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Senate approves budget bill

ANNAPOLIS — The Senate has voted 42-5 to approve a roughly $37 billion operating budget, altered only slightly from Gov. Martin O’Malley’s initial proposal.

In less than three hours, the Senate sped through proposed amendments to the bill and complementary legislation, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, then unanimously voted to suspend the usual Senate rules to also hold a final vote on Wednesday.

The House of Delegates has already passed a slightly different budget bill. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George’s, said the Senate’s haste was an attempt to quickly convene a conference committee to resolve those differences.

Last year, complicated by a gambling expansion bill, leaders reached a budget agreement too late in the session to pass a four-bill spending and tax hike package, forcing a May special session to avoid some $500 million in cuts to programs and services.

“Everybody remembers last year and the results of last year,” Miller said. “We’re not going to duplicate” that.