Maryland faces $1.2 billion in new cuts

With the federal stimulus money that propped up the state's budget over the past couple of years no longer available, Maryland is facing a $1.2 billion budget gap, and cuts to previously untouchable programs like education loom on the horizon.

Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley will convene lawmakers on Jan. 12 to deal with the deficit, essentially through a steady diet of cuts. O'Malley has ruled out raising taxes on the rich or even making permanent a small tax increase on people making over $1 million yearly, enacted in 2008.

Now labor and progressives, as well as a number of Democratic lawmakers, are fighting to make that tax permanent. The governor refused to include such a step in the budget he will submit, saying that he will rely only on spending cuts and transfers.

While taxes on the rich are set to expire, increased taxes on gas and alcohol, which would disproportionately affect working people, are under consideration.

The largely Democratic state legislature wants to shift teacher pensions to Maryland's counties. That would save the state mightily but create crises for local governments.

Education cuts seem likely. Further cuts in developmental and mental disability programs are not reasonable because of sustained deep cuts in recent years.

In a recent poll, nearly 82 percent of people said that the wealthy should pay more taxes.

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