Posts Tagged ‘budget’

Hoyer Calls for Compromise to Avoid Government Shutdown

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Rep. Steny Hoyer,  D-Mechanicsville, called for Republicans to compromise on the looming budget challenges during a press briefing this morning.

The House Minority Whip said he opposes short-term continuing resolutions like the one introduced by the House Appropriations Committee on Monday. He said the “episodic, sporadic funding levels” of continuing resolutions, in lieu of passing an overall 2011 budget, do not address the essential challenges of funding the government.

The continuing resolution measure would fund the government for one week. The Department of Defense would receive funding through the end of the current fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Hoyer said Congress is not going to solve the budget with non-security cuts and that all aspects of the budget, with the exception of the interest on the national debt, must be on the table in budget negotiations.

Without a continuing resolution, federal employees could face a shutdown that Hoyer calls “costly and demoralizing — not just for federal employees, but demoralizing for the nation.”

The ability to compromise is essential to the process, Hoyer said, and tea partyers who rallied on The Hill last week are unwilling to compromise.

Referring to last year’s tax cuts, he said, “In December, we made some compromises we didn’t like,” he said. “We’re prepared to compromise” on the budget issues, he said.

Hoyer said the budget is “a reflection of what people think is important.”

By Capital News Service’s Laura E. Lee

Cardin Proposes Elimination of Blenders’ Ethanol Tax Credit

Friday, March 11th, 2011
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., introduced legislation to repeal the  Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit, which gives companies 45 cents on every gallon of ethanol they blend with gasoline.

“There is no real justification for the subsidy for the blend on ethanol,” Cardin said. The subsidy does not help corn growers, but rather contributes to the profits of oil companies, he said.

Should the bill become law, the short-term impact on corn growers would be relatively small, said John Urbanchuk, technical director at Cardno ENTRIX, an environmental and natural resources consulting firm. But the long-term effect on ethanol demand could be substantial, he said.

The bill, which is co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, comes on the heels of a report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office last week saying the VEETC subsidy cost $5.4 billion in 2010. The report indicated the measure could cost $6.75 billion in forgone revenue in 2015.

“We’re looking for ways to save money,” Cardin said. “I think this is way you can save several billion dollars to help balance the budget.”

A demand for ethanol would remain without the VEETC because of the Renewable Fuel Standard, which requires minimum volumes of biofuels like ethanol in transportation fuels, according to the GAO report.

“Importantly, the fuel standard is now at a level high enough to ensure that a market for domestic ethanol production exists in the absence of the ethanol tax credit and may soon itself be at a level beyond what can be consumed by the nation’s existing vehicle infrastructure,” the report stated.

Growth Energy, an organization advocating for ethanol production and use, issued a statement condemning the bill.

“The ethanol industry is fully prepared to reform and reduce the cost of current tax programs,” said CEO Tom Buisin in a statement released Thursday. “I would suggest Sens. Coburn and Cardin introduce legislation requiring the oil industry to do the same. ”

Urbanchuk said a repeal of the tax credit could create another unintended consequence: an increase in the already-growing investment in foreign ethanol production.

“We’ll end up, instead of being a net exporter, perhaps being a net importer of ethanol again,” he said.

Cardin acknowledged opposition but remained confident in his objectives for the legislation.

“There could be some regional controversy because people identify it with corn, but I really think when people look at it they’ll see that this is not really an issue about the corn industry,” Cardin said. “It’s really an issue about removing a subsidy that’s no longer needed.”

– By Capital News Service’s Laura E. Lee

Mikulski Speaks Against ‘Draconian’ Budget Bill

Wednesday, March 9th, 2011

From the floor of the U.S. Senate — with a fresh Ash Wednesday smudge on her forehead — Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., railed against the House Republicans’ proposed budget bill, H.R. 1.

“I’m not going to stand for further pummeling of the middle class,” Mikulski said.

About an hour after Mikulski finished speaking, the Senate defeated the measure along party lines. The House bill, a continuing resolution to keep the federal government funded until the end of the 2011 fiscal year, included about $57 billion in cuts.

The Senate also defeated the Democrats’ budget cut proposal Wednesday. The Democrats’ failed plan sliced less than $6 billion from the federal budget.

Current funding for government operations is approved through March 18.

Mikulski opposed the Republican plan because it cut education grants, transportation funding and scientific research.

In particular, Mikulski said that cuts to the Food and Drug Administration — headquartered in Silver Spring — would create a backlog of approvals for drugs and medical devices. Slowing the FDA approval process would have a domino effect on private biotech firms, Mikulski said, and create job losses.

Before making her prepared remarks, Mikulski responded to comments made by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., who spoke before her in support of the Republican bill.

Coburn supported his party’s budget proposal in part because it reduced spending on overlapping government programs.

Mikulski said Coburn was blaming the Obama administration for duplicative spending that proceeded throughout the George W. Bush years when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress.

“Let’s end the duplication,” Mikulski said, “but let’s end the duplicity in the way we talk about the duplication.”

– By Capital News Service’s Steve Kilar

O’Malley Says Tough Decisions Make Better Future

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley addresses a governing conference

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley addresses states' immediate economic future. Capital News Service photo by Laura E. Lee

State governments have to make “tough choices” that include spending cuts and balancing budgets, said Gov. Martin O’Malley at the National Press Club on Tuesday as keynote speaker for the Outlook in the States and Localities conference hosted by Governing magazine.

“Constant streamlining, constant closings, constant consolidations have become the new normal of governing and I am sure that is true in all of your states,” he told the crowd of about 200 people.

The difficult decisions are necessary, he said, to improve the future for the next generation.

“No generation of Americans ever built monuments to their own comfort,” he said. The tough decisions are made because “we want our children to be winners in this change to a new economy.”

At several points in the speech, O’Malley echoed President Obama’s words from last week’s State of the Union about “winning the future.”

With 87 cents of every general fund dollar spent on public education, public safety and public health, there are limited resources for other areas of government like the judicial system, environmental protection and economic development, he said.

Part of the current economic struggle is the result of increased health care costs, O’Malley said. “I think one of the biggest drains on the innovative capacity of our economy in recent years has been the rapidly escalating, out of control cost of health care.” Businesses have difficulty investing in new hiring, marketing, expansion and skills development when health care costs are so high, he explained.

O’Malley warned that states that do not embrace health care reform risk losses in the long-term. “We believe that states that are slow to adapt and slow to embrace this will lose out in this new competitive, this innovation edge, that will come to those states that figure out how to control those costs,” he said.

All the economic news is not bleak. The state gained 26,000 net new jobs in the innovation economy last year– the best year of new job creation since the recession began, he said.

O’Malley praised the education system, noting that, unlike any other state, Maryland’s university system has avoided any tuition increase in the last four years.

He explained that Maryland governmental units track and monitor data to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

Governing magazine named O’Malley a 2009 Public Official of the Year for his “data-driven approach to policy and administration.”

The speech comes in advance of the governor’s fifth State of the State address scheduled for Thursday at noon.

-By Capital News Service’s Laura E. Lee

Winter Storm Hits, Drivers Urged to Stay Home

Friday, February 5th, 2010

The Maryland State Highway Administration is urging drivers to stay off the roads unless absolutely necessary while this winter snow storm barrels through the region.

SHA spokesman David Buck says snow plows will do their best to keep roads clean and safe, but in a storm like this, there are no guarantees.

“I think it’s going to be about managing expectations out there,” he said. “For us, we’re just going to try to keep up.”

NOAA’s National Weather Service says its winter storm warning for the D.C.-metro region and greater Maryland will remain in effect until 10 p.m. Saturday, when meteorologists expect the snowfall to subside. Accumulation estimates now range from 20 to 30 inches of snow.

It’s unclear if roads will be ready for people to drive to work and school on Monday.

“That would be an answer we have at the end of the storm,” Buck said. “As we saw last weekend, the weather predictions can be way off, and there’s absolutely no way to know how soon roads will be ready until the storm is over.”

Maryland has already blown through its $26 million snow-removal budget this year; $50 million had already been spent before this weekend’s storm, Buck said.

–By Maryland Newsline’s Ben Giles

Cutting Back

Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Families and businesses have been tightening their belts in the aftermath of the economic crisis on Wall Street. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley recently announced that Maryland will be cutting back, too.

What more (or less) should the state be doing to address the crisis?

How have the changes in the economy affected your spending habits? Where have you had to cut back?

–From Maryland Newsline’s Avital Medoff