Tech Tax and Hagerstown Higher Ed Cross Paths

The tech tax and the fight to keep the University System of Maryland-Hargerston were unexpectedly joined together yesterday when Sen. Donald Munson (R-Washington) voted to repeal the tech tax in order to force action on the impasse regarding the USM-H budget fight.

Munson, R-Washington, was the only Republican on a Senate committee Wednesday to vote for repealing a tax on computer services and instead create a new tax on millionaires.

He said the vote could lead to GOP backlash, but he did it to push for a solution to University System of Maryland at Hagerstown’s uncertain funding.

The Senate is trying to protect the campus’ full $2.1 million budget in fiscal year 2009.

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The House approved a plan to distribute the $2.1 million to several higher education centers, including Hagerstown’s, then give USM-H $1 million from within the university system.

The latest House compromise, sharply debated Tuesday, was $1.6 million for the campus, which would have to make up the other $500,000 through rental fees and local government contributions.

Munson said that might not keep the campus open. He said a Senate counterproposal – $1.8 million guaranteed, with $300,000 to make up – was rejected Wednesday by Del. John L. Bohanan Jr.

The budget conference committee was scheduled to meet on Tuesday, but rumors are that Munson and the rest of the Western Maryland delegation are appealing to Governor Martin O’Malley to intervene to get Bohanan and the rest of the House of Delegates to back off plans to cut USM-H budget. The conferees have not met since Monday and it is unclear when they will meet again.

The budget bill was supposed to have been completed on April 1 and the session is scheduled to adjourn on Monday April 7. The budget bill is a must pass bill. Will the impasse over a $2.1 million dollar budget line really keep the General Assembly in overtime?

This is an opportunity for O’Malley to actually keep a promise to the state regarding higher education. If higher education is important for Maryland, it be important for all of Maryland, not just Baltimore and suburban Washington.

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