As he has the last couple years, State Senator Lowell Stoltzfus was kind enough not to throw me out of his “Picnic in the Park” that now occurs in the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center. Of course, after raining the first year I went in 2005, he moved it indoors and it’s been gorgeous outside both times. So I had some good food and listened to the speakers, some of whom are pictured below.
I’ll cover a little more of what was actually said shortly. For now, I’m going to backtrack a bit to make a few other observations and comments about the event itself. First of all, this guy’s volunteers are everywhere:
Another staple of these events is the silent auction. In this case, the auction was split half-and-half with the bigger ticket items being done as a live auction and perennial auctioneer Lewis Riley handling that end of it. The only item I bid on this time was represented by that green cap, a gift certificate for dinner at the Captains Galley down in Crisfield.
The menu had mostly white meat with the pulled pork being the best part. Our red meat came from the speakers. District 38A Delegate Page Elmore started with the “$64,000 question…when will the next session be?” He derided the probable tax increase that “clobbers the wealthy” while giving the middle-class folks “peanuts.” District 37 State Senator Rich Colburn continued the tax theme with a different tack, noting that the sales tax increase proposed by Governor O’Malley makes the Eastern Shore’s problems worse by 20%. This is in reference to the 5% disadvantage we have against sales tax-free Delaware increasing by 20% to a 6 point difference. Colburn also compared the Ehrlich malpractice insurance special session in 2005 to the upcoming O’Malley one. While Ehrlich was chided for having no agreements in place before calling the session, there is “no consensus” on the deficit issue either – yet O’Malley’s been free from criticism on that point. Delegate Addie Eckardt from District 37B also briefly spoke a few words of agreement.
At that time, Lowell introduced the afternoon’s keynote speaker, State Senator and Congressional hopeful Andy Harris, who Stoltzfus said has “the right philosophy” to represent us.
Andy started out by talking about the salad days when he worked with Governor Ehrlich on what Harris termed “shared Republican values.” He compared that to a “broken” Washington that “needs to be fixed” with a focus on several issues: taxes, immigration, family and marriage (a “basis of society” that needs to be “protected”), and the Long War, which he termed “our first religious war in 230 years”, one where “surrender is not an option.” He had a good reception from the folks who were there. It’s interesting to note that last year’s keynoter was Congressman Gilchrest, then running for reelection. Times and opinions change on the Eastern Shore when a good alternative is presented.
Senator Stoltzfus closed the speechifying part of the event with some comments of his own. Calling the budget problem “very significant”, he called into question how the projected deficit zoomed from $1.1 billion to $1.6 to $1.7 billion in a month. Lower revenue estimates were supposedly the culprit, but it led us to wonder if there was some cooking of the books going on to justify bringing in additional revenue to spend.
One thing Stoltzfus brought up that I didn’t realize is, of a $30 billion or so state budget, only $14 billion is revenue collected by the state of Maryland – the rest comes from the federal government. Doing the math then, if the new taxes collected are $2 billion as claimed, that’s an increase of almost 15% in state revenue taken from the pockets of you and me. On the other hand, Stoltzfus stressed that just leveling funding of existing programs (no cuts) would erase the deficit problem. The trouble comes with the large spending increases proposed by Governor O’Malley and his minions.
I took this final picture just as the formal portion of the event was drawing to a close. We didn’t have the same turnout as last year, but then again except for the early 2008 federal primary this is an off-year. Much of the 2006 turnout came to meet and greet those Republicans who survived the primary.
I think what needs to happen for 2008 is that the farmer in Senator Stoltzfus needs to determine if the summer’s been too dry or too wet and plan his picnic in the appropriate locale. If it’s been too dry, have it outside or bring it back in if the fields are too wet for harvest. Next year will be the both the thick of the 2008 election and the beginning of the effects of our soon-to-be tax increases so we’ll see who comes to speak to us.