State budget debate takes partisan turn
Anger over use of public financing fund
This story was corrected on April 14, 2009
State senators used the Senate vote on Maryland's $13.8 billion operating budget to complain that the Democrats were raiding the $5.2 million public financing fund for other election expenses in a partisan attempt to protect Gov. Martin O'Malley's re-election bid.
"This is the Incumbency Protection Act of 2009," said Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-36th Dist.) of Elkton.
Democrats said that, with the state facing unprecedented economic difficulties, they could use the funds to help pay for other election operations because no candidates had used the fund since 1994.
Democratic senators said during the morning debate that they would keep $3 million in the fund for public financing of the 2010 gubernatorial election.
"We put people in jail if they take $2.2 million," Pipkin said.
"Not a single penny" should be taken out because the money is voluntarily paid into the fund by taxpayers through either an addition to their taxes or a reduction in their refund for the sole purpose of publicly financing gubernatorial races, Pipkin said.
"This body is helping to eliminate competition for an incumbent governor," Pipkin said.
The operating budget passed, 38-9, on a largely partisan vote.