By Hillary Pennington
Well, Maryland, the legislative session for 2012 has come to a close, and for the moment at least, your wallets are safe. In fact, Maryland looks more like a red state then a blue. They passed the budget, complete with cuts and barely any tax increases.
Don't get too excited though. It was all a product of a political power play gone awry, and it all went down in the final hours of Sine Die.
Allow me to set the stage.
First you have Governor O'Malley, who set out this session with one of the most liberal agendas in the country. Two of his top priorities: gas tax and mandated wind power subsidies, both of which would cost Maryland tax payers a butt load of money.
Then you have Senate President Mike Miller. His main agenda: the addition of a sixth casino at National Harbor and the expansion of gambling to include table games.
Lastly, there is Speaker of the House Michael Busch, who I believe just got caught in the middle and refused to be pushed around.
Those are the players; the taxpayers of Maryland were the pawns. Who got to claim checkmate at the end? I'll let you decide.
So here's how it all went down. Keep in mind that Session is 90 days long. The original budget bills, along with gaming, gas tax, and wind power were all introduced at the beginning. There was plenty of time to make everyone happy. Well, at least the Democrats.
In the last couple of weeks leading up to Sine Die, each House passed their own version of the budget. Their job then was the come together and compromise. By midday Sine Die, they were at a stalemate. Neither Miller nor Busch would budge.
The gaming and wind power bills were still held up in committees. Basically Miller wanted Gaming to pass, and Busch wanted the Senate to concede to their budget compromise. O'Malley, like my three year old daughter, was standing in the middle of it all throwing a temper tantrum over his precious agenda.
By 11 p.m., all hell had broken loose. Miller even allowed the Republicans to filibuster the stormwater bill (which eventually passed by the way) while he was waiting to see if the House would sed over his precious gaming bill. At this point, however, the House had dug in their heels, sending Miller into DEFCON 5 mode.
See, earlier in session, Miller set up the budget as a bargaining chip, a form of blackmail if you will. If the General Assembly failed to pass the revenue package (AKA a heck of a lot of tax increases) then the budget would go through complete with $6 million or so in cuts.
In the final minutes of Session, he pulled the trigger, passing what the Dems call the "Doomsday" budget, killing wind power, tax increases, and bringing an end to Session 2012 at midnight on April 9 (technically April 10).
In the hours following, Annapolis looked more like a circus. Republicans partying. Dems fighting amongst themselves, and the top three leaders in Maryland pointing fingers at one another.
This is not the end though. They will call for a Special Session where they will raise our taxes, and the Governor will have a second chance to shove his hyper liberal, wallet grabbing agenda down our throats.
But for the moment, we can celebrate a Maryland who tightned their own belts and decided to live within their means. It's almost like a dream.