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Report: Md. spending grows 13.6 percent, 4th biggest in nation

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Local,Maryland,Brian Hughes

Virginia's costs increase 6.1 percent

Maryland state spending is growing more than four times faster than the national average, according to a new report.

A biannual study from the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers projects Maryland's spending to grow 13.6 percent this fiscal year, while states nationwide operate under budgets projected to increase 3.3 percent.

In comparison, Virginia spending will increase 6.1 percent by the end of June -- nearly twice the national average -- or about half as much as its Potomac rival. Maryland's rate of spending growth is eclipsed by just three states: North Dakota, Alaska and Tennessee.

The Maryland operating budget has grown about $7 billion in the last five years.

And critics say the report showcases that Maryland has failed to rein in spending while raising taxes on residents to fill massive and chronic budget shortfalls.

"What happens when you increase spending by more than most other states and you pass 24 tax and fee hikes?" asked Larry Hogan, chairman of Change Maryland, a grassroots advocacy group, and a former member of Republican Gov. Bob Ehrlich's administration. "You end up having the biggest job loss in the nation."

Maryland shed 7,500 jobs in May, the third-highest loss in the nation for the month.

However, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's office has countered that the report gives an inaccurate portrayal of state spending this fiscal year.

"Maryland['s] growth rate in [fiscal] 2012 is distorted by our use of federal [stimulus] for education and public safety," O'Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory previously said, explaining that Maryland, unlike most states, spread federal stimulus dollars over a two-year period -- meaning its increase in state spending to fill the gap was reflected a year later than most. With the adjustment, it "shows that Maryland has increased general fund spending more slowly over the last two years than most of our neighbors."

In fiscal 2013, Maryland's spending is projected to grow another 1.9 percent, which is below the national average of 2.2 percent.

Nationwide, states have yet to emerge from the recession, the report warned, noting that projected spending next fiscal year is about half of anticipated revenue growth.

bhughes@washingtonexaminer.com

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