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Still a few items for Senate, House to resolve on budget

ANNAPOLIS — With less than a week remaining in the General Assembly’s regular 90-day session, the House of Delegates and Senate have identified a few sticking points in ongoing budget negotiations that are expected to continue this week.

The Senate has proposed reducing the state’s Rainy Day Fund to 5.5 percent of the general fund balance, a decrease from Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed 6 percent, which was an increase over last year’s 5 percent appropriation.

The Senate has also proposed reducing supplemental funding to the state pension fund by $100 million, an amount some lawmakers say is no longer necessary because of a change made this year in how the pension fund is managed.

Members of the House of Delegates have resisted those changes, countering with an offer that would reduce the Rainy Day Fund to its previous 5 percent level while reinstating the $100 million in supplemental funding to the pension fund. The Senate rejected that plan.

A conference committee composed of members of the Senate and House delayed a meeting Tuesday so they could first hear a briefing on O’Malley’s supplemental budget proposal, a late funding request that included money to save Towson University’s baseball team and money to implement bills passed by the legislature this year, such as one to create an employee training program and another to promote offshore wind energy development.

Thus far, negotiations have been described as positive by members of the conference committee. Unlike last year, when a budget agreement was not reached until late on the final evening of the legislative session, this year’s budget proposal does not include large cuts in programs and services or tax increases.

Lawmakers will also have to reconcile differences in House and Senate capital budget bills. The Senate is expected to give final approval to a capital spending plan late this week. The session ends on Monday.