ANNAPOLIS - Gov. Martin O'Malley said Tuesday he is open to raising taxes to help close Maryland's $1.3 billion budget gap as the General Assembly opens Wednesday. Lawmakers will return to Annapolis poised to spar over new taxes, massive spending cuts, pension reform and same-sex marriage -- among a host of other legislative priorities -- to try to close the gap, which some budget analysts say is closer to $1.6 billion.

Proposed Md. legislation
• Require big utilities to buy more energy from wind farms.
• Ramp up public safety -- possibly by offering police and firefighters higher salary or more competitive benefits
• Local DREAM act
• Legalize same-sex marriage
• Passing on some teacher pension costs to counties
• Scaling back benefits for new state employees
• Require state employees to pay more into the pension system
• Extend permits that have been offered for construction projects

O'Malley says he will rely on the legislature to propose new revenue sources. The budget he submits to lawmakers will not contain new taxes, as he promised during his re-election campaign.

"I'm going to submit a budget as I've said in that is going to be balanced entirely with cuts," O'Malley said. "I fully anticipate that will be the first word rather than the last word."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. is pushing to raise the gas tax, which hasn't been increased since 1992.

"We're gonna have to make it happen this session," said Miller, D-Calvert and Prince George's counties, at the Maryland Democratic Party's annual luncheon on Tuesday.

The gas tax is a major source of funding for road construction, light rail and other infrastructure projects.

O'Malley noted the state has "serious" infrastructure needs.

"You must keep in mind what's best for the state," he said, "and that's what I intend to do whether it's cuts, whether it's consolidations, whether it's eliminations, whether it's revenues -- whatever it might be."

Miller also urged the party on Tuesday to cut its ties to teacher and state employee unions by passing much-needed pension reform, which would include benefits reductions and sharing some teacher pension

costs with counties.

"It's going to be very hard ... these are our friends," Miller said. "But it's the responsible thing to do. The people who are causing the problem need to take on part of the cost."

Maryland is one of three states that pays teacher pension costs in full.

House Minority Leader Tony O'Donnell, R-Calvert and St. Mary's counties, says he will fight cost-sharing measures for fear the counties will raise local taxes as a result. The pension system is $33 billion underfunded.

Republicans also are planning to fight measures that would legalize same-sex marriage, which Democrats think can get through the legislature this year.

"There are people who are openly giddy about the prospect of passing same-sex marriage in Maryland this year," O'Donnell said. "But I suspect that even if it will pass -- and it will pass over a big fight -- it will probably end up on the ballot" where voters will shoot it down, he said.