By HALLIE C. FALQUET, Capital News Service
WASHINGTON - Maryland Democratic delegates proudly "pulled back the curtain" on the Fiscal Year 2008 Budget in a news conference Thursday afternoon, showcasing how it will improve the lives of working families in the state.
"A lot of people say...'Don't just give us words. Put your money where your mouth is,' and I think we've done that," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, just after voting for the resolution.
An equally enthused House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Mechanicsville, said he voted for the budget "on behalf of the American public...They wanted change, they voted for change, (and) they're getting it."
Both the Maryland delegation's Republicans, Reps. Roscoe Bartlett of Frederick and Wayne Gilchrest of Kennedyville, voted against the budget bill.
"The Democrats presented a budget with too much spending, no reform, and the largest tax increases in American history," Bartlett said.
Gilchrest said in a statement that "the bill would raise taxes by reversing the lower tax rates implemented in 2001 on investment income, restoring the tax penalty on married couples, and increases the estate tax, known as the 'death tax,' in the next five years."
The House passed the $2.9 trillion budget bill 216-210, largely along party lines. House Republicans, including those in Maryland, were outraged by the tax increase.
The bill creates no new taxes, but does allow tax cuts to sunset on schedule in 2010.
Hoyer defended the bill, saying the increased revenue is necessary "because resources are limited and we're determined to balance the budget."
There hasn't been enough focus on fiscal responsibility in the time he's been in Congress, said Rep. C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger, D-Cockeysville. With the budget vote, he said, "I think we've moved forward on that account."
Aside from taxes, the House budget includes a 6 percent increase in areas of homeland security, in contrast with the 52 percent decrease outlined in the president's budget, Cummings said.
"Our budget also includes funds to begin implementing 9/11 recommendations to make Maryland and our nation more secure," he said.
The delegation also touted the benefits for the state's children, 137,340 of whom do not have health insurance.
The State Children's Health Insurance Program was due to run out of money in this state in May until it received funds from the emergency supplemental bill which passed the Senate last Friday.
"We have $50 billion for children's health programs that will make sure that Maryland kids have the support they need under SCHIP," said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, who added that the money will also fund Head Start, No Child Left Behind, and other special education programs in the state.
Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, concluded the conference by outlining the science and education reform in Maryland school systems that will lead to increased "competitiveness" in the world market.
That, Sarbanes said, is the most important theme of this budget, "investing in the work force and the American people."
The Senate previously passed its version of a budget bill, and the two chamber's versions must still be reconciled.