State budget amendment fails

February 27, 2001

State budget amendment fails


ANNAPOLIS - Maryland lawmakers have chosen not to give themselves more power over state spending.

The Maryland Senate narrowly defeated a proposed Constitutional amendment on Tuesday that would have changed the 85-year-old process that gives the governor almost total control over the state budget.

Legislators can only make cuts to the budget. Any additions must come from the governor.

The amendment died by a four-vote margin. It needed the votes of 29 of the 47 senators to pass.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington both voted for the amendment.

"I am tired of having always to play the Grinch when the governor plays Santy Claus," Munson said during a spirited floor debate. It's rare for Munson to speak on the floor.

Munson said he met this week with Washington County homeless advocates, who told him that it takes a person working 78 hours at a minimum wage to earn enough for a two-bedroom apartment. There are more than 1,000 homeless people in the county, he said.


Yet the governor did not fund a state self-help program.

"We would have found a way to fund that program," said Munson, a 27-year veteran of the legislature.

Sen. Robert R. Neall, D-Anne Arundel, said the amendment would have given voters more power because their representatives would have more say in the budget.

Maryland is the only state that doesn't allow the legislature to make additions to the budget.

Opponents worried that changing the process wouldn't solve the problems and might create new ones.

The added responsibility would create more work for the part-time legislature, they said.

"We ought to at least know where we're going to land before we leap," said Sen. Clarence Blount, D-Baltimore.

Blount argued that the system has worked for Maryland.

"The power to cut is an awesome power. It's a power equal to the power to put in (in) the first place," Blount said.

When it was filed, the bill had more than enough co-sponsors for it to pass, but some senators reversed themselves.

Gov. Parris Glendening opposed the measure.

Munson said he was disappointed at the defeat, but hopes the proposal will be back next year.

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