Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Republican Delegate Defends the State Budget

As the Gazette reported, just two GOP Delegates voted for the state budget: D. Page Elmore (R-38A) of Salisbury and Wendell Beitzel (R-1A) of Garrett and Allegany Counties. Beitzel is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, which helped write the budget, and took the floor to argue on its behalf.

One person present in the room told us that House GOP leaders Tony O’Donnell (R-29C) and Christopher Shank (R-2B) took great offense at Beitzel’s show of bipartisanship. This informant reported, “Delegates O'Donnell and Shank both turned their chairs all the way around to glare at Delegate Beitzel as he explained why he is supporting the budget. I guess they didn’t want a Republican defending their own work product and wanted to express their displeasure and try to intimidate him into not speaking to defend funding for schools, hospitals and police.”

Following are Beitzel’s remarks from his Saturday floor speech.

Delegate Wendell Beitzel
1st Session, April 10, 2010
1:37:50 – 1:41:30

Thank you Mr. Speaker, I just want to make a few comments on the budget. You know, I think this budget begins to deal with some of the serious problems that all of us here recognize and one of those is mandates. There are many mandates that are in the budget that result in very large increases in expenditures for the state and I think many people have concerns with that.

One of the things we do in the committee is look at out years and we looked seriously at out years in this budget and four years ago it was indicated that this year we would have a 1.5 billion dollar structural deficit. Well at the end of this budget, it presents that we will have at least 200 million dollar surplus.

The great concerns expressed about what we are doing here in this body on the counties. I come from county government and I know my people are really seriously concerned about what the impact of this budget on the counties. We in the house tried to really address these issues and do things that would minimize the negative impact of this budget on the counties. The taking away of the highway user funds is a serious concern and has serious negative impact not only on the counties, but municipalities. We in the House tried to protect and do things in the out years that would minimize that impact. The other body tried to take away all highway user moneys and we tried hard to come to some resolution and did in conference committee to protect at least some of those funds. The other body wanted to take away all the teachers pensions and return all those costs back to the counties and stack teacher pensions on top of the highway user monies that they are taking away. We know how seriously that impacts our counties, local jurisdictions, and cities.

Let me point out also one of the things that was a main concern to us was legislative scholarships and how many of us have received letters from our constituents saying that these things need to continue and that was addressed in this budget.

I disagree with very many of the things in this budget. If somebody had made me king, I probably would have made a lot more changes than what’s there, but this was a committee process. We worked through the committee, the committee listened to some of my concerns and other concerns of other people in there and we came out with a product that I can support and we worked through a lot of the differences with the Senate and their opinions. We have a process that we worked through and we worked through that process and we have a budget and I intend to put a green vote.