Same Sex Marriage Update
After a long debate on Friday, the House voted to send SB116, the same sex marriage bill, back to the House Judiciary committee. Even with weeks of pressure and arm twisting by the Democratic leadership to pass this bill, when the time came it was clear that the votes simply were not there. Rather than suffer the embarrassment of having the bill die on the floor, supporters decided it was better to put it back in committee. The issue is not expected to come up again this session.
Maryland’s Budget – Appropriations Committee Sets a Low Bar
The House Appropriations Committee has begun to make preliminary decisions on additional cuts to Maryland’s Budget. According to our Ranking Member on the Committee, Delegate Gail Bates, the Democratic leadership on the Committee has set the stunningly low goal of an additional $120 million in reductions to the Governor’s budget. That is a reduction of less than ½%. There is no doubt that when this budget comes to the House floor, the Democrats on the Committee will pound their chest calling this a socially responsible and fiscally prudent budget.
It is surprising that the Appropriations Committee has set the bar so low, given that their Chairman, Delegate Norm Conway, sent an email to the entire House of Delegates in late January discussing the structural deficit. In his email, he stated “even with the Governor’s current budget proposal, the structural deficit still remains at $1.2 billion for fiscal year 2012”. He also called this “the single most important issue the General Assembly will address this year.” With only $120 million in reductions, this budget is anything but responsible or prudent. In fact, it could put us on the unavoidable path to more tax hikes.
Maryland’s budget problems, while significant, are not unsolvable. As we told you last week, the House Republican Caucus has created a budget plan that would reduce the size of government and allow us to reduce the tax burden on our citizens and businesses. This plan has been rolled into a bill, HB 1294 – The Deficit Reduction and Financing Act and will have a hearing on March 15th.
The O’Malley Administration’s House Bill 1054 – Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act, creates an off-shore wind project to be located in the Atlantic off the coast of Ocean City, MD. During the Governor’s presentation of HB 1054, many Delegates became concerned when no one on the panel of supporters could estimate the project costs to build a 500 Megawatt (MW) offshore wind project.
In 2008 the Maryland Public Service Commission issued the Levitan Report, which came at the cost of millions of dollars and two years of expert study. The analysis determined that building and operating an offshore wind facility was severely uneconomical. Just over two years later the Governor’s administration declared this information to be obsolete. Still not obtaining the findings to support his initiative, the Governor issued an Executive Order requiring DNR to prepare a Long Term Electricity Report due this December. Delegate Hershey questioned the Governor and asked to wait for the results of this report prior to asking Marylanders to commit to a 25 year debt of over $4.6 billion, according to the bill’s fiscal note.
Should the project move forward, each residential ratepayer could expect their average monthly bill to increase for the next 25 years. The House Republican Caucus will closely watch the progress of this proposed off-shore wind farm to ensure Marylanders are not asked to provide financial backing to Governor O’Malley’s pet project in spite of any associated economic considerations.