As I’ve said from time to time on this forum and others, Maryland is the first place (besides, to a limited extent, my college alma mater) where I lived by choice. And the main reasons I moved here, as opposed to other prospective places where I could have worked like Jacksonville, Las Vegas, or Phoenix, were the somewhat rural setting and the idea that this area had plenty of room for growth. Needless to say, when compared to those urban areas, Salisbury was by far the smallest location I considered.
There are serious economic handicaps about living here which have always existed more or less, but at the time of my arrival they were held somewhat in check by the state government in place in the fall of 2004. Sure, Bob Ehrlich was no doctrinaire conservative but most of his ideas for revenue enhancement were limited to increasing user fees, and Maryland participated fully in the national economic boom which was taking place during the Ehrlich era here. Unemployment for the state was just 4.4% when Ehrlich took office and 3.6% when he left – the rate never exceeded 4.6% during his tenure. Obviously things are different now, and Maryland reflects the national situation in that respect. Oddly enough, though, the other three places I was considering were among the hardest hit by the recession, so while Salisbury never quite reached that exhilarating height this fact made the low point easier to handle.
However, things aren’t being helped along by the state government now in place. While they claim to have cut spending, the overall state budget has increased significantly since current governor Martin O’Malley took office. In late 2007 a package of tax increases was passed in a Special Session in order to address a $1.7 billion structural deficit – this package included a 1 penny per dollar increase in the sales tax, income tax rate increases on wealthy filers, a jump in the corporate tax rate from 7% to 8.25 percent, and a $1 per pack rise in the cigarette tax. There was also an effort to extend the sales tax to computer services (dubbed the “tech tax”) but public outcry persuaded the General Assembly to return in its regular 2008 session and rescind that expansion of the sales tax; it was replaced by another surtax on wealthy income tax filers. Meanwhile, that 2007 Special Session also spent a large chunk of those new revenues on expanding Medicaid funding.
So where am I leading you with all this? There are two stops I want to make.
First of all, the fifteen freshman Republican members of the House of Delegates are now a year older and a year wiser in the ways of Annapolis. They found the way to make a point was to do a polling question about whether Marylanders are taxed enough already; however, this question was not included in the polling data Gonzales released for its latest Maryland Poll.
Still, consider me one of the 96 percent:
It’s a little cheesy, but the point gets across just fine. Didn’t we go through this just four years ago?
And imagine the effect on average Maryland residents. Although he is an above-average conservative blogger and journalist, Robert Stacy McCain is also a Free State resident who says the the idea of the “app tax” may be the last straw:
I’ve lived in Maryland more than 14 years, ever since I moved up here to work at The Washington Times in November 1997. My friends have often asked, “Why Maryland? Their taxes are so high. You should move to Virginia.” And there was always a reason, or at least a plausible excuse.
For years, the commute to the Times office on New York Avenue, and the availability of a more direct bus/rail connection than could be found in Virginia, was the best argument to stay in Maryland. Then our daughter enrolled at Highland View Academy here in Hagerstown, and we moved into faculty housing on campus, where my wife subsequently became the food service director or, as she prefers to call herself, The Cafeteria Lady.
Frankly, however, the best argument for staying in Maryland now is inertia. We’ve lived in this house for seven years, and the mere thought of having to pack everything into a moving truck — my office library alone would take days to pack — is enough to give me a headache.
Nevertheless, O’Malley’s lamebrain Internet tax might make me do it. Because in all likelihood, as we witnessed in California last year, if the state tries to tax online sales, Amazon will pull out, and I need that Amazon money.
This past year, I finally figured out how to promote Amazon sales the way they should be promoted, and my commissions on associates sales during the Christmas holiday season exceeded $1,000 a month for the first time. Maybe some people don’t think $1,000 a month is a big deal, but for an independent blogger like me, that was a spectacular financial windfall. And if that corrupt idiot swindler O’Malley causes me to lose that income, I’m outta here.
Gonesville. Arrivaderci. Hasta la vista.
Now ask yourself: how many people in your life do you know who have threatened to move to Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, or even Florida because the situation in Maryland is almost unbearable? We know a bunch of millionaires moved somewhere when they were placed in the tax man’s crosshairs, and given the War on Rural Maryland being waged by Annapolis the entire poultry industry may be next to leave, slowly bleeding the Eastern Shore economy dry. On the other side of the state, O’Malley and his environmental henchmen are thwarting the promise of new employment brought by the energy industry. The two westernmost counties in Maryland are atop the Marcellus Shale formation and also among the three jurisdictions which grew most slowly in the last decade, with Baltimore City’s overall population loss taking that dubious prize.
We live in a society where roots are becoming a thing of the past. While the mobile nature of our culture has a hand in this phenomenon, it seems almost like we are retreating to mankind’s hunting and gathering roots in order to find a place to thrive. With its poor business climate, Maryland – or at least the part outside easy commuting distance to the seats of government – is becoming an economic desert.
We only have ourselves to blame, and nearly three long years until we can change the situation for the better. Mark the dates of June 24 and November 4, 2014 well because that’s when we can act to move Maryland back to its rightful place as the Free State. Until then we can either hang on and hope for the best or watch the state disappear in the rear-view mirror, like thousands of productive citizens may just decide to do if Martin O’Malley gets his way.
I think I’ll hang on and fight for a little longer.