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House gives budget preliminary approval

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Local,Maryland,Andy Brownfield

ANNAPOLIS -- The Maryland House of Delegates on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to Gov. Martin O'Malley's nearly $37 billion budget, agreeing to amendments that make about $420 million in cuts.

The budget could be voted on by the House as soon as Thursday.

The budget still increases overall spending by $1.26 billion over the previous budget. It increases funding for education and local police while squirreling away millions of dollars to protect against the impending cuts that would result from the sequester.

A committee amendment approved by the full House Thursday would have made it harder for lawmakers to raid the near-bankrupt Transportation Trust Fund to pay for non-transportation projects.

The legislature is looking at a bill to raise a wholesale tax on gasoline to help fund transportation projects. The Transportation Trust Fund is scheduled to run out of money in 2018.

The amendment would forbid the transportation money from being used for anything else, unless a committee voted to approve the raid. That's a slightly lower bar than a provision in O'Malley's transportation funding proposal that would require a three-fifths supermajority vote to raid the Transportation Trust Fund.

The House rejected an amendment that would require the state to repay nearly $1 billion in grants given to local governments that have not been replaced.

abrownfield@washingtonexaminer.com

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