Maryland special session convenes

Maryland State House. (Photo: Richard Martin Jr./flickr)

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - Lawmakers headed back to Annapolis for a three-day special session to approve a budget deal hashed out by Gov. Martin O'Malley and House and Senate leaders.

The deal includes income tax increases for individuals making $100,000 or more and households making $150,000 or more.

The Democratic governor says the tax hikes are necessary to avoid cuts to education and other critical services.

O'Malley met with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch to craft the tax plan and other measures after the Democratic-controlled legislature failed to approve a budget plan on the final day of the session.

Outside the special session, Americans for Prosperity, a Tea Party group, carried signs for hours, angry over the likelihood of major tax hikes.

"They had 90 days to do the people's work, and they left with a balanced budget. Specifically and intentionally, they short changed education and our first responders," protestor Michelle Jefferson said.

The group held a press conference, demanding the state government live within its means.

However, the governor, House and Senate reached a deal to raise $250 million in taxes on the 17 percent of Maryland residents who make at least $100,000 a year alone or $150,000 jointly with a spouse.

They will also shift more of the burden for teacher pensions from the state and onto counties.{ }

Montgomery County Democratic Senator Richard Madaleno said it needs to be done.

"If we don't do these measure right now, including these tax increases, we're going to see significant cuts to education, which is gonna mean increase class size and increased tuition," Madaleno added.

At a pre-session press conference, Republicans countered the balanced budget the legislature passed is the right way to go and Maryland residents are in no financial condition to pay higher taxes.

One issue that lawmakers couldn't agree on was expanded gambling, which may be the subject of another special session later this summer.