What were your state legislators doing at 2am this morning? In Maryland, they were voting in a $1.4 billion tax hike:
Maryland lawmakers early this morning passed about $1.4 billion in annual tax increases and a public referendum on legalizing 15,000 slot machines as a far-reaching special session of the General Assembly hurtled to a close.
Passage of the bills is intended to solve two long-festering issues: chronic budget problems created by passing a landmark education law five years ago without funding to pay for it and the perennial debate over slot machine gambling.
Before adjourning at 2:36 a.m., lawmakers had sent two bills needed to execute a referendum on slots to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), as well as another two tax bills and a measure to offer health insurance to 100,000 poor and uninsured adults without Medicaid coverage.
Lawmakers also approved legislation directing O’Malley to trim spending in next year’s budget by about $550 million, including slowing the growth in education spending.
“You’ve got to give Governor O’Malley a lot of credit for going out and, in essence, leading with his chin,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel), who advised against holding the high-stakes session. “The governor took it all on his shoulders, and the legislature pretty much followed. . . . We’ve basically, in my estimate, taken a full legislative year of work and condensed it into 20 days.”
Republican leaders said the session was more likely to remembered for its frantic pace and for what would arguably be the largest tax increase in Maryland history. Legislation expected to be given final passage before adjournment included increases in sales, corporate income, tobacco and vehicle titling taxes, as well as an overhaul of the personal income tax system that would result in high-end earners paying more.
“Common sense and reason went out the window just to give the governor a victory,” said Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley (R-Frederick). “I think this whole thing has been a debacle, and taxpayers are stuck holding the bill.”
Everyone else should give thanks this holiday that they don’t live in my state.
Jonn Lilyea puts it another way: “Happy Holidays, Maryland. Now bend over.”