Budget Conference Committee Underway – Expecting Final Package At End of Week

MarylandReporter Coverage of the initial meetings of the House/Senate budget conference committee yesterday suggests that large issues — including the major topics of county interest — remain unsolved, but some early tentative agreements have been reached.

They left their key differences on the table for further discussion, including disputes over state spending on teacher pensions, community colleges and legislative scholarships,

“We’re nibbling around the edges and getting the easy stuff done,” said Del. John Bohanan, one of the House members on the conference committee. The two chambers still differ on local highways, stem cell research and private college and university aid.

. . .

The “bottom line” is that there is almost no difference at all between the Senate and House versions, said Warren Deschenaux, chief fiscal analyst for the General Assembly. “What they have to do is just agree on everything.”

That isn’t likely to happen until the end of the week, with big ticket items put on hold.

One additional item with some indirect county impact:

And newspapers in the state will not lose $512,000 in revenues to print or insert the comptroller’s unclaimed property report, which details money and other items left behind in banks by thousands of people. The report is available online, but Del. Norman Conway, D-Wicomico, the Appropriations Chairman, said many rural residents still don’t have access to the Internet.

MACo has supported a number of initiatives toward “electronic access” during the 2010 session, with mixed results, but has generally expressed interest in providing more flexible, inexpensive, and environment-friendly online access to many public documents and notices. The conference committee’s declining this budget item is a modest blow to these overall efforts.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties

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