As he is bound to do, Governor O'Malley delivered the State of the State Address earlier this week. While the state has challenges, Martin was optimistic for our future because a new Sheriff was in town a few miles down the road in Washington, D.C.
But I think the state of the state is much more accurately assessed in the rebuttal, presented by Delegate Anthony O'Donnell - who happens to be my 2008 Legislator of the Year based on his monoblogue Accountability Project score. If you go to the Maryland Public Television site, you'll see and hear both speeches.
It's also worthwhile to see the response from the Maryland Republican Party:
Maryland Republican Party Chairman Dr. Jim Pelura had the following comments in reaction to Governor O’Malley’s state of the state address:
“Governor O’Malley is basing the bulk of his budgeting decisions on getting federal bailout money and plans to continue spending more and more of our money while ignoring Maryland’s fiscal crisis. Governor O’Malley’s budget increases spending by $800 million in the face of a $2 billion budget deficit.
Martin O’Malley and his Democrat allies in the General Assembly have mismanaged our fiscal house and are now hoping to be bailed out with money from the federal government. That money is not ‘free’, it is coming out of our pockets and will be coming out of the pockets of our children and grandchildren. This emergency bailout money is a one-time fix. Unfortunately, the Democrats who control Annapolis believe that they can continue overspending because of this temporary, fiscal band-aid.
Now is the time for the Governor to stop raiding emergency funds and playing one-time fund transfer games. We need him to also be focused on the real problem of driver’s license security, something he neglected to mention in his speech.
Our Republican leaders in Annapolis have a clear vision to make Maryland a place where families and small businesses can flourish. Maryland Republicans want to remove the overbearing regulations and toxic tax conditions that cripple economic growth and cause job loss.
It is time for Marylanders to demand new leadership so that we can get our state’s economy back on the right track for working families.”
Indeed it is. However, let me further illustrate the problems as I see them and suggest solutions.
Our state has the natural advantage of being close to the nation's capital, thus we're shielded from recession as far as statewide statistics are concerned. Governor O'Malley points out that our unemployment rate is 5.8% here in Maryland, compared with a 7.2% national rate.
But Governor O'Malley also likes to stress a "One Maryland" agenda, whereas it's my belief that there are at least three Marylands: the I-95 corridor, Western Maryland, and the Eastern Shore. While Martin enjoys the fact that the state's unemployment as a whole is less than the national average, he's forgetting that 4 of the worst 5 jurisdictions in the state for unemployment are the four counties of the lower Eastern Shore, with November rates above the December national average of 7.2% in three of the four counties - it's a sure bet that all four are looking at 7% or more when December statistics are broken down.
In short, the lower Shore is an economic basket case right now, and what we're desperately crying out for are policies to create good, long-term, well-paying jobs - as in drawing businesses here!
The Governor cites two "victims" in his address, but these four counties have close to 200,000 unwitting victims of misguided state regulations and mandates that place dependence on federal subsidies above solid, job-creating tax policy.
And the $15 million to assist small businesses with securing health insurance does nothing but assure the small business becomes hooked on an ever more expensive state program. How many of these employers will drop their private coverage (or cut workforce) to glom onto the state program, making that $15 million suddenly need to be $30 million or $50 million?
Perhaps my largest objection is in philosophy, for Governor O'Malley wants to "strengthen and grow the ranks of Maryland’s upwardly mobile middle class."
Is that truly all the ambition he wants us to have, to be middle class?
Since he crows about "rais(ing) the personal exemption for all but the wealthiest Marylanders" while "we’ve increased Maryland’s Earned Income Tax Credit by 25%" where is the incentive to succeed? It seems to me that Martin continues on his merry path of wealth redistribution; unfortunately his agenda is driving those who create the wealth out of Maryland.
More than most, one would think that Maryland would be among the states who wouldn't have to worry about a budget deficit (given its low unemployment and high per capita income) but we instead have the problem of relatively high tax rates coupled with the desire to spend too much money.
It's time for the people in this state to realize that government does not have to be all things to all people.
I've lived on the Shore for four years and in that time I've found that we have a very independent, parochial attitude about ourselves and the rest of the state. There's many among us who wouldn't really mind sawing the Bay Bridge in half and telling the rest of the state to take a hike.
The problem, of course, is that we're less than 1/10 of the state's population and most of the rest is quite happy with state government that goes on its free-spending way. By and large, they're not paying for it and many of those who do pay work for the government anyhow, so less government isn't thought to be in their self-interest.
But it's time for government to start bearing some sacrifices as well. It's time to instill some common sense into Annapolis and think about how to benefit the whole of the state, not just those along I-95.
More below the fold.