I guess I’m on the list now. Senator Pipkin sent me another press release today, this time discussing the “fear and strong-arm tactics to force counties to support tax increases.” This stems from an e-mail Pipkin acquired written by Maryland Association of Counties lobbyist Dave Bliden. Pipkin also stated that,
“I thought I was beyond shock and outrage until I read about using volunteer firefighters to help beef up the propaganda campaign to get locals to rally behind the state tax increases. The e-mail lays out an arrogant and shameless blueprint for getting locals to back tax increases. As Bliden says, the next few weeks of gubernatorial visits to the counties ‘is a good opportunity to make a case, and, even more important to convince the Governor we (the counties) are there 100% to help him help us.’”
What interested me the most was the original e-mail with one of the addressees being Wicomico County Director of Finance Patricia Petersen. It was attached as part of the Pipkin press release and I’m replicating it warts and all.
Ladies and Gentlemen–
I just spoke to the County Executive Smith and Jan Gardner about a conversation I had with Josh White, the Governor’s Intergovernmental Relations Chief, about which we wanted to motivate a a (sic) response.
Josh is interested in coordinating a message for the Governor as he goes on roadtrips to the counties. He is looking for not just the property tax equivalents, but real vignettes of the county “doomsday” budgets… like closing libraries, reductions in deputies, larger class size, no support for volunteers (sic) firefighters. I suggested a goal of 10 examples for each county, if the proposed State “doomsday budget” comes to fruition..
The Gov could be visiting the counties during the next weeks, which presents an opportunity to deliver. And, with a good product, we could share with the other counties to get them motivated. Something for discussion at our July 13 meeting. Another good perspective would be having interested constituencies there to show their interest, e.g. the volunteer ff’ers.
This is a good opportunity to make a case and, even more important, to convince the Governor we are there 100% to help him help us.
Can you get your team motivated? We would be most willing to work with them.
So the counties are trying to guard their own turf, which is understandable – particularly in Wicomico County where we’re under a revenue cap. In some ways, MACO is asking all participants to take a page out of Rick Pollitt’s “shadow budget”, detailing the cuts they’ll be forced to make if the state isn’t allowed to dig deeper into our pockets.
Much as the federal government shifts costs to each state as much as they possibly can to help with their budget, so too is Governor O’Malley attempting to push pricey programs onto the counties. While in many ways this is actually a good step, the abruptness of the shift is understandably making Maryland’s counties a little nervous. I suppose my issue with this attitude is that, judging by this e-mail, counties are more interested in protecting their turf than asking the tough questions, both of themselves and of Governor O’Malley.
For the Governor’s part, it seems like the cuts he’s making in the budget are set up to make the maximum splash but with a minimum of substance. For example, many of the state employees being “let go” are already gone, it’s a matter of not filling vacant positions. (These vacant positions were probably those of Ehrlich’s political appointees anyway, like my friend Maria.) It’s a bit reminiscent of the 1995 budget showdown, when federal employees furloughed by the impasse were portrayed as victims of the evil GOP. I’m just waiting for the cuts to be made and the sob stories to commence in the Sun and other sycophant media outlets. It’s obvious to me that with its call for publicizing counties’ own “doomsday budgets” the Bliden e-mail was the first step in setting up the victimhood mentality.