ANNAPOLIS – An attempt by House Republicans on Wednesday to alter Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget proposal failed when lawmakers voted down a measure that would have made cuts to limit spending growth to 1 percent and restored state pension fund contributions.
The Republican alternative to the budget bill, which passed the Senate two weeks ago, was one of 90 amendments proposed by lawmakers in the House during a lengthy debate. Legislators approved all 79 changes offered up by the House Appropriations Committee, but rejected the rest.
The House is expected to vote on the approximately $39 billion budget later this week.
Republicans on the floor of the House criticized the measure that emerged from the Senate earlier in the month, saying the proposed spending increase of roughly 3 percent would inflate the structural deficit and burden taxpayers.
Citing the “taxes, tolls and fees” of the O’Malley administration, House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. “Nic” Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, said the state government has already asked residents to contribute too much and people are unable to keep up.
“Anything more than [a 1 percent growth in spending], you have to borrow, beg and steal,” Kipke said. “You put it on a credit card. You put more pressure on the taxpayers of this state by taking more of their money, and we’ve done that over the last 8 years.”
Kipke and others touted the Republican alternative to shrink proposed spending growth as “smart” and “responsible.”
“By limiting [spending growth] to 1 percent, you’re growing government at the rate at which you can afford it,” Kipke said.
But House Appropriations Committee Chair Norman Conway, D-Wicomico, said his panel looked closely at the budget, offering close to 80 amendments as a result. An across-the-board reduction, Conway said, is the wrong approach.
Democrats also said that critical government programs would suffer if further cuts were made to the budget, which the Senate already slightly trimmed.
Some of the loudest cries of Republican opposition centered around the Senate’s decision to reduce proposed state pension fund contributions.
As it now stands, the budget calls for an additional $100 million in pension fund contributions for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, instead of an extra $300 million.
Several Republicans said the “pension theft” translates to unkept promises and the guarantee of difficult and complicated decisions for lawmakers down the road.
Delegate Tony McConkey, R-Anne Arundel, said the Republican budget plan, which he sponsored, would have provided an alternative to balancing the budget “so we’re not stuck with stealing money from the pension funds.”
The GOP measure was defeated by a vote of 42 to 95.