuh, the lead sponsor of the measure in the House. “The bill communicates to taxpayers that if their elected leaders are going to come to them demanding more of their hard-earned dollars, it will be only after reaching a significant level of consensus.”