Covering Our Backsides

Just in case visitors to Maryland wonder why we’re all walking around with one hand firmly placed on our back pocket or one arm tightly clenched to our side, we’ll politely explain that the General Assembly is in session and we’re protecting our wallets and purses.

No one can doubt our pocketbooks have gotten a lot lighter since Governor O’Malley took office and he teamed with Senator Miller and Delegate Busch to form a tax-and-spend alliance unprecedented in the history of the state. Maryland had a balanced budget and a $1.6 billion surplus in the rainy day fund when Governor Ehrlich left office. The liberals complain he didn’t do anything about the structural deficit and was going to spend the surplus anyway.

A structural deficit, however, is a projection based on expected spending and revenues. If one anticipates a deficit, one either cuts back on spending or brings in more revenue, or both. Governor Ehrlich was not in a position to do either after his electoral defeat, nor was he in a position to spend the money in the rainy day fund, so it was O’Malley that pushed us into deficit spending. It’s infantile to even suggest Ehrlich would’ve done the same thing because it wasn’t his budget.

What did O’Malley and his cohorts in the State House do about the structural deficit? Well, in the first year, they spent $1 billion of the rainy day fund. They then called a special session and rammed through the largest tax increase in Maryland history, declaring it would resolve the structural deficit for the long term. They got rid of a computer services tax in the general session but replaced it with a “millionaire’s tax.” They foisted a lie on the people with the slots amendment to the state constitution, persuading voters to approve it or else their taxes would go up and painful spending cuts would have to be enacted. As I write this, painful spending cuts are being prepared, Senator Miller is suggesting an increase in the gas tax and the slots cure-all is nowhere to be found and may require concessions to the gambling industry at our expense to entice them to come. Maryland ranks 44th in the nation for cost of living, 40th for the cost of doing business, and 4th in overall tax burden.

I’ve been told, however, that I focus too much on the negative, which is probably because I hate it when public servants lie to us and get away with it. Therefore, here’s my solution; tear up the budget and start from scratch. Make the whole process transparent so voters can weigh in. Only pay for what’s critical – people on a budget know what’s important and what isn’t. Make tax policy that keeps people and businesses here rather than drive them away. Watch the money and make sure it’s getting the desired results. Kill programs that don’t work. Repeat the next year. Any takers?