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Maryland's 'doomsday budget'

June 29, 2007

It's a political move that might be older than the Maryland State House. We call it the "firemen first" ploy, in which lawmakers threaten to close fire stations if they don't get additional revenue, usually through a tax increase of some sort.

Closing fire stations was about the only thing not considered in Annapolis this week when lawmakers heard what legislative leaders called the "doomsday budget."

Without additional cash, items on the chopping block will include higher education, police grants, state jobs and annual increases for education in the so-called Thornton Commission plan.

Local government would be asked to pay half of teachers' retirement costs and pick up a larger share of school costs.

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In another words, give us the money and your little pet project won't get hurt.

The Herald-Mail has taken a position in favor of legalizing slots at the state's race tracks, not only to preserve the stat's racing industry, but also to capture some of the revenue Marylanders are now taking to Delaware and West Virginia.

As for the rest of what is needed, we would like to see Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration review the study of government efficiency done in 2004 under the leadership of former Gov. Marvin Mandel.

The group, which included state Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, produced a 124-page report with recommendations for more than 50 state agencies. Certainly this bipartisan group's report can serve as a starting point for another look at possible cuts and increased efficiency.

The citizens will accept tax increases with less anger if they know that government has done everything possible to save money in other ways.

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