Legislative Session Enters Final Weekend

Gas tax, teacher pension shift, wind farming all were in limbo Friday.

With the legislative session set to end Monday, legislators plan to put in overtime Saturday in attempt to tackle big-ticket issues, the largest being the state's budget.

While delegates and senators were approaching consensus on cuts, the two chambers remained far apart on new revenues.

Sen. Edward Kasemeyer, D-Baltimore/Howard, submitted a compromise this week that would generate $309 million in revenue for FY 2013 without raising income taxes on those making $100,000 or less, a sticking point in the House.

"The most productive days of most legislative sessions are the last three or four," said Gov. Martin O'Malley. "If there's the will to get it done, we will have time to get it done."

Gas Tax

O'Malley's proposed gas tax has yet to be voted on in committee, but there has been some talk of a special session to address Maryland's need for transportation infrastructure funding.

The 6 percent sales  would be phased in over three years, but is unpopular among members of both parties and has met with strong .

O'Malley has also floated the idea of a 1-cent to pay for transportation infrastructure.

Teacher Pensions

Currently, the state government pays for teacher pensions. However, since retirement costs have risen significantly over the past decade, lawmakers say counties need to shoulder the burden.

House and Senate members agree that the shift must occur but they haven't reached a consensus on how to help counties offset the costs. The House's plan, a three-year cost shift, would allow local governments to raise income taxes for pension relief. The Senate's proposal for a four-year shift would rely primarily on closing tax loopholes and increasing state aid to make up the difference.

Wind Farming

Despite passing 88-47 in the House of Delegates, the offshore wind bill is stalled in the Senate.

The offshore wind bill is one of O'Malley's major proposals this year. But the increases residents would see to monthly utility bills have been a major concern for legislators since the bill was first .

Opponents of the bill are also worried about the significant costs to get into the offshore wind industry, but proponents argue the cost will be beneficial in the long run because prices of other energy sources are likely to increase.

Dave Nyczepir also contributed. This article was provided by Capital News Service.


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