House approves $38.7 billion budget plan -- Gazette.Net


ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s House of Delegates approved a $38.7 billion budget Thursday that trimmed some spending growth from the governor’s original $39.2 billion plan but maintained a $200 million diversion of funds away from the state’s pension system.

It also approved a companion bill to balance the budget, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act of 2014.

The House majority shot down every attempt by conservative members to trim the spending plan further.

For the fiscal 2015 budget, members of the House Republican Caucus asked their colleagues to cut spending an extra 2 percent across the board, allowing for only 1 percent growth over fiscal 2014, which ends June 30.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Del. Norman H. Conway (D-Dist. 38B) of Salisbury called the House’s plan prudent, saying it allowed the state to maintain programs and its AAA bond rating without increasing taxes.

“I’m very pleased for this budget,” he said. “I feel very good about it.”

Conway said the House budget grows by 3.1 percent from fiscal 2014, or about $1.5 billion.

But some lawmakers claim the plan robs Peter to pay Paul, filling a budget hole by reducing a committed $300 million in additional payments to the state pension fund to only $100 million. Maryland pledged the extra $300 million in 2011 to reform the state’s underfunded pension system.

The budget reduces the payment starting in fiscal 2015; it would gradually increase that payment back up to the promised $300 million by fiscal 2019.

Del. Charles E. Barkley (D-Dist. 39) of Germantown asked his colleagues to do so sooner, by fiscal 2016. He also asked the state to reduce the contributions employees were asked to make to the fund starting in 2011 to even the scales.

Barkley’s efforts were defeated. However, he along with the rest of the Montgomery County delegation voted to support the budget.

While the House plan passed, it does not exactly match what the Senate passed earlier this month — likely sending the budget to a conference committee in these final days of the session.

House Majority Leader Del. Kumar Barve (D-Dist. 17) of Gaithersburg said he was proud to vote for the budget, highlighting the spending plan’s focus on education and transportation.