The Maryland General Assembly is winding down its 2024 session with major issues related to the Port of Baltimore and Francis Scott Key Bridge collapse as well as the state budget still pending. 

Legislation quickly introduced March 27 would authorize the Governor to use the state’s rainy day fund to replace lost wages for port workers, compensate port dependent businesses for financial losses related to the port shutdown, and provide incentives for companies not to relocate operations to competing ports. The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee held a hearing on the bill April 2.

The House and Senate have passed 2025 state budgets totaling about $63 billion. The two plans differ on how to close near term budget shortfalls. The Senate balanced the budget without tax increases, using the state’s rainy day fund, higher than expected capital gains tax receipts and one-time transfers from other funds. The House version of the budget incorporates $1.2 billion in tax and fee increases, including targeted toll and vehicle registration fee increases, and a new internet gaming bill that is estimated to generate $200 million per year in licensing fees.

Citing sluggish statewide economic growth, Governor Wes Moore has said he has a high bar for large tax increases. Senate President Bill Ferguson has repeatedly said he will not support broad based taxes this year. Senator Guy Guzzone, Chair of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, has said the Senate version of the budget can pay for planned education spending increases through 2025 and 2026.

If tax increases are not taken up over the next week, they certainly will be on the agenda when the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2025. Legislative analysts predict the structural deficit will be $1.3 billion in 2027 and increase to $3 billion the following year. In addition, the Senate, House and Governor will need to work out what to do about a $3.1-billion gap in the Transportation Trust Fund.

The House and Sente are meeting in a conference committee to reconcile the two budgets before the session is scheduled to end at midnight on April 8th. The two sides have not reached resolution and missed the deadline to adopt the budget, so late Monday, Governor Moore issued a proclamation authorizing the 2024 session be extended for up to 10 days to resolve outstanding issues.