ANNAPOLIS – The Maryland House of Delegates used new estimates of shrinking state revenues as the cue Wednesday to cut more funds from Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s record-setting budget.
The House approved its Appropriations Committee’s report and recommended cuts of about $239 million to bring the state’s $21.3 billion budget back in line with a joint legislative committee’s spending guidelines.
To stay within the Spending Affordability Committee’s 6.95 percent growth ceiling, the General Assembly only has to cut $184.5 million, revised from the original $208.6 million.
But projections released Wednesday by the Board of Revenue Estimates showed a $50.2 million drop in anticipated general fund revenues for the 2002 fiscal year from its December forecast of $9.93 billion.
On the House floor in the evening, delegates quietly backed an amendment to delete $8 million in funding for private school textbooks — one of last year’s most hotly contested appropriations. The funds will revert to the Cigarette Restitution Fund in June 2002.
Last year, the General Assembly approved a $6 million private school textbook subsidy after heated debate in both chambers. Friday, the House Appropriations Committee narrowly voted to cut the private school textbook subsidy.
However, the House voted to keep $1 million in general funds for nursing homes after delegates protested the committee’s recommended cut. The funding has a federal match, so the cut would have meant a loss of $2 million.
Last year, the General Assembly approved $10 million in general funds for two years for the state’s nursing homes.
“We made a commitment to the people who are working in the nursing homes,” said Delegate Peter Hammen, D-Baltimore. “With this committee amendment, we’re backing away from that commitment.”
House Minority Whip Robert Flanagan, R-Howard, disputed much of the budget, but the nursing home funds should stay, he said.
“This is a budget in which the operating budget increased by $885 million,” he said. “I don’t think we ought to nickel and dime older citizens who are in nursing homes.”
Drug addiction programs lost $2 million on a House vote.
Delegate Dan Morhaim, D-Baltimore County, protested the cut, calling the funding “one of the soundest investments we can make” because it saves money for both the health care and criminal justice systems. Delegate Samuel Rosenberg, D-Baltimore, pointed out the cut would not affect services. There could be $2 million less for prescription drug funding without that cut, he added. The House budget review continued well into the evening, and many decisions were made after publication deadlines. The $50.2 million decrease in the state’s anticipated revenue is based on smaller personal income tax collections, according to the Board of Revenue Estimates, which also expects lower capital gains tax revenues than it originally predicted. The national economy’s slowdown is responsible for the predicted decrease in personal income tax revenues, according to Comptroller William Donald Schaefer’s office.