Senate passes O’Malley budget with overwhelming support

Senate chamber

The Senate chamber

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s budget passed the Senate in a landslide vote, with only five Republicans voting against it and seven Republicans voting in favor along with 35 of their Democratic colleagues.

The budget’s passage was preceded by an exceptionally short debate, which lasted only an hour and included no Republican proposals to cut state spending in fiscal year 2014.

After about $400 million in cuts, both houses have approved a $36.8 billion budget for fiscal 2014.  The budget bill will now be sent to a conference committee, where state legislators will have to hash out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

The the budget bill’s progress was accelerated by a vote to suspend Senate rules , which allowed a final vote on the bill during the same session that it received senators’ preliminary approval.

Republican senators offered six floor amendments to the budget during Wednesday’s session, but most of their amendments addressed policy issues, like abortion and stem cell research. None included across-the-board spending cuts like those proposed by Del. Kelly Schulz, R-Frederick County, during the House budget debate.

Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin, R- Queen Anne’s County, proposed an amendment which would set aside $100 million of state education funding to pay for armed guards in public schools, but the amendment was shot down in an 11-36 vote.

Montgomery County Democrat Richard Madaleno explained his no vote on Pipkin’s amendment, saying, “I appreciate the good intent of  that amendment, but the fiscal note for it says that it would cost the state $100 million to provide a guard at each school.”

– Ilana Kowarski