Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A collision course

Last night Governor O’Malley intoned that a “storm is upon us” as he addressed the General Assembly and kicked off a special session intended to address a looming $1.7 billion budget deficit. O’Malley’s fix includes a number of tax increases, with some increases in rates and other hikes coming in the way of additional methods of taxation. The governor also wants to hike spending on health care while he’s at it.

For the average citizen of Maryland, the increases will manifest themselves in a number of ways. They’ll pay more at the gas pump, more at the shopping mall, more for electricity as companies pass on their tax increase, more at the dry cleaners, more if they have an average sized house, and a whole lot more if they happen to smoke cigarettes. All this because no one wants to make tough decisions about where cuts need to be made.

Of course, there are some who feel government needs our money. Count Progressive Maryland head Sean Dobson among that group, as he noted in the Sun:

“So far, I have seen too many lawmakers missing the forest for the trees, squabbling over this and that element of the governor’s plan, and missing the forest of gigantic cuts in a government that is too lean to begin with.”

This is the body of people who seem to inhabit Montgomery, Prince George’s, and Baltimore City - reliably liberal voters who have seized Maryland’s reins and are determined to run a good state into the ground by taxing those who can afford to leave out of the state. They also were represented in a counter-rally that took place immediately after yesterday’s anti-tax rally, claiming that the increased taxes were needed to increase state services and give health insurance to thousands of Free Staters. (It’s interesting to note that the unions and Progressive Maryland could only muster 100 or so supporters while the taxation foes had some 300.)

But most of us will stay and take it in the shorts for awhile because we have settled into the state and would rather fight the rear-guard action necessary than turn tail and run. And I’m confident that every Delegate on the Eastern Shore will, at the very least, realize that an increase in the sales tax will hurt us more than any others in the state and vote no on it. If they choose to say yes, well, it’ll definitely not be forgotten in 3 years.

Did I drop enough of a hint there, Norman, Rudy, and Jim?

Sometimes tax increases are a necessary evil. Now I was not here in 2003 so perhaps my loyal readers can fill me in on the details; however, my understanding is that Governor Ehrlich cut a lot out of the budget first before raising a multitude of various fees, instituting the “flush tax”, and increasing the property tax by a couple pennies to eliminate the true shortfall (not a so-called “structural deficit”) he inherited from Parris Glendening. There weren’t anywhere near the practically across-the-board tax hikes Martin O’Malley is proposing along with the increased spending. And who knows if we’d even be in this pickle if slots had been placed in 2004 or 2005 instead of (maybe) 2010?

But all this is water under the bridge as some parts of Maryland voted for Martin O’Malley to become governor. The rest of us watched helplessly as wave after wave of Prince George’s, Montgomery, and Baltimore City results rolled in on election night. And after blowing the surplus Bob Ehrlich gave him, O’Malley now leads us into this situation we face.

So what can be done? Personally I thought the GOP had a start by simply asking that government growth be cut to manageable levels. But eliminating this deficit will take more than just slowing growth. Just for my two cents, I’d like to see the state do two actions: repeal the Thornton mandates and defund the Open Space program.

Certainly I feel the state should help schools in the short-term by allowing money to follow the child, but by having a mandated educational budget increase each year when the state’s feeling the pinch of lower tax revenue it defeats the idea that every part of state government should tighten their belts. And I’ve never liked the idea of the state purchasing land solely for open space because that land comes off the local tax rolls. If they really want some piece of property (such as the Blackwater land in Dorchester County), I think they should sell other parcels they own with a value that is equal to or greater than the land they wish to purchase.

Obviously some will think I’m way off base here, but I think the state is way off base when it takes money out of my ever-tightening budget without making some cuts of their own. There are a number of things our state government needs to do, some of which are unfortunately at the behest of our neighbors in Washington, DC. There comes a time though when the government needs to do without, and this is one of those times. Prioritize your spending first!

Crossposted on monoblogue.

3 comments:

Mark Newgent said...

Well Said Michael.

mcknif said...

I never understood the formula by which the Thorton Commission arrived at their figures, but I agree, it should be repealed.

I would like to see some kind of internet sales tax.

In 2003, the Institute for State Studies, published a report that stated --:if Maryland instituted an internet sales tax, the state could raise an additional $600,000,000/yr.

I am not a big fan of raising taxes, and I understand the need to in dire situations, however lets try other methods before we go tax crazy.

Anonymous said...

As with 99% of your articles, I agree with you wholeheartly on this. The Thorton "thing" and the open space "thing" are two of my biggest petpeaves. Thorton is not working (unless you count throwing good money after bad). Open space can be achieved by zoning or various other methods. But I cannot understand using my taxes to remove taxable real estate from the market.

P.S. I wish we could get every Marylander to read "Red Maryland." I believe we would have a much better state.

ShareThis