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Lawmakers Meet To Hash Out Budget Differences

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) -- Lawmakers did not get far Monday in their opening deliberations on resolving differences in budget proposals passed by state Senate and House of Delegates.

A committee of legislators resolved some preliminary differences in their versions of the budget package, but held off dealing with a shift in who pays for teacher pensions and complicated tax proposals.

The conference committee, made up of a handful of lawmakers from each chamber, briefly considered varying proposals to raise the state's income tax in order to hack away at an ongoing $1.1 billion deficit.

The House version of the plan raises less money than the Senate's tax proposal, but would affect fewer taxpayers. It raises rates only on people with annual incomes of more than $100,000 and couples who earn in excess of $150,000.

The House plan is more fair, Delegate Kumar Barve, D-Montgomery, argued, sparing people with low incomes from unnecessary financial burdens.

"Obviously the House plan, as a consequence, raises less money, but it's something that we were able create a great deal of political support for," Barve said. "From not just the usual suspects, people in moderate, conservative and rural areas who were able to support this package because it's seen to be a relatively progressive way to proceed."

The Senate plan would affect nearly all Maryland taxpayers.

That plan is expected to raise $475.8 million for the state in fiscal 2013, $284 million more than the House plan would generate.

Increasing taxes on all income brackets makes sense because the revenue would support services, like education, which are used by most tax payers said Sen. Richard Madaleno, D-Montgomery.

"Our approach was you know what, we all get something back from the government," Madaleno said. "We're going to ask everyone to make a modest contribution because we all have an investment, we all have a stake in making sure education remains at the top, the environment remains safe and protected and that we make other investments to keep our economy growing strong."

The group is scheduled to meet Tuesday to discuss the income tax measure along with an increase in the tax on tobacco products and a proposal to shift the cost of teacher pensions to county governments.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)

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