Lawmakers recommend nearly flat 2011 budget
Historic zero percent budget guideline would halve $2 billion deficit
This story was corrected on Dec. 18, 2009. An explanation of the correction is at the bottom of the story.
ANNAPOLIS A bipartisan panel of legislators on Thursday recommended a zero percent increase in state spending in the fiscal 2011 operating budget that would cut in half a $2 billion budget deficit.
If followed, the recommendation would limit an increase in appropriations to $20.8 million, factoring in inflation, and would leave it to the legislature to find another $1 billion to cut from the fiscal 2011 budget. It is the lowest spending recommendation in the 28 years of the panel.
The Spending Affordability Committee approved the recommendation mostly along party lines. Sen. Donald F. Munson (R-Dist. 2) of Hagerstown and David R. Brinkley (R-Dist. 4) of New Market were the only Republicans to vote for the recommendation.
Earlier, Brinkley sparked a long debate by proposing to reduce spending by 7.44 percent. If adopted, the measure would have meant no new spending in the fiscal 2011 budget.
The panel rejected the Brinkley proposal along party lines.
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) will unveil his fiscal 2011 budget proposal in late January. He is not bound by the recommendation, but it can carry great weight because the committee is made up mostly of legislators.
The final vote followed nearly two hours of debate over spending and borrowing guidelines for the operating and capital budgets.
"This is continuing overspending in the state, and it's harmful to our long-term interests," House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell (R-Dist. 29C) of Lusby said of the adopted recommendation.
The recommendation is a guideline for the governor's budget, which is always cut by the legislature, House Speaker Michael E. Busch said.
Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis suggested that Republicans who pushed for negative budget growth bring forth recommend budget cuts during the General Assembly session, which begins Jan. 13.
"We should put the specifics in writing so everybody that's out there that's an advocate or a citizen of Maryland can understand where every legislator stands on those cuts," he said.
This story originally said Sen. David R. Brinkley was the only Republican who voted for the recommendation. It should have said Brinkley and Sen. Donald F. Munson were the only Republicans to vote for the recommendation.