The Maryland House of Delegates passed Gov. Martin O'Malley's nearly $37 billion budget on Friday, sending it over to the Senate with three weeks left in the 2013 legislative session.
The budget increases overall spending by 5 percent, increases money for local law enforcement, gives state workers their first raise in three years and increases Maryland's cash reserves to more than $1 billion to help deal with federal spending cuts coming as part of the sequester.
The House -- which approved the measure 101-36, with only three Republicans voting for it -- left O'Malley's budget virtually unchanged, cutting $420 million and adding protections to the fund used for transportation projects. The Transportation Trust Fund has no money for new projects -- such as the Purple and Red light rail lines and the Corridor Cities Transitway rapid bus system along Interstate 270 -- and is slated to go bankrupt in 2018.
Legislatures over the years have used transportation funds for other purposes, raising calls for a "lockbox" on the fund, which would prevent it from being used for anything other than transportation. The budget bill would do that, but the protection can be overriden by a committee vote.
O'Malley's separate bill to raise the wholesale tax on gasoline to raise transportation money provides a slightly stronger protection, requiring a three-fifths supermajority vote in committee to use transportation funds for other purposes.