Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Poll shows support for slots at Rosecroft

Gov. O'Malley's taxes and slots proposals have ruled out locating slot machines at Rosecroft Raceway in Oxon Hill, reportedly because of the firm opposition of elected officials (all Democrats) and some organized religious groups.

A new survey, financed by Rosecroft's new owner Penn National Gaming, which certainly has a biased interest in the eventual approval of gambling at Rosecroft, suggests that the opponents may be out of touch with their constituents, and that public opposition may not be as strong as the anti-slots lobby claims.

Prince George's County Residents Strongly Support Allowing Video Lottery Terminals at Rosecroft Raceway.
Penn National Gaming Press Release, 31 Oct 2007

According to the results of a public opinion poll released today, 55 percent
of Prince George's County residents support allowing VLTs at Rosecroft Raceway, to 34 percent against. When residents in the most affected areas (zip codes: 20744, 20745 and 20748) are asked the question, the level of support grows to 61 percent in favor and only 33 percent against.

The results of the survey also reveal that 90 percent of Prince George's County residents believe they should have the right to decide whether or not to allow VLTs at Rosecroft. In District 26 neighborhoods, that number grows to 92 percent.
[More]


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Jack Johnson says Prince George's faces $48 million budget shortfall . .

. . . and says he can manage it.

Pr. George's Chief Says County Faces Budget Shortfall.
Post, 31 Oct 2007 (Helderman).

Prince George's County must cut almost $48 million from its current budget, in part because revenue from taxes tied to the declining real estate market will probably be down at least 25 percent this year, County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) said this week.
Surprisingly, and unlike Gov. O'Malley and his Democratic associates in the General Assembly, Johnson and Council Chair Camille Exum (D-7) seem to accept their responsibilities, did not whine about needing more taxes, and told the Post that they think they can cut or postpone some spending and manage the problem--as long as O'Malley does not cut their state aid.
County Council Chairman Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) said the council to examine Johnson's proposals and might have some suggestions of its own. She said members have long prided themselves on their stewardship of the budget and now have the chance to demonstrate it.
* * *
Johnson, who announced Oct. 19 that he plans to release funds to the county's troubled hospital system within two weeks, said he can fulfill that pledge even with the budget downturn. However, he said he is not yet certain whether the county can afford all $12 million in this year's budget for the hospitals, which are managed by a private not-for-profit company.

"We don't know if we can give all that we promised, but nobody's getting all they were promised," he said. "We're living in tight times."

(Crossposted)


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Here Come the Catches

As the start of his campaign to convince Marylanders that the only way to balance the state's miserable budget was through a combination of tax increases and changes to the tax code, Governor Martin O'Malley made some pretty bold assertions, that he could increase revenues and still be able to cover the budget shortfall and still cut property taxes. I have been waiting for the other shoe to drop.

That siesmic thump you just heard is a shoe so big is makes Shaq's foot look positively infantile in size.

Today the the Baltimore Sun reports that the Governor is going to tie his proposed property tax cut to passage of the slots referendum.

If the General Assembly places a slots referendum on the November ballot next year and voters approve it, the state would get enough revenue to offset a proposed 3-cent property tax cut for homeowners from fiscal year 2010 through 2012 - and also hundreds of millions more for health care and higher education, Joseph C. Bryce, O'Malley's legislative director, told lawmakers yesterday.
But if voters reject the slots constitutional amendment, then the state won't be able to reduce its property tax rate, Bryce said at a joint session of three legislative committees reviewing O'Malley's budget plan.
What's next?
Defeat of the slots referendum also would prevent the state from pouring an additional $300 million into school construction, Bryce said.

And the state would not be able to use 50 percent of the revenue generated from the proposed increase in the corporate income tax rate for holding down college tuition, completing capital projects at two-year and four-year colleges and funding work force investment, according to the governor's office.

That money would be needed to balance the general fund, Bryce said.
At a news conference, O'Malled said that he had to tie his tax plan and the slots referendum together to "make sure this all fits together." I don't recall first, the mention of a referendum on slots and certainly don't recall hearing about the slots referendum passing in order to do all these other things.

Yesterday, I called putting the slot matter to a referendum was political cowardice. Well that move is like comparing a penny ante poker game to the World Series of Poker. By announcing all of the danger to all of these other matters if a referendum isn't passed is an even greater political CYA and a massive blunder.

At this point, even though I could care less about slots, I am willing to throw my support behind a defeat the slots referendum campaign for three reasons.

First, I can't stand political cowardice--it simply drives me up the wall. by punting this issue to the people and then tying all of these generally good and necessary needs to the passage, it tells me that the General Assembly and Uncle Marty are incapable of making really tough choices and are more interested in getting re-elected in 2010 than in doing their job.

Second, not giving the General Assembly and Uncle Marty the slots money means that will have to do one thing or the other. Either be explicit about raising taxes and suffer the consequences or actually cut spending. At this point, I could care less which.

Third, I don't want the General Assembly or any elected leaders to think that slots are the tree upon which state money will grow. Yes, it can bring in money, but it cannot solve our budget problems. The way to balance the budget is to balance the budget with what we have in the piggybank, not what we wish was in the piggybank.

I urge all the Red Marylanders out there to think long and hard about not supporting the referendum--I don't want to give the General Assembly the political cover.


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Naïveté Is So Cute

Free State Politics's Andrew Kujan on the O'Malley tax extravaganza:

Either way, when looking at the list of included services, "property management" stands out like a sore thumb among the other services listed. Tanning salons, professional security, 900 numbers, cable TV, to name a few, and property management.No one needs a tan, cable TV, or the psychic friends, but they do need somewhere to live. Nearly 32 percent of Marylanders are renters (pdf), and in Balitmore City, close to half the population are cutting rent checks.

While the sales tax is regressive in general, when applied to property management I think it gets worse. I hope I am wrong when I assume that renters will end up paying the majority of this property managment sales tax, not the property mangers. I would hope that the Baltimore Delegation in Annapolis will get to the bottom of this as they work to perfect the Governor's package.
Here is one of the first lessons of economics. Businesses do not pay taxes. They raise prices and the consumer pays the taxes. Of course renters are going to pay an increased rent because the property managment company is going to charge the new 6% sales tax to the landlord. The landlord then has a choice between taking a $60 hit on a notional $1,000/month rental unit or raising your rent. Now the question is how much do you think your rent will go up? $60? Or $100?


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Republican Senators Set To Filibuster

My colleagues on this site will probably know more about this than me, but I wanted to offer this bit of info, or offer a reminder if someone else has mentioned it and I simply didn't see it.

The 14 Republican Senators WILL hold firm regarding a filibuster in the Senate. Nineteen (19) votes are needed in order to sustain a filibuster. IF WE can convince 5 Democrat Senators to join our 14 Republican Senators we can STOP this assault on our families. PLEASE MAKE THESE CALLS. With your help, we CAN MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE!

The 10 Democrat Senators to call are:
Senator John Astle (D-30) – Anne Arundel County
Phone: (410) 841-3578

Senator Jim Brochin (D-42) – Baltimore County
Phone: (410) 841-3648

Senator James DeGrange (D-32) – Anne Arundel County
Phone: (410) 841-3593

Senator Roy Dyson (D-29) – Calvert, Charles, & St. Mary’s Counties
Phone: (410) 841-3673

Senator Edward Kasemeyer (D-12) – Baltimore & Howard Counties
Phone: (410) 841-3653

Senator Katherine Klausmeier (D-8) – Baltimore County
Phone: (410) 841-3620

Senator Rona Kramer (D-14) – Montgomery County
Phone: (410) 841-3625

Senator Thomas Middleton (D-28) – Charles County
Phone: (410) 841-3616

Senator James Robey (D-13) – Howard County
Phone: (410) 841-3572

Senator Norman Stone (D-6) – Baltimore County
Phone: (410) 841-3587


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$739,000,000.00

Them's a lot of zeros, bubba.

I meant to post on this earlier but got sidetracked. In light of the shenanigans going on in Annapolis I thought I'd like to remind us all of what is at stake.

Last week I posted on the floating target that is the cost of Governor O'Malley's health-care-plan-that-does-not-contribute-to-the-"structural-deficit". First is was pegged at $500 million. Then at $675 million. And the day after that post:

More than 100,000 uninsured Maryland residents would be covered over the next four years under a $739 million health care plan released this morning by Gov. Martin O'Malley.

The announcement comes as the General Assembly prepares for a special session starting Monday to tackle the state's $1.7 billion deficit.
Now we are told today that slots will pay for this incredible squandering of tax money. Except that slots are also going to pay for school construction, give us a property tax cut, and buy tree houses for poor children.

We can't afford, indeed sane, unmedicated, people wouldn't even bother discussing at new $500 million program in the context of massive tax increases to fix a $1.7 billion budget deficit. But $675 million is a lot more than $500 million. $793 million is a lot more than $675 million.

Ladies and gentlemen, if we don't get utterly skinned alive during this special session of the General Assembly we need to declare a statewide Day of Thanksgiving.


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Senator Harris Calls For Investigation

Our colleague, Mark Newgent, wrote earlier on the grotesquely blatant use by Governor O'Malley of his authority as the state's chief executive to strongarm state employees into supporting his egregious program of tax increases. O"Malley Watch has actual emails/memos (here | here) requiring state agencies to lobby those citizens doing business with them.

State senator Andy Harris has sent a letter to state Assistant Attorney General Robert Zarnoch requesting an investigation. Not much likely to happen there as Mr. Zarnoch is awaiting a judicial nomination from Governor O'Malley. Rule of law? Career? Rule of law? Career? We know how this decision tree ends.

Today Senator Harris went public on a story the Baltimore Sun will not pursue:

Annapolis- Today, State Senator Andy Harris brought to public light a calculated effort by the O’Malley Administration to misuse tax-payer dollars by having cabinet secretaries and their staff lobby for the largest tax increase in Maryland history. “I find this a reprehensible misuse of taxpayer dollars and an abuse of political power. Using scare tactics and leveraging their position of power on people who depend on the government for their livelihood to ask for tax increases is just plain wrong,” said Senator Harris.

Governor O’Malley appears to have ordered his department heads and their supporting staffs to do all they can to get his huge tax increases passed. Senator Harris has obtained two emails. The first email is from the Governor’s Office and directs Cabinet Secretaries and their staff to strong-arm those over whom they have influence, to support the largest tax increase in Maryland history. The second email evidences the implementation of the plan from the Department of General Service Secretary to a private state contractor registered through EMarket Maryland.

“The effort to intimidate an EMarket Maryland contractor by the Cabinet Secretary is uncalled for, unjustified, and reprehensible. The purpose of establishing EMarket Maryland was not as a lobbying arm of the executive branch,” said Senator Harris.

On behalf of Maryland taxpayers, Senator Harris is demanding a full investigation of this practice of Governor O’Malley. Senator Harris has called on the Attorney General to investigate this unethical practice, and he has also a Freedom of Information Act request for the logs of activity mentioned in the email from the Governor’s Office to each of the departments.

“With Maryland facing a massive tax increase, I look forward to seeing how much tax-payer money was wasted on this unjustified and unethical lobbying effort.”

“Apparently when O’Malley said Monday Night that he wants Marylanders to “work together” to solve the budget deficit, what he really meant was he was going to use tax-dollars from all Marylanders’ to lobby for his radical tax-and-spend agenda,” quipped Senator Andy Harris of Baltimore and Harford Counties.

Senator Harris will be referring all of the information he has obtained to the Attorney General’s office and he is asking for a full and thorough investigation.


More below the fold.

PG Exec Jack Johnson and his buddy, accused killer Keith Washington

Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) has had a long association with his college fraternity brother, former driver, campaign worker, democratic county council candidate, deputy director of county homeland security, and police corporal, Keith A. Washington.

Washington is under indictment for murder and assault in two separate incidents earlier this year.

There is much, much more in a fairly in-depth October 31 Post article on this relationship by two Post PG County reporters, Rosalind Helderman (politics) and Candace Rondeaux (crime). Their piece includes details on other positions to which Johnson appointed Washington, and summary information on Washington's record of suspensions and being found unfit for police duty.

The Johnson-Washington saga keeps popping up from time to time in the Post, Times, and Gazette, along with stories now and then about the indictments of other Johnson cronies and appointees. Almost nobody in the Prince George's County democratic machine seems to care. I remember the applause he got a couple of years ago, on a morning when another corruption case was in the news, and he told a large audience that he had the most ethical administration ever. (And where else have we heard that kind of claim?)

Related. In addition to earlier posts here by streiff, there are dozens more related to Johnson and Washington at PG-Politics.


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More Gun Laws for Baltimore?



The faith of liberals in laws, no matter how sporadically or inefficiently enforced, never ceases to amaze.

City Councilman Jim Kraft remembers the day he was searching a back alley in West Baltimore for rats, but found something deadlier and more disturbing - two loaded handguns.

“They were sitting on top of a garage, just sitting there waiting for somebody to use them.”

Kraft uses the startling discovery to explain his desire to allow the City Council to pass gun laws, a privilege currently granted only to the state's legislature.

“Our colleagues in other parts of the state don’t really understand the severity of the gun problem in Baltimore,” said Kraft, D-1st District. “We need to be able to pass our own laws.”

To spur action, Kraft introduced a non-binding resolution at Monday’s council meeting formally asking state legislators to pass a law — during its regular session beginning in January — allowing the city to regulate guns.
What Mr. Kraft is proposing is a civil forfeiture ordinance similar to those now used in drug cases.

I don't know how this law would have prevented Mr. Kraft from finding the loaded handguns while out looking for rats (or, based on the photo, scavenging for clothing) in a Baltimore alley. Is he advocating the forfeiture of the trash cans? Who knows.

The problem with gun crime in Baltimore is two-fold. First, there are a lot of criminals in Baltimore who prefer to use firearms. I don't know why, but it is simply an unhappy fact. They are called criminals because they are already violating various and sundry laws that would buy them a decade or so in Jessup. Few own substantial property and, given their life choices to date, would seem to be singularly undeterred by the prospect of breaking yet another law.

The second problem feeds the first. It has been fairly well documented that Baltimore juries tend to be reluctant to convict accused felons regardless of the evidence. Nothing unusual here. A lot of minority-majority communities are skeptical of police testimony and show a political reluctance to send yet another man to jail. As a result, the police don't tend to arrest for a lot of crimes that could keep criminals and their guns off the street. And criminals aren't deterred by the threat of being caught... assuming for the sake of argument that criminals can be deterred at all.

Beyond this civil forfeiture laws are simply a bad idea. They have made the War on Drugs a profit center for a lot police departments and the forfeitures encourage abuses of the system. It is bad enough when forfeitures are applied to an unambiguously illegal action like narcotics trafficking. When the same laws are applied to an action that can exist legally side-by-side with its illegal version it is difficult to imagine much good coming out of this.


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No Tax Increase Means Dead Puppies and Kittens

Pretty predictable, but when compared to the Governor's slots gambit utterly banal and amateurish.

The economic promise for Maryland of military base realignment could falter if lawmakers fail to approve tax increases the O'Malley administration is seeking to upgrade highways and transit systems, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown warned yesterday.

Speaking at a meeting of Cabinet secretaries, Brown added an inability to cope with base-related growth to the litany of dire consequences that state officials say could befall Maryland if Gov. Martin O'Malley's package of tax increases and revisions is not adopted.


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What's Bawlmerese for "Chutzpah"?

From yesterday's festivities in Annapolis:

Gov. Martin O'Malley has tied voter approval of legalizing slot machine gambling to funding of his plans for a property tax cut for homeowners, expansion of the Medicaid program for childless adults, and a boost in spending for school construction.

If the General Assembly places a slots referendum on the November ballot next year and voters approve it, the state would get enough revenue to offset a proposed 3-cent property tax cut for homeowners from fiscal year 2010 through 2012 - and also hundreds of millions more for health care and higher education, Joseph C. Bryce, O'Malley's legislative director, told lawmakers yesterday.

But if voters reject the slots constitutional amendment, then the state won't be able to reduce its property tax rate, Bryce said at a joint session of three legislative committees reviewing O'Malley's budget plan.
Well we can never accuse Governor O'Malley of thinking small. It seems he probably has the measure of the General Assembly and this proposal could very well roll over an irrelevant Mike Miller and send Speaker Mike Busch into a spasm of submissive urination. In one fell swoop he allows them to avoid voting against funding a chump-change property tax cut, school construction, and health care for poor kids while, simultaneously, letting legislators maintain their personal opposition to slots. In the process the promise of the Republican caucus to vote against slots slides towards irrelevance.

With slots on the ballot in '08 the voters will have the same choice: allow slots or turn now a cut in the state property tax rate and decline to fund school construction, etc.

At Wryoak, they see an additional benefit for O'Gov: the emasculation of our very own attack Yorkie, Peter Franchot. Not only will Franchot be ignored by the General Assembly as they reach deeply into our pockets to fund a rather bloated and extravagant state budget but Franchot will not be able to campaign against the slots referendum for the same reasons that the General Assembly will put in on the ballot and the voters will pass it.

An impressive opening gambit to be sure.


More below the fold.

Well, my misattribution of Steve Harper's party affiliation isn't the first mistake I've made. And won't be the last. Mea culpa....

My critique of the severe and drastic overreaction of Harris supporters to the Banks campaign remains....


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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.


More below the fold.

Support Tax Increases Or Else!

For those of you who could pick up the O'Malley Watch update on WAMD tonight heard the tease for the latest examples of O'Malfeasance uncovered by Martin Watcher.

The latest shady dealings are now up on O'Malley Watch.

Secretary of General Services Alvin Collins sent an email to all potential state contractors urging them to lobby for O'Gov's tax increases. Oh, Collins is the man who decides who gets state contracts.

Our good friend Senator Andy Harris sent a letter to the governor informing him that he has alerted Assistant AG Robert Zarnoch. Don't hold your breath Zarnoch is on deck awaiting a judgeship from O'Malley.

DNR Secretary John Griffin gave a Power Point presentation to DNR employees detailing who would be fired if the governor was forced to implement his "Cost of Delay" budget. Hint: If you value your job, call your representatives and tell them to raise your taxes.

Also check out O'Malley touting his tax increases in a closed door speech to select UMBC students, then getting state paid UMBC president Freeman Hrabowski to use the UMBC email system to urge students to support tax increases that will only harm them.


crossposted on The Main Adversary


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O'Malley Watch Radio

I will be appearing on The Word on the Street hosted by Warren Monks on WAMD Am 970 to represent O'Malley Watch. We will of course be discussing the Special Session and O'Malley's tax increases.


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Public Bickering Continues In Annapolis

Crossposed on Annapolis Politics

Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer has been somewhat famously uncooperative when it comes to collaboration with other local jurisdictions. While Annapolis has sister cities in Ireland, Scotland, Wales, France, Estonia, Canada, and Brazil-- and a soon to be sister city in England--we have seen little cooperation with the county that surrounds us. Transportation, police, and fire are departments that could easily enjoy economies of scale savings, were they to be combined or partially merged.

Further complicating things, the Mayor is quite happy to nurture or destroy relationships by issuing press releases, although to be fair, she is not the only one that does this.

Most recently, the Mayor has been unsuccessful even to work with a quasi-governmental organization within the city limits: HACA. The Housing Authority's director, Eric Brown, perceived that he had no recourse but to debate the mayor publicly, and offered a rebuttal in a letter to The Capital:

In a recent radio address as well as a letter to the editor, the mayor
indicated that there is a disagreement between herself and the Housing Authority
and that I, as its executive director, declined to attend a meeting on public
safety.


I do not know the source of the disagreement she referred to. But on 1
p.m. on Sept. 11, at the mayor's request, I met with the city attorney and the
chief of the Annapolis Police Department.


The meeting ended when the attendees agreed that there was no clarity
as to what was to be accomplished. It was further agreed that the city attorney
would take responsibility for consulting with the mayor and getting clarity on
what she expected the three of us to accomplish.


I have repeatedly attempted to get the mayor to chair a meeting
of myself, the police chief and the city attorney. Since July, I have asked the
mayor to put aside whatever animosities and disagreements she believes exist
between the Housing Authority and the city and chart a new direction based on
cooperation and dialogue.


To date, she has refused to convene such a meeting. The mayor is
missing a great opportunity to show true leadership and crate bold new
initiatives that we all can get behind and support.


It's not in my general nature to engage in communication with others
through the media. But recent statements by the mayor grossly misrepresented
facts about me and the Housing Authority and should no longer go unchallenged.


I will continue to reach out to the mayor and truly hope that we can
find common ground. It is in the best interest of all to do so.


As we see more examples of the Mayor's leadership style, there seems to be little cause for optimism. The mayor seems to be aloof or disinterested in tangible improvements to city life, yet shrewdly calculating in her image and perception of political performance. Hopefully we won't have to wait until 2009 to witness the reverse.


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Slots Referendum Is Political Cowardice

As the General Assembly gets busy soon in a special session to deal with the state's budget deficit, a lot of focus is being put on the financial "savior" of slots. But the problem is that the General Assembly and Governor O'Malley have displayed an unbelievable lack of political courage in calling for a referendum on slots.

Now, it may seem odd for someone like me, a believer in democracy and the power of the average voter to actually understand what is going on, but punting on the slots issue is cowardice defined. Rather than making the tough call and possibly irritating their constitutents who might vote them out of office (gasp!!), the General Assembly is obviously more interested in their political backsides than in actually solving our financial problems.

Under normal circumstances, I could care less if slots are brought to the state or not. I do think that it will bring in business and jobs and tax revenue, but I don't think it is the proper long term solution to Maryland's financial woes. I don't subscribe to the view among evangelicals that gambling is inherently bad (and if it is so bad and against the Commandments, why do so many churches have bingo night?) But I digress. Gambling is a personal decision. I also am not much of a horse racing enthusiast and so I don't care about that industry--if it were so vital to our state's economy why isn't it doing better?

But if slots don't come to the state, then the General Assembly and Uncle Marty will still have to solve the budget crisis. Given their current operational ideas (increasing taxes), then having slots will help keep my tax bill down so in that regard I want slots to come to Maryland.

But what I want more is elected leaders who have the backbone to make the decision themselves. They will be sitting in special session to solve a budget crisis where one of the major components of income for the state (one that is in some ways being relied upon) will not be decided for a full year and then will have to wait several months before we actually see income from slots, delaying relief on the tax front for at least 12-15 months.

We supposed elect these men and women to make the tough choices, to prioritize what is important for our state. The slots issue, like it or not, has become an important choice for us Marylanders. Punting on the issue is not a matter of governmental principal, power to the people and all that, it is about political CYA and for that reason alone, the General Assembly should be given a great big boot in ... well their precious political backsides.


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Anti-Tax Rally pics

I spent the day in Annapolis yesterday and even had a chance to address the crowd at the rally. I'll have a more substantive post on that later, including when Mike Miller walked past the rally.
For now here are some pics I took.


A very nice Martin Watcher from the Eastern Shore. He told me he has no compunction about moving two miles across the border to Delaware.



I was wating for this guy to ingnite his torch light.



A powerful message in any language.



Another math lesson for the C student. That's Gonzaga high school for you.



El Diablo, save yourself!


A good shot of the crowd



The Martin Watchers were out in force.




The Annapolis Tea/Tax Party
Speaking truth to power.


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Can't Say it Too Often

We've read the Washington Post enough to expect all their stories to be a paean to the perfection that is Martin O'Malley. But we really expect to see different words even when the message is the same. Using the same lede for different stories on the same page seems a bit much and it destroys the suspense.


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All Good Things Come To An End

It seems that Governor O'Malley's minions aren't impressed by our efforts to petition our elected officials and O'Gov's Blackberry address no longer works.


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A Word from the Other Guy

Former Governor Bob Ehrlich responds to Martin O'Malley's insistence that the guy who left office a year ago is to blame for next year's budget deficit.

In 2002, as state revenues steadily dwindled, the General Assembly enacted a $1.3 billion education law. Legislators passed it knowing they had no money to pay for it. They also passed a budget that overspent by $616 million. This massive new spending, combined with an economic downturn and rising health care costs, created a long-term deficit. My administration inherited that deficit in 2003 and, four years later, left state government with a budget surplus.

We cut government spending by more than $700 million in our first six months. We cut the size of the executive branch workforce by 7 percent. We defeated $7.5 billion in proposed new taxes. We directed state agencies to budget under the assumption they would receive 12 percent less money than the previous year. These decisions were wildly unpopular with the lawmakers who created the budget crisis, but I took these steps to end their “cocktail party” spending in Annapolis.

We also proposed to place slot machines at Maryland racetracks. Had the leaders of the Maryland House of Delegates not rejected this bipartisan proposal for four straight years, Maryland would be enjoying an estimated $800 million in additional non-tax revenue each year.

Despite inheriting a raft of new spending programs, my administration left Maryland in strong fiscal health. We nearly tripled the Rainy Day Fund to $1.4 billion, and at the end of fiscal year 2006, Maryland enjoyed a $1 billion budget surplus and remarkably low unemployment. As recently as December of 2006, general fund revenues were up despite high gas prices and a slowdown in the housing market. We also preserved Maryland’s Triple A bond rating, which saves residents money by allowing the state to borrow at low rates.
That O'Malley has been able to successfully pin the responsibility for a deficit in his second budget on Bob Ehrlich simply underscores the supine nature of the Maryland press and O'Malley's lacking of a sense of shame. I have no doubt that he'll blame the tax increases he is ramrodding through the General Assembly on Governor Ehrlich, too.


More below the fold.

We Don't Give A Damn About Apathy

Gotta love it

It was to be a "historic lie-in event," organizers promised, with enough people to represent Baltimore's homicide victims, 246 so far this year. They were to dress in identical "No More Murders" T-shirts and sprawl on the plaza in front of City Hall.

But closer to 175 people were there yesterday. The ground was soaked from rain, so they stood, holding papers bearing the numbers. Organizers had abandoned the T-shirt idea last week, fearing that not enough people would be there to wear them.

Elected officials were invited; none came. College students were invited; there were few young faces.
This kind of cheesy street theater has been in vogue on the left since "Billy Jack" hit drive-ins across the country. When I lived in DC during the crack epidemic, a near neighbor in Blagden Alley thought the answer to the homicide problem was to shame the killers by drawing chalk outlines of bodies, one per homicide, on the pavement in front of his house. Worked real well.

The problem with the homicide rate, both the low clearance rate by its homicide unit and the lack of concern by the populace, is that most of Baltimore's homicides are essentially business disputes within the criminal element. Because a good portion of the victims are actively involved in crime, or are involved on its periphery, most of the city residents don't feel personally threatened by the violence and the police don't have any great institutional pressure on them to either solve or prevent these killings.

Where residents turn out for psychodramatic expressions is when they feel threatened. So long as the killers stay in their lane and don't bother the average citizen they know that the odds of their handiwork being professionally investigated, much less solved, goes way down.


More below the fold.

The MVA's Failing Grade

"Against stupidity the very gods Themselves contend in vain."
Schiller, Maid of Orleans

Yesterday was not a great day for our Motor Vehicle Administration. An audit found that if they were doing anything correctly it was only in the blind-hog-and-acorn sense of the concept.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration failed to monitor drivers convicted of drunken-driving offenses and often allowed them to resume driving before they were supposed to, according to a state audit that found numerous other failings in the agency.

The audit by the Department of Legislative Services also found that the MVA issued licenses to drivers who submitted Social Security numbers of dead people; that it waited an average of 115 days to suspend the registrations of vehicles found to be uninsured, suspensions that, by law, must be immediate; and that it failed to pull the driving privileges of some parents found to be late in paying child support, as state law dictates.
Now some of this I have to admit being agnostic on. Revoking the drivers license of someone who is late on child support payments strikes me as having the same logical heft as tossing someone in a debtor's prison. But the law is the law and the only way profoundly stupid laws get changed is by their enforcement highlighting their stupidity.

The fact that we have dead people and drunks driving legally in Maryland neither suprises nor overly concerns me, at least in the way that driving and using a cell phone does. My concern is my wallet.
In addition, the audit says, the MVA waived $824,000 in fines that it should have levied on auto dealerships for late payment of registration and title fees charged to buyers of vehicles. The oversight body declared the MVA's overall performance "unsatisfactory."
Consistent application of the law is the bedrock of a functioning society. While occasionally waiving fines and penalties makes good sense it is hard to believe that the chronic lassitude exhibited here, and one must note that the waivers were granted to dealerships not to private citizens who might actually need a break, was warranted.

When all of us are going to be taken to the cleaners during this special session, it would make those of us who pay our obligations feel a lot better if we knew that everyone was doing the same.

Tell the Governor, via Blackberry, at momalley@nextel.blackberry.net that we expect the MVA to either shape up or let us get our drivers licenses at Wal-Mart.


More below the fold.

The Death of Irony

From the Baltimore Sun:

Opening the special session that could define his four-year term, Gov. Martin O'Malley told Maryland lawmakers last night that "it is time for us to correct our course" by enacting his sweeping plan to eliminate a projected $1.7 billion shortfall in next year's budget.

Addressing a joint session of the General Assembly, a somber O'Malley used the eight-minute speech to argue that the challenge is "consensus," not the "capacity" for the state to shoulder a bigger tax burden. O'Malley has proposed a plan that would rely on new tax and slots revenues to address the state's fiscal woes.

"The storm is upon us, and this looming shortfall threatens to do grave damage to the very quality of life that our neighbors have elected us to defend," the Democratic governor said.
Oddly enough, this is probably one of the most truthful things that O'Malley has come up with in, heck, maybe forever. Unfortunately for us, it is truthful in a way that will end up costing us all a crapload of money.

Yes, indeed, "it is time for us to correct our course". But from what we've seen so far, O'Malley's plan is a continuation of what got us into this predicament on steroids. This is the Barry Bonds version of a failed fiscal policy. Not only is he proposing to raise our taxes, a lot, a whole lot, he is proposing some $675 million in new spending. Contrary to his spin, virtually all of the tax increases will be passed on to Marylanders because those taxes on corporations will come back to us in increased prices. The most clever proposal is repealing the property tax exemption for electric utilities. Expect to see that added to your 70% rate increase next year.

The focus on "consensus" and not "capacity" is a pretty intersting formulation. It seems to say that the legislature shouldn't worry about the impact of this ginormous tax and spending extravaganza but rather they should focus on flopping over the coffee table so O'Malley can have his way with them.

The storm is upon us. It does threaten our quality of life. The storm is not a budget deficit that could be solved by the rather simple expediency of freezing spending at current levels. The storm that is about to engulf us is Governor O'Malley's raid on our bank accounts and on the economy of the state.

If you're not happy, tell the Governor, via Blackberry, at momalley@nextel.blackberry.net


More below the fold.

Today's Public Hearings

10:00 a.m., Joint Hearing Room


House Appropriations Committee, House Ways and Means Committee, Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, and the Spending Affordability Committee
(1)Spending Affordability Presentation – State Budget Overview
(2)Briefing on Governor’s Cost of Delay Budget Reductions
(3)Governor’s Proposed Budget Solution – Overview

1:00 p.m., Joint Hearing Room


House Appropriations Committee, House Ways and Means Committee, Senate Budget and Taxation Committee
(1)Hearing on the Governor’s Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act
a. Freeze on Education Implicit Price Deflator for State and Local Governments
b. Elimination of Electric Utility Property Tax Grant and Repeal of Electric Utility Company Property Tax Exemption

Complete agenda of your Potemkin democracy at work.

Think about the impact of item (1)(b) from the afternoon session.

If you think our democracy deserves better, tell the Governor, via Blackberry, at momalley@nextel.blackberry.net


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A message to Speaker Busch

After reading what Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch told the Washington Times, I dashed off a quick message to him:

You said:
"I've never seen someone come down here and say: 'Don't fund my schools,' " said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat.
I think you're full of it!

I've been saying publicly and in blogs for the past couple of years:
Money is not the problem with education. Educational results have not improved with increased funding. Funding increases often go to pay more administrators and for frills like luxury gyms.
I've never seen a politician willing to guarantee that a funding increase for education would actually improve educational results.

So, are you, Mr. Speaker, willing to put your money where your mouth is? Will you pay us back if you raise our taxes but educational results do not improve?
I'll post his answer if I ever receive one.

(Crossposted)

Related: Thornton--the "education" funding scam . . .


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Flu seaon's coming...



nicolai1951 returns to YouTube with another riotous takedown of the idea of funding, and expanding, S-CHIP via tobacco taxes.

The General Assembly should be required to watch this before okaying O'Malley's tobacco tax.


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Email O'Malley's Private Blackberry to Oppose the Tax Increases

Thanks to the indefatigable Martin Watcher over at O'Malley Watch we now have O'Gov's private blackberry email address. Since O'Malley only goes before pliant and captive audiences of left wing special interest groups who already agree with this tax proposals, now he can hear from the people he has ignored: those who will have to foot the bill.

Email O'Gov directly at momalley@nextel.blackberry.net


Martin Watcher applies one strict rule to emailing the governor:

An important rule for the email: Please be respectful in your email and do
not make personal threats – rudeness and crass language only makes our cause
look foolish.


More below the fold.

New Contributor

I'd like to welcome D. C. Russell, editor of PG Politics, as a contributor to Red Maryland.

D. C.'s profile reads:

D. C. Russell is a long time observer of politics in Prince George's County. Senior citizen, 40+ year resident living less than a mile from the DC line. Libertarian, fiscally conservative, socially moderate, strong believer in the rule and consistent application of law, and increasingly distrustful of career politicians, big government and government secrecy. Appalled by the crime and status of education in Prince George's County and by the willingness of voters to retain in office the public officials responsible.


More below the fold.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Doomsday And Consensus Budget -- Day One

The Ground Rules



Professor O'Malley courtesy of Pillage Idiot


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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Understatement of the Year

"I know it is somewhat of a regressive tax,"
- Speaker Mike Busch talking about the sales tax

Yes, and hiking and expanding the scope of the sales tax is going to put the screws to the people the Democrats allegedly are looking after...

(Crossposted)


More below the fold.

It starts tomorrow

Annapolis' long-awaited version of budgetary Armageddon comes to town tomorrow. And let's face it: other than the fact that taxpayers are about to get hosed, we don't really know what is going to happen. If legislative Democrats reverse four-years of precedent under the Ehrlich Administration and decide to support a slots package, the entire session could be over relatively quickly. Mike Miller will likely allow most of the O'Malley tax package through the Senate. In that case, we will see slots, and we will see higher income and sales taxes, to say nothing of the expansion of services and items covered by the sales tax.

But if the slots bill is a no go, the General Assembly will likely go the full thirty-day distance. I see no way that the legislative leadership and the O'Malley Administration will be able to come together on a deal. The O'Malley folks want there to be a consensus on the issue with the leadership, but the O'Malley idea of consensus is everybody agreeing to do what the Governor wants. Given the fact that this leadership style is even more defiant of legislative wishes than even the Ehrlich Administration, O'Malley is risking a lot of political capital on something that is nowhere close to being a sure thing.

My prediction for the session? Nothing gets done, O'Malley's position is seriously compromised, and he finds himself incredibly vulnerable to a primary challenge in 2010, to say nothing of increasing the likelihood of a Republican victory in the 2010 gubernatorial election.


(Crossposted)


More below the fold.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Anti-Tax Rally

Just a reminder (the first of many) about the anti-tax rally Monday Oct. 29 at Lawyers Mall in Annapolis. The MDGOP site has all the details. My Red Maryland colleague Brian Gill has more info, especially a list of key Democratic senators to pressure to vote against the tax increases.

Stop by SmartGov.net and sign up to be a part of the movement.

O'Malley Watch is keeping a a legislative score card for all GA members.

The key committees that will deal with O'Malley's tax proposals are:
House Appropriations Committee
House Ways and Means Committee
Senate Budget and Taxation Committee
Senate Finance Committee

Click on the links to contact each member of those committees.


More below the fold.

Entitlement Mentality

I was listening to a talk radio show today, and heard the following conversation, which has been paraphrased for the purposes of this blog:

(Show host): Governor O'Malley proposes to spend $500 million to provide health insurance to Marylanders who don't currently have it. What do you think about that?

(Guest panelist): When I walked in today, it was tough to carry my head high as a liberal.

(Expert blogger) (me): Gee, why would you ever be ashamed of your party or your Governor? Please Continue.

(Panelist): But I think this is the greatest idea. We Marylanders are already paying for these uninsured citizens in the form of higher premiums for our health insurance. All the Governor wants to do is shift the entity paying for it so that it is handled by the government. I cannot think of a better way for the state to spend its money than to provide for the health of its citizens and prevent them from going to the emergency room.

Oh, brother. The thought that people should pay for their own health care never entered this person's mind. Nor did the point that many uninsured people are here illegally, and shouldn't be using any of our services. Nor the point that many uninsured people can actually afford health insurance but choose to roll the dice.

The current health care system could use much improvement, but having the government (the taxpayers) pay for health insurance for everybody is not the place to start.

Crossposted on Annapolis Politics


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Anything but Confidence

Memo to Harris supporters: I understand that the candidate and his supporters are confident that the Senator is going to beat Congressman Gilchrest in the primary. However, when supporters start talking to the press about half-baked theories about why certain candidates are jumping into the race, that doesn't exactly exude confidence, now does it?

Again, I'm not supporting or endorsing a candidate. But color me unimpressed with the lame attempt at spin of some Harris supporters...

(Crossposted)


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Checking in where I have been

In this Friday's Gazette, Barry Rascovar checks in where I have been for some time now: that Peter Franchot is positioning himself extremely well to mount a challenge to Governor O'Malley's left during the 2010 gubernatorial primary.

The more Franchot fights the special session, and the more likely it becomes that O'Malley's tax-hike gambit fails, the more likely a Franchot challenge will become....

(Crossposted)


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Friday, October 26, 2007

Unsolicited advice

Ran across a couple articles in the last week or so that made me wonder if the so-called progressives are worried about the inconvenient truth that many of the doomsday predictions of the global warming (oops, make that global climate change, they have to cover all the bases) crowd are not sinking into the American public consciousness like they anticipated the forecasts would. In the “wishful thinking” department we have a story from Marc Santora of the New York Times and weighing in with “helpful advice” is Dan Rodricks of the Baltimore Sun.

Santora takes a look at just how far the conservatives in the GOP field attempt to bend in order to catch a look from the green crowd. His column looks at how the first-tier hopefuls (Giuliani, Romney, and McCain in particular) would address the issue and approves most the McCain focus on “cap and trade” provisions, increased CAFE standards, and possibly joining in with the Kyoto Protocol. Meanwhile, Rodricks’ column in essence carries the viewpoint that the green train is leaving the station and the GOP had better catch it. In both cases we need to wonder just how helpful the advice would be since I doubt either writer looks at anything other than the “D” side of the election ballot, unless of course the Greens have a candidate.

Historically the Republicans have done their share for environmentalism, in particular noted conservationist Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon, who signed the Environmental Protection Agency into existence. But given the Grand Old Party’s traditional support for big business and fewer federal regulations, they naturally become the target of those who want to redistribute capital from producing items to make life better to enhancing the government coffers in the name of cleaning and cooling our planet.

For the sake of argument, I’ll accept the Rodricks premise that global warming is real (possible) and man-made (doubtful.) Penalizing America and our way of life by getting rid of SUV’s and increasing restrictions on land use and consumerism does exactly nothing to stop the Chinese from building a filth-belching coal-burning power plant every week. But someday all the restrictions will stop us from polluting as the last of the smokestack industries moves overseas to escape the onerous regulations endorsed by Rodricks and his radically environmentalist ilk.

Nor does he account for some of the possible good effects of global warming, particularly on food production. A millennium ago, the Vikings settled Greenland because there was a growing season there, brought about by a warm stretch of global weather. A warming trend like that may again allow crop production on that large land mass, along with more of the northern extremes of Canada and Siberia.

Before I get much farther, let me note that I have no problem with encouraging more energy-efficient buildings and transportation - to a point. Generally a payback of 5 to 10 years is considered acceptable in the building world, while automobiles have to balance the requirements of additional fuel economy with the safety and comfort of occupants. My issue tends to be with those who favor increasing government revenue and influence to combat a problem that has not been conclusively proven to be our doing.

So I think we should thank Marc Santora and Dan Rodricks for their input, but cheerfully ignore it and continue a quest to find green solutions that involve the private sector, the overall market, and all the common sense we have to muster.

Crossposted on monoblogue.


More below the fold.

What's The Matter With MoCo?

Remember New York Times reporter Thomas Frank’s book What’s The Matter with Kansas? Frank stated that middle class Kansans were stupid for supposedly voting against their economic interests and voting for Republicans on values issues. That is, the slack-jawed yokels in Kansas are morons or were brainwashed because they did not vote according to the left's prescriptions. Forget for a moment the myth that voting Republican is somehow against your economic interests, the real issue is this old Marxist trope of the “false consciousness.” While Marxism, for the most part, enjoys a prominent slot in history’s ash heap, “false consciousness” lives on in what Jonah Goldberg accurately defines as cosmopolitanism. “Enlightened” cosmopolitans use this trick to accuse Republicans of distracting the masses away from voting their own economic interests, with faux cultural issues (i.e. guns, gays, and God).

The proposed tax increases for the upcoming special session give us a chance to turn that argument back on the cosmopolitan progressives, and tilt it on its head. Now the question is are the progressive Montgomery County delegates and senators going to vote their “progressive values” against their own economic interests. In other words, turning a popular progressive idiom on its head, is the political, personal? Montgomery County will bear the brunt of the tax increases. Blair Lee noted that:

Montgomery County is the home of 41 percent of Maryland’s families with incomes over $250,000, Montgomery will generate 81 percent of the new state revenues. That’s right, Montgomery County — with 16.5 percent of the state’s population —will pay 81 percent of the state’s $163 million income tax increase. Baltimore city and Prince George’s County taxpayers will actually pay less than they’re currently paying.

Lee is of the opinion that MoCo will vote its progressive values, and play the part of O’Malley’s fellow travelers continuing to provide us with its greatest export, “moral superiority.” Lee writes, “Montgomery’s state lawmakers support the governor’s income tax plan because it’s ‘‘progressive,” it taxes the wealthy who mostly live in Montgomery. So, as usual, our representatives place principle over politics. Taxing ourselves more is the right thing to do, they say. How can you argue against fairness, they ask?

My Red Maryland colleague streiff thinks differently. He believes that there is already a great deal of local pressure bearing on the MoCo delegation to oppose O’Malley’s massive tax hikes.

It will be interesting to track the MoCo delegation during the special session to see which way they vote. If they vote their values and go along with O’Gov, they would at least have the courage of their convictions, however misguided those convictions are. However, if they vote against O’Malley, then we will have to wonder what it says about the strength of so- called “progressive values;” if progressives abandon them when their own personal economic interests are at stake.

crossposted on The Main Adversary


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Our Missing Second Amendment

Now that Washington DC's prohibition on law-abiding citizens possessing firearms for self-defense seems to be on the rope, one hopes the NRA can muster a challenge against the Potemkin system of gun laws in Maryland.

Read Pro-Gun Progressive's tale of woe. He's involved in community anti-drug activities, the drug dealers have threatened to kill him and sodomize his wife, the Baltimore Police Department have documented the threats and support his application to pack heat. The Maryland State Police examiner, who figures that he's not the guy being threatened, that he has a gun anyway, and who cares if this other guy gets killed because he's crazy anyway, declined the application.


More below the fold.

Unintended Consequences

Because health care is so much in the news, what with Governor O'Malley's $500 million-$675 million-some other really big number health care plan and the utter idiocy taking place in Howard County, I thought I'd share a story from my RedState colleague Pejman Yousefzadeh on Romney-care in Massachusetts.

For those who pay attention, there's nothing new here. People respond to economic incentives. The don't respond to do-gooderism.


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Wayne Gilchrest's Rent-A-Challenger Program

According to a front page story in today's Washington Times, Wayne Gilchrest's campaign manager, Tony Caligiuri, recruited former Ehrlich administration functionary Robert Joseph Banks to run in the MD-1 primary against, drum roll, Wayne Gilchrest.

Now naturally, the Gilchrest campaign denies this, but at this point I think their credibility has wounded, perhaps mortally, by their actions thusfar. Mr. Gilchrest has already rewritten his voting record on the Iraq War and has claimed, in his campaign literature, endorsements that he just doesn't have.

We, quite honestly, don't know what, if anything, Mr. Banks is running for or against. To date his web site is a tabula rasa to say the least. What at least gives the allegations credence is that Mr. Banks doesn't live in the district he's seeking to represent. In fact, the only thing Mr. Banks seems to bring to the table is that his name will be top of the ballot and will presumably garner a lot of support from the fairly potent "anybody but Gilchrest" demographic in MD-1.


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MACo Supports Tax Increases

The Maryland Association of Counties, headed by the husband of one of Governor O'Malley's Public Service Commissioners (who voted for the 1999 deregulation that helped us all out so much) has < sarcasm >suprised us all< /sarcasm > and come out in favor of the whopping tax increase O'Malley is putting before the special session next week.

I guess when your job and the job of your wife are dependent upon keeping O'Gov happy you do what you gotta do.


More below the fold.

Lichtman Update

One thing I did not mention in my previous post, was that I tried to speak with Allan Lichtman when he appeared on Ron Smith's show Wednesday afternoon. I missed Lichtman, but Ron was gracious enough to take my call. Here is a link to the audio file posted on the Ron Smith page.

All credit for Ron's laugh at the end goes to my Red Maryland colleague, streiff. I borrowed his post headline. It was just too good a line to pass up at the moment.


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My Brain Hurts

I'd resolved yesterday to not waste anymore time writing about Governor O'Malley's risky scheme, to coin a phrase, to add a $500 billion new spending program when the state has a "structural deficit" of between $1.5 billion and $2.2 billion, the deficit varies as to whether the governor is trying to convince you he can add new spending or that you have to raise the bejeezus out of your taxes right this very moment or civilization, as we know it, will end.

So yesterday, the Baltimore Sun reported:

More than 100,000 Marylanders would get coverage under the proposal out of nearly 800,000 residents who lack coverage. The plan would cost about $500 million, including $250 million in new state revenue plus federal matching dollars and funds redirected from other areas. It would be phased in over four years depending on availability of funding.
Today, however, the Washington Post reports:
Gov. Martin O'Malley and Democratic legislative leaders yesterday proposed providing health insurance to 100,000 poor uninsured adults in Maryland and subsidizing small businesses that offer coverage to their employees

[...]

The plan would cost about $675 million, $250 million of that in state money, health secretary John M. Colmers said. [...]
Look, this isn't the $23.6 million missing from your "cost of delay" scaremongering, this is $175 million.

So can we expect Mr. Colmers to join Nelson Reichart in the unemployment line? Or is the administration just so down home screwed up that they simply don't know what their own estimates are. I guess in the macro, it just doesn't matter. We are about to get the mother of all tax increases in this special session. And I'll make another prediction, when the Republican caucus finally votes with O'Malley to legalize slots, the egregiously high revenue estimates produced by the administration will be used to fund yet more spending.

Next year, we'll be right back to where we are today. A budget deficit, a doomsday budget, a cost of delay, and more prevarication by the governor and his buttboys.


More below the fold.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

So how is this news?

The Baltimore Sun reports a "news" story that Governor O'Malley is proposing a new $500 million Medicare add-on in the special session.

A few quick points as we've, in the words of the Governor, "beaten this dead horse into a coma."

I don't know why this is news today, we knew about it yesterday. Perhaps the Sun hasn't hit its fellatio quota this week and the Governor is irritable. That makes as much sense for calling this nothingburger news as anything else.

Any budget serious about addressing a "structural deficit" is not going to propose a half-billion dollar new program as part of solving the problem.

This makes me more convinced that Peter Franchot is right and the tax increases should be held in abeyance until the regular session when we have the financial reports before us. Right now it appears that O'Malley is stampeding a tame legislature into approving a huge package of tax increases to fund new programs, not to solve the "structural deficit."


More below the fold.

Allan Lichtman and the Special Session

First, I admire and respect Allan Lichtman. I took his research seminar as a graduate student at American University and assisted his writing class for freshman history majors. Professor Lichtman is fine scholar and a good teacher. If you want to learn how to write and write well, take any course he teaches.

I highly recommend his book The Keys to the White House. The book is an analytical forecasting system that has successfully predicted the winner of the popular vote in presidential elections. He predicted Bush’s win in 2004, and not only that his keys system works for every presidential election since 1860.

Having said that, professor Lichtman and I are as far apart politically as the Yankees fans and Red Sox fans are on baseball. He is as Ron Smith calls him an über-liberal or progressive, and I am …well if I have to tell you about me, stop reading now.
I took umbrage with a few points Lichtman made in his Montgomery Gazette column about the upcoming special session. Lichtman writes:

Just as medical authorities tell us that shedding pounds requires only a four-word prescription — eat less, exercise more — the same holds true for shedding deficits — spend less, tax more. And don’t for a moment think that legalizing slots doesn’t count as taxation. We know that slot machine gambling is one of the most regressive ways to extract revenue from our residents. That’s why Sean Dobson, the head of Progressive Maryland, says that his group — the state’s conscience on progressive taxation — firmly opposes legalized slot machine gambling in our state.

Spend less (good idea). Tax more? How does taxing more lead to shedding a deficit? Oh sure technically you would balance the budget or maybe even get a surplus. However, that would require a governor and legislators who don’t spend our money like an heiress out for a day on Rodeo Drive. In the reality that is the Maryland General Assembly, spend less, tax more ends up becoming tax more; spend even more than that.

I would hardly call Progressive Maryland the “state’s conscience on progressive taxation.” How much conscience does an organization really have when they resort to pulling stunts like their childish push poll to foist the fallacy that Marylanders actually want more and higher taxes?

More Lichtman on progressive taxation:
Governor O’Malley is on track by relying on progressive forms of taxation to generate more revenue for the state. The General Assembly needs to resist the pressure of lobbyists who will be swarming around Annapolis and close our state’s egregious tax loopholes for big corporations. It should mostly increase the corporate tax rate and make sure that any sales tax increase covers such services as property management and health clubs used primarily by the affluent.


A real study of O’Malley’s tax plan by Ernst & Young details the economic impact of increasing the corporate tax and adopting combined reporting. Both would cost 36 jobs for every $10 million in revenue. 17.5 jobs lost for every $10 million in revenue from the corporate tax increase, 18.3 jobs lost for every $10 million in revenue from combined reporting.

The EY report also shows similarly drastic job losses due to the sales tax increase:
• The static sales tax changes would decrease Maryland employment, including government jobs, by -8,334 jobs in 2012; job losses will increase to -9,274 by 2017.

• The largest job reductions in 2012 are in wholesale and retail trade (-2,341), and accommodation and food services (-1,238).

• Comparing the decrease in jobs to the amount of the static increase in state sales taxes from the rate increase, the tax rate increase will result in 9.5 jobs lost per $1 million of tax increases in 2012.

• The decreases in employment also reduce the personal income received by Maryland residents by $461 million in 2012 and $655 million in 2017.

• In addition to reductions in jobs and incomes, the sales tax increases are projected to decrease real investment in business machinery, equipment, structures and other capital assets. The reduction reaches $152 million by 2017.

• Section II of Table 2.2 shows that Maryland’s weaker economy will reduce state tax collections by an estimated $45 million in 2017. This will partially offset the static revenue increase in sales taxes shown in Table 2.1. In addition, local governments’ taxes will be reduced by $33 million in 2017.

The sectors of the economy that will lose the most jobs will be wholesale and retail trade, and Accommodation and food services a net loss of 3,647 jobs in these sectors alone. Jobs usually occupied by the people progressives claim to champion.

Tax more, lose jobs. How progressive!

The General Assembly should endorse the governor’s plan to make the state income tax more progressive by raising the rates for high-income earners. The amount paid by those within the upper tax brackets will be only a fraction of the tax windfalls they have already reaped from federal tax cuts that President Bush pushed through Congress during this last term.


If you ever wanted to see the philosophical differences between conservatives and progressives in its starkest form that was it. A windfall? A tax cut is not a windfall. It is government allowing its citizens to keep the money they earned. As Rick Moran noted "That money is the taxpayer’s. It is already in his pocket. A tax cut is nothing more than a law preventing the government from reaching into the taxpayer’s pocket and taking away his property… In short, the money “given back” to taxpayers is really the government’s money to begin with, theirs to do with as they see fit."

Only a progressive could see the government keeping its hands out of its citizens' pockets as a “windfall”.

crossposted on The Main Adversary


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Towson University Says No To Slackers

Let me be among the first to applaud Towson University on being a responsible steward of public funds and the tuition of their students.

Citing high attrition rates, Towson University says it will discontinue an unusual admissions program that was designed to attract male students by admitting applicants with lower grades but higher SAT scores.

Launched in the fall of 2005, the experiment was designed in part to address concerns about declining enrollment of males, who make up 42 percent of the U.S. college population and 40 percent at Towson.

Women were admitted through the program, too, but it was aimed primarily at drawing male students - who are more likely to have higher SAT scores but lower grades. The problem, officials said, was that too many students in the program left the college or had to drop out.
SAT/ACT scores and high school grades are a very good predictor of success in college. That's why colleges use them. When you go against well established predictors you have to expect adverse outcomes. This comes to the second part. We've also known for decades, if not forever, that grouping students by ability works. That's why you find the student body and a university being fairly homogeneous in scores and grades. When you admit student with lower scores and grades than your student body at large, then large numbers of those admissions drop out because they aren't academically prepared for the curriculum.

So, you say, if we know all this why did we even begin the program? Good question. Because universities have bought into affirmative action, which works the same way, with all their being they tried to carry out this bit of social engineering on their own. Of course, it was silliness. But in this case the only beneficiaries of the program where underachieving, presumably white, slackers and they pulled the plug. It is for that that we applaud them. Not for the reasoning that got them there.


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Refuge Podcast # 45 - Ron Smith Belongs in the Nut Ball Box

More news, views and insight into conservative Republican happenings await in the latest installment of the Conservative Refuge Podcast. You can listen by visiting here:

http://theconservativerefuge.libsyn.com/

In our opening segment, we visit the "Nut Ball Box" and I explain why WBAL radio personality Ron Smith belongs in the Nut Ball Box. You need to hear the outrageous and offensive comments of this popular local radio personality claiming that our armed forces are engaged in a genocidal war to control middle east oil.

Our blogger roundtable convenes, with regular contributor Brian Griffiths and guest blogger Mark Newgent, to discuss the rumors that Governor O'Malley may leave the mess he has made in Maryland to become Hillary Clinton's Vice Presidential candidate. With rapidly falling poll numbers, does O'Malley see the VP spot as an escape hatch for his political career or will his proposed massive tax hikes ruin his chances for national office? Our blogger contributors offer their insight and opinions.

In our closing segment, I relate some listener feedback concerning the recent gay marriage decision and the O'Malley tax proposals. I also share an update on the tax proposals being considered in the upcoming special session.

Share your thoughts and feedback!

Spread the word!

Greg Kline
Host, Conservative Refuge Podcast


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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Will His Honor Royal Governor Martin O’Malley Get What He Wants?

by Regina Sztajer
Posted by Robert

“Maryland counties should shoulder a significant portion of budget cuts if the General Assembly can’t raise the revenue to address a 1.7 billion budget deficit,” House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said Monday, (www.hometownannapolis.com 10/23/07 Brian Witte. O’Malley says he wants to avoid burdening the counties and Miller is optimistic that most of the Governor budget deficit proposals will be accepted during the special session that begins October 29. Uncertain is the proposed slot machine plan for which O’M'alley favors a referendum vote. The main feature of the tax plan is tax plan is the enactment of a sales tax increase from 5 to 6 cents. Monday evening October 29, O’Malley will address the General Assembly and then there will be hearings in several committees, Tuesday through Friday. Also on Friday initial will be taken! Miller hopes to wrap up the session in just two weeks.

In the meantime various counties have objected to O’Malley’s tax proposals. Harford County State Senator Nancy H. Jacobs (R-District 34 said, ” People are getting the message that O’Malley’s not just about the deficit. If he would have just level-funded the budget for at least the next three years, we wouldn’t be in the position where we’d have to raise taxes.” (www.examiner.com 10/23/07 Matthew Santoni. Harford counties conservative leaning constituency is worried about raising taxes when shoppers can go to nearby Delaware to shop and pay no sales taxes. Jacobs is not in favor of a special session but rather considering the tax plan during the regular session in January when legislatures could really scrutinize the budget for possible cuts. Delegate Barry Glassman (R District 35) of Harford County also thinks the tax plan should be shelved until the January session because it limits the public’s ability to participate. Up till now e-mails, phone calls and conversations have indicated voters are 7-to-1 against any tax increase. Carroll County and Anne Arundel County voters and lawmaker unanimously oppose the Governor’s tax budget plan.
Raising taxes concerns all Maryland residents and is not a partisan issue. On Monday October 29th every voter will have the chance to voice their opinion about the largest tax hike in Maryland history.

” The No Tax Hike Rally”Monday Oct.29, 2007 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Lawyers MallAnnapolis, Md.

Every concerned citizen should attend to voice your concern about O’Malley’s tax plan. Residents of District 8 to 42 should visit Delegates Bromwell, Schuler and Lafferty because they won by the narrowest margins in what was very bad Republican year. They should be reminded you will remember how they voted on taxes and that you will hold them accountable in the future. Car pool and get the word out to friends, relatives, coworkers and etc. Do not leave it to someone else to speak for you.


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One of them is wrong

State Comptroller Peter Franchot:

Dear President Miller and Speaker Busch:

As you know, Governor O'Malley has signed an Executive Order convening the Maryland General Assembly to consider his proposed remedies for the State of Maryland's $1.7 billion structural budget deficit. The Governor's proposal includes, but is not limited to, an increase in the State's sales tax, cigarette tax and corporate income tax rates, an extension of the sales tax levy to service transactions that are currently exempt, a fundamental realignment of our State's personal income tax structure, and a plan to legalize slot machines in Maryland.

Having served two decades in the General Assembly, including several years as Chairman of a House budget subcommittee, I have been through similar fiscal challenges and appreciate the Governor's desire to address our State's looming budget shortfall in an aggressive manner. As Maryland's chief fiscal officer, however, I must question the timing and necessity of this approach. Mindful of the reservations each of you has expressed about a special session, I must underscore the profound - and perhaps unintended - consequences of this undertaking on Maryland's economy, business climate and quality of life, and to caution against acting in haste.
One or the other of these guys is wrong. The question is which one. If we assume, as a lot of us do, that Peter Franchot sees himself as governor, possibly challenging O'Malley for the nomination in 2010, then you have to assume he doesn't care to be remembered as the asshat who precipitated a budget crisis. On the other hand, O'Malley has been a cornucopia of shifting numbers. We know he intends to push for a $500 million expansion of Medicaid in the middle of a crisis brought on by our "structural deficit". How better to do this than in an atmosphere of panic and absence of definitive revenue numbers.

I have to give the nod to Franchot. If he's wrong, O'Malley has just jettisoned a primary challenger in 2010 and we all get to keep our money for a little longer. If Franchot is right, there is no chance the taxes passed in the special session will be repealed instead that windfall of revenue will fuel a new round of programs and a new "structural deficit."


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Sort of like BRAC, only without the jobs

From the Baltimore Sun:

A resolution passed in Virginia's Prince William County last week to crack down on illegal immigrants might bring a mass relocation to welcoming states like Maryland, experts said.

[...]

"They're absolutely coming. Some of the police officers in my district have said they've seen an increase in Virginia license plates driving around," said Will Campos, a Prince George's County Council member. "It doesn't mean they're moving here, but they're browsing."

Campos attributed Prince George's tolerance of immigrants to its population, of which African-Americans are a majority. "I believe we're a little more progressive in thinking and a little more open to immigration," he said.
Is anyone surprised at this? Not me.

I wrote weeks ago about the fact that Arizona has seen the number of illegal immigrants in that state decline by the simple expedient of revoking the business license of any company that employs them.

People respond to economic incentives. If they can't easily obtain work and they can't get free stuff from the government they move on to jurisdictions that are more enlightened and which do not believe in enforcing the law.

So have a great time PG and MoCo. Enjoy the diversity. Relish your sophistication. I know I will.


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The Budget Apocalypse



Governor O'Malley pulled out all the stops to campaign for a historic program of tax and spending increases with the specter of a [sfx: screams, scary music] Doomsday Budget.

That's right, folks, I did say "and spending increases" because the special session will consider expanding state medicaid coverage by $500 million all the while railing against a "structural deficit."

In a move clearly designed to put pressure on lawmakers, the governor listed $1.7 billion in cuts he would propose if the General Assembly he has called into session next Monday does not pass most of the eight revenue measures he has proposed.

The plan includes $530 million in cuts to county governments, including freezing Thornton education aid and teacher retirement funding, along with reductions in money for police, open space and community colleges. There would be another drop in funding for Medicaid and foster care.

There are $791 million in cuts to state programs, including a $110 million reduction for university funding, likely to lead to tuition increases, O’Malley said.
It is a typical program of "shut the Washington Monument" approach to the extent that what O'Malley is talking about are actual cuts and not, like the $530 million in county aid, merely slowing the rate of growth.

The data, see the chart up top, produced by the Maryland legislature shows that if current spending were simply frozen most of the deficit would disappear. Now freezing budgets isn't the best way of addressing this kind of a problem, but neither is creating a new $500 million program and raising taxes that will hurt Marylanders and make Maryland businesses less competitive.


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The Wisdom of Martin O'Malley

Governor O'Malley on slots:

"We have beaten this dead horse into a coma, and we need to resolve this issue,"


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