Good News, Bad News on Spending Cuts

Well, let’s start off with the good news:

House budget writers Monday identified nearly $500 million in potential savings in next year’s budget, including recommendations to freeze inflation increases in the state’s Thornton education funding plan, eliminate vacant state jobs, and tap surplus funds in the state health insurance fund.

“We’re at a point where some very, very tough decisions have to be made,” said Norman H. Conway, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, before the committee approved the bill to reduce spending by $498 million in the fiscal year 2009 budget.

The full House of Delegates takes up the proposed cuts Tuesday as part of the General Assembly’s special session to close a $1.7 billion budget gap for the next fiscal year.

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I mean don’t get me wrong, it’s a start, albeit it far from anything close to what should be happening in regards to budget cuts. But it appears that the Democrats in the House had a Eureka! moment sometime in the last few days and realized that if they are going to pillage the people with massive tax hikes, maybe they should at least make the appearance of trying to get their own spending house in order.

Steve Schuh, one of my very own delegates, made good points on the budget as usual:

Del. Steve Schuh, an Anne Arundel County Republican, said that while he supported the final bill in committee, he would like to have seen spending curtailed even more.

He also criticized the deficit-reduction plan being crafted by Democrats because it would raise a variety of taxes and relies on revenue from legalized slot-machine gambling that wouldn’t kick in for several years. The slots proposal would be put to voters in a November 2008 referendum if the legislation passes.

“If you blow it on spending restraint and if you blow it on slots, you’re backed into a fiscal corner of having to raise taxes in a very big way to balance the budget,”Schuh said.

But of course, this is not the land of milk and honey. Because some of our own people are complaining; yes, some Republican Delegates are complaining about cuts!

But other Republican legislators Monday balked at some of the small spending reductions.

Del. Susan L.M. Aumann, a Baltimore County Republican, opposed a measure to keep grants to private colleges at the current fiscal year amount, which would save the state $3.4 million. She expressed concern that more students will leave Maryland to attend private colleges.

As I noted a few days ago, the $62 million grant in the Sellinger Formula to private colleges is ridiculous in the first place. Del. Aumann’s consternation at a $3.4 million cut to Sellinger aid is disturbing, because it makes me wonder if some of our own Republican Delegates are committed merely to only opposing tax cuts: that these legislators, in actuality, support the continued feeding of this governmental beast.

$500 million in cuts are a good thing. Let’s find another $1.5 billion and get this tax hike off of the backs of Maryland’s working families…


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