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O’Malley, leaders target mid-May for special session

ANNAPOLIS — Maryland lawmakers can expect to go back to work in mid-May.

The Democratic governor and presiding officers of the state Senate and House of Delegates expect to call the legislature back into session May 14 to make changes to a budget plan that left the state with more than $500 million in cuts.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, left, Gov. Martin O'Malley and House Speaker Michael Busch

Before a bill signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said lawmakers would come back to Annapolis and spend a few days hashing out budget details.

“It was a fine session, we have some more work to do,” Miller said.

Raquel Guillory, a spokeswoman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, said while they have yet to officially confirm a timeframe for a special session, the chief executive and legislative leaders agreed to the date. Prior to signing hundreds of pieces of legislation, the governor said there was still more work to be done, but did not elaborate on the special session.

House Speaker Michael Busch said he told Delegates to clear their schedules for the week of May 14.

The budget process fell apart in April when lawmakers failed to pass an income tax increase that would have prevented the cuts, which largely target education and public services.

O’Malley has also said he would consider calling another session later in the summer to weigh expanded gambling in Maryland.

Considering the revenue package in conjunction with a move to bring table games and a sixth casino to the state was too much to handle in the final weeks of the 90-day session, prompting the budget breakdown, the governor has said.

O’Malley and presiding officers do not yet have a solution to rectify the budget situation, but say they are close to an agreement.

“Everyone agrees that we need to take up where we left off at the end of the session and that means accommodating the revenues and the budget reconciliation act,” said Busch, an Annapolis Democrat.

Senate Democrats met privately Wednesday to discuss the session and possible budget solutions.

Sen. Bill Ferguson, D-Baltimore, said lawmakers were told that budget conferees would meet later this week to iron out remaining differences.

House leaders will meet with the governor on Thursday, Busch said.

“Hopefully we can all come to a consensus and come back in here and resolve the issues that didn’t get resolved at the end of session,” Busch said.

Republicans have decried the need for a special session, saying it only gives the state’s Democratic majority a chance to raise taxes and spend more money.

“I think we should not be here at all,” House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell said. “It’s ill advised. These folks have a tax and spend addiction. We shouldn’t be an enabler of their tax and spend addiction.”

O’Donnell, R-Calvert, was not specific on how Republican delegates would attempt to influence the special session and would not confirm whether the 43 GOP House members would show up in Annapolis.

Even without Republicans in their seats, the House would have enough members to reach the quorum required to conduct business.

“I think the well-reasoned voice of the Republican caucus will be heard one way or another,” O’Donnell said.