Warren Dechenaux, the Maryland Legislature's top budget analyst, testified before the assembly yesterday that O'Malley's budget cushion of $30 million may not be enough to cover unexpected spending, which has averaged $145 million in the past few years (and is expected to include things like increased cost of defendants at bail hearings, as required by a new court decision).
In addition, the balancing act by O'Malley's last budget includes tapping into reserves of the employee health benefit fund, and lowering state contributions by $100 million.
Dechenaux faced questions from representatives asking why the state decided to cut its contributions. The 2011 law that upped employee contribution from 5-7% included a provision that allowed for state contributions from those savings to be capped at $300 million. O'Malley's budget calls for that law to be changed, premanently replacing that state savings cap to $200 million. Dechenaux responded saying that there was nothing in the budget that interefered with pension being paid.
This increases the time until the pension plan is fully funded, and makes the fund less stable. Essentially, the budget is being balanced on the backs of the pension fund, in lieu of an increase in taxes.