Election year promises

These from a guy who’s not even on the 2014 ballot, criticized by someone who’s not made the leap onto the ballot yet. Respectively, I’m referring to Martin O’Malley and his favorite burr under the saddle, Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan. The story goes like this:

Late last week the blog Politics Maryland reported that State Budget secretary Eloise Foster of the Department of Budget and Management indicated Governor O’Malley directed government agencies to prepare “cost containment plans” to cut spending instead of raising taxes. Change Maryland, the state’s leading voice of opposition to a one-party political monopoly in Annapolis, scoffed at the claim that O’Malley would not seek higher taxes or fees in the face of Maryland’s looming $510 million structural deficit.

“Every election year, Governor O’Malley promises not to raise taxes, but he has broken this promise every year he has been governor. Under this administration, Marylanders have been slammed with 40 consecutive tax, toll and fee hikes. Now, as he attempts to cement his legacy and further his presidential aspirations, he is back to singing the ‘no new tax’ tune once again,” said Larry Hogan, founder and Chairman of Change Maryland.

During his re-election campaign, O’Malley ran commercials railing against fee and tax increases; after he claimed he was looking for a “diet of cuts” until the state’s economy and revenue were stronger. Yet in his second term, he pushed for some of the most regressive taxes and fees we’ve seen in this administration: increases in the state’s gas tax and tolls, a rain tax, and more that disproportionately affect the families that can least afford them.

“In 2012, O’Malley infamously tweeted ‘You have to have the guts to make the cuts.’ But after seven years, where are the cuts, governor?” asked Hogan. “The facts show that Martin O’Malley has actually increased state spending by over $8 billion — with zero cuts. By the standards of his own rhetoric, Governor O’Malley is gutless,” Hogan said.

“The massive tax increases in 2007 were supposed to solve the structural deficit. Then it was the 2012 tax hikes. Here we are again with a shortfall, even after forty consecutive tax increases under this administration,” charged Hogan. “Even these outrageous tax increases have not kept up with spending addiction of the O’Malley-Brown administration. This is further proof that this administration simply lacks the courage to say, ‘no’ to spending.”

The proof to Hogan’s assertions is in the pudding: our budget is indeed up $8 billion from what it was in FY2007, as I’ll show below.

A solution Hogan didn’t point out was instead posited by one of his prospective opponents, Charles Lollar. He’s been advocating a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, or TABOR law, similar to one Colorado adopted some years back.

Let’s take a look at where we’d be had Bob Ehrlich passed one in 2006. TABOR establishes that the budget cannot grow more than the rate of inflation plus the rate of population growth in a particular year.

Had a TABOR been in place, the budget from 2007 to 2013 would have only grown by the rate of inflation, which the CPI inflation calculator I used pegged at 12.93% over the period, plus Maryland’s population growth. I extrapolated the Census figures and used a population estimate I made of 5,650,000 as a “close enough” starting point and came up with this:

  • Inflation: 12.93%, based on the CPI inflation calculator
  • Population growth:  4.42% (based on extrapolating Census data to assume a population of roughly 5,900,000 today vs. around 5,650,000 in 2007)
  • The FY2007 Maryland budget came in at $29.629 billion, including reversions.
  • The FY2014 Maryland budget is $37.307 billion, including fund raids.

With the TABOR rule and using the last Ehrlich budget as a starting point, anything over $34.77 billion ($29.629 billion + 17.35%) is excessive spending. So Martin O’Malley overspent by $2.537 billion this year, not to mention smaller sums over his first six budgets. So much for having “guts for cuts.”

Put another way, the corporate tax that some candidates are tinkering around the edges with could easily be eliminated now if the TABOR was in effect. Meanwhile, those gasoline taxes could be spent strictly on roads. Or, we could have taken a sizable step toward eliminating our $9.8 billion dependence on Uncle Sam – another point brought up by Lollar.

Unfortunately for those looking to vote with their feet, O’Malley/Brown will be the beneficiary of a giant present dumped in their lap – a bare plurality of the voters of Virginia were foolish enough to elect Terry McAuliffe as governor over the vastly superior Ken Cuccinelli. Now Marylanders who were ready to bail to Virginia will have to wait four years for sanity to be re-established there. And do you think McAuliffe will govern like he got 60% of the vote, calling his 47% a mandate? You betcha.

Fortunately, the Virginia House of Delegates looks to be very safely in Republican hands (it should end up somewhere around 66-34 R) so hopefully McAuliffe can’t do too much damage IF Republicans stay strong.

One thing the Virginia race proves: you have to define yourself before your opponent does it for you. Anthony Brown is basically the blankest of slates, so let’s get to work.

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