$1.1B capital budget passes House amid protests it spends too much

By Megan Poinski

The House of Delegates passed the $1.1 billion capital budget in a 97-41 vote Wednesday evening, with opponents complaining that the state is spending too much and putting its triple-A bond rating on the line.

The bill had already cleared the Senate, but amendments from the House committee will need to be approved before it can go to Gov. Martin O’Malley’s desk.

Del. Andrew Serafini, R- Washington, said that he would like to support the capital budget. With the state approaching its debt limit and in a precarious spending position, coupled with the possibility of a bond-rating downgrade, Serafini said adding more debt is not prudent. He likened the state’s situation to an episode of “Lassie.”

“Timmy’s no longer at the well,” Serafini said. “He’s covered by dirt and garbage. He’s at the edge and about to fall off.”

Opponents still attend ribbon cuttings

Del. Adrienne Jones

Del. Adrienne Jones

Capital Budget Subcommittee Chair Adrienne Jones, D-Baltimore County, said that the state’s AAA bond rating has been affirmed. A careful process to determine how much the state can afford to issue in new debt occurs throughout the year, and Jones said that the bill is within the projected possible debt.

Jones said that every jurisdiction in the state has several projects coming out of the bill, and urged all members to vote for it. Jones said she’s tired of the continual opposition.

“We provide projects in your district, you vote against it, and then you show up at the ribbon cutting,” she said.

Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell, R-Calvert, quickly responded that the money involved in the bond bill belongs to the taxpayers. It is not the legislature’s money to spend, and the taxpayers will be the ones who suffer if the state defaults. O’Donnell said he and other legislators who oppose the bill support taxpayers who want to cut government spending. But it doesn’t mean they are against projects in the bill.

“Go to your ribbon cuttings all of you, go to ribbon cuttings all you need,” O’Donnell said, addressing his fellow delegates. “Vote your conscience. We should not be cowed.”

Del. Susan Aumann, R-Baltimore County, said that she appreciates the spending that the bill would do and the work that went into crafting it. However, she believes that the bill is $150 million too much, and said she cannot support it.

“A little bit of discipline would have gone a long way,” Aumann said. “If that means I wouldn’t go to a ribbon-cutting ceremony, then so be it.”