After the 2010 election, where Norm Conway barely carried the Worcester County portion of his former district by 311 votes over Mike McDermott - and just 665 over third place finisher Marty Pusey – I’m sure statewide Democrats didn’t want to take a chance on an upset in 2014 given Worcester County’s trend toward the Republican Party. So they drew him into a single-member district which mostly held onto the far western end of his existing territory here in Wicomico County but also gave him some new voters close by Salisbury University, knowing that this part of his old district was perhaps the area which backed Norm the strongest.
It took awhile for a local Republican to answer the challenge, but Delmar mayor Carl Anderton, Jr. wrapped up the process of filing yesterday and is now on the June 24 primary ballot. Anderton, who is also the current president of the Maryland Municipal League, seems to be the young, energetic challenger Republicans were looking for once the district was drawn. Conway, who will be 72 in January as the General Assembly session begins, has spent over half his life as an elected official – he was first voted onto Salisbury City Council in 1974, moving to the General Assembly in 1986. (Interestingly enough, according to his official state bio, Conway was also a Maryland Municipal League officer, but only as a regional vice-president.)
Anderton has served as Delmar’s mayor since 2011, replacing longtime mayoral fixture Doug Niblett.
The candidacy of Anderton serves as a reminder why it’s so important to have a political “farm team” in place. While it may seem like a mismatch in terms of political experience, one has to really ask what having an entrenched, longtime politician has really done for a county which has seen its workforce shrink by nearly 2,000 in one year (July 2012 – July 2013) and a net loss of 1,573 jobs during that same period.* The only reason unemployment fell from 8.5% to 8.3% was the bottom falling out of the workforce – otherwise unemployment would be well over 10 percent. If that’s the mark of a successful chair of the House Appropriations Committee I’m afraid to know what failure would be like.
It will be interesting to see the platform Anderton develops, but one thing is clear: the incumbent is going to point to a few key votes where he was allowed to depart from the Annapolis majority in order to save face in his district. Ask yourself: where was his leadership against all these issues in the first place?
* Here are the actual numbers:
July 2012: 54,801 in workforce, 50,161 employed, 4,640 unemployed, 8.5% unemployment rate
July 2013: 52,964 in workforce, 48,588 employed, 4.376 unemployed, 8.3% unemployment rate
Frankly, I’m disappointed with how this came out. One of the more important issues of our time and only one candidate is really discussing it with any sort of depth. For example, David Craig released this statement on September 30:
The Affordable Care Act has become a flash point in Congressional negotiations to continue government operations and for good reason. The unpleasant surprise with this law is that it’s not really affordable at all. Maryland’s least expensive Obamacare plan will be 83% higher than the lowest-cost plan sold in the state this year.
People are struggling with the worst economic recovery in our lifetimes, have faced down record tax, fee and toll increases, and now they are forced to pay 83% higher insurance costs. This is a massive health care tax politicians are attempting to brand as something else, and they are forcing people to buy it.
This came after he said on August 5:
These are only the initial, visible cracks in the foundation of the health care law, which like other federal public policy experiments, Maryland rushes into without conducting due diligence. I’m concerned about the cracks we don’t see yet.
Yes, you should be concerned. You’ve identified the problem, so what will you do about it? That’s what I want to know. I can’t give any points if I don’t see solutions.
On the other hand, Ron George discusses this at least briefly on his campaign site (as part of economic development) and elaborates as he answered my direct question.
Remove Obama Care and replace with a free market model that focuses on lowering costs with the ability to purchase healthcare plans across state lines. (campaign site)
I have always fought mandates from federal to state to local and will join other Republican governors in doing so. These mandates are violations if our 10th Amendment. I have proposed opening the borders to create greater competition of insurers. A free market health care system works. But we need to have tort reform or we will lose our physicians. I founded and chair the bi-partisan Doctors Caucus with 430 physicians on our advisory. I saw this coming. I will not move ahead with any form if government run health care. Period. (direct query, November 16, 2013)
I’m a little leery of any sentence which exists as the one word “period,” given recent promises by some President, but I will take Ron at his word for the sake of argument. He picks up a significant part of the free-market solution so I’m giving him five of the seven points available.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get any answer I was expecting from Charles Lollar so I can’t award him anything.
Obviously there’s room for improvement for two of the candidates here, but the final four parts promise a lot more discussion. Next up is the role of government, which is somewhat of a broad subject but I think I’ll be able to focus it.
As a follow up and way to revise and extend remarks on Friday’s post about the Alliance for American Manufacturing, I decided to dig a little bit more into who they are and what they are proposing. The idea of “Made in America” is a sound one, for a number of reasons, but as I pointed out the AAM seems to have many of its eggs in the protectionist basket. To some extent, they have a case: even their attempt to furnish their Washington, D.C. office with exclusively American-made goods fell a little short:
Our tour began in one of the small offices, where (AAM executive director Scott) Paul showed off a desk from Washington state. But things took a turn downhill from there, when we got to the products on the desk.
“You can’t find phones, video display terminals,” says Paul. “I mean, none of that is American-made.” Paul couldn’t find American-made computers, either, though that may change following Apple’s announcement that it plans to make some Macs in the United States.
But then I found an entire AAM-backed legislative agenda, for which they linked to this subpage on the website of Delaware’s junior Senator Chris Coons. In it, we find a number of top-down legislative proposals in the areas of skills training, exports, access to capital, and “conditions necessary for growth.” At the time of its last update, about half of these proposals hadn’t been introduced as bills, with the last introduced bill being S.1400 in July of this year – either the website is not often updated or these proposals have languished on the back burner of a do-nothing, obstructionist Senate. This to me is quite telling as most of the sponsors are Democrats, who have the majority in the body.
It should be pointed out, too, that the Alliance for American Manufacturing is the brainchild of the United Steelworkers union and a “select group of America’s leading manufacturers.” The list of this select group isn’t widely disseminated, but the AAM describes that:
Leo Gerard, the International President of the United Steelworkers, and CEOs of Steelworker-represented manufacturers understood that. These leaders launched AAM in 2007 to build on the success of the “Stand Up For Steel” coalition.
The roots of that coalition date back to the 1990s, so this fight is an old one under a relatively new name since the AAM was founded in 2007. Essentially it’s a union partnership with the closed shops under its wing; a business-labor pact in name only.
Now that you understand its roots, it becomes more clear why they prescribe their menu of solutions. The steel industry is long known as a bastion of protectionism, given the charges of foreign steel dumping a decade or so back.
So are there any other solutions out there? The competing group to AAM is the National Association of Manufacturers, a group whose board is representative of over 200 industrial leaders. Their vision is somewhat different than that of the union-backed organization, although there are elements of protectionism and top-down dictates in their plan as well. Most worrisome to me is their advocacy for immigration reform, which is needed but must be done in such a manner that law-breaking is not rewarded at the expense of those who went about it in the correct manner.
Yet NAM makes one sound point:
Because of our tax, tort, energy and regulatory policies, it is 20 percent more expensive to do business in the United States than it is in the countries that are our nine largest trading partners — and that excludes the cost of labor.
And it’s not like the problem is new, particularly here in Maryland. I mentioned Friday that Ron George is perhaps the gubernatorial candidate most attuned to the problem (David Craig has his own plan as well), although all but one of the players involved at the time had their say at an October manufacturing summit. Moreover, outgoing Governor Martin O’Malley was even forced to pay lip service to the issue.
But we have had this discussion for several years, and the prescriptions which were suggested a half-decade ago languished on the bookshelf while Maryland developed a growing reputation as a state hostile to business. It’s sort of strange that what I wrote on Friday – as a person who had never seen this report – nailed their first point about “a competitive and stable business environment.” They also talked about the need for a “balanced approach” to energy rather than the heavy emphasis on renewables, which is another pet peeve of mine. (Little did they know at the time the report was compiled – just five short years ago – that America and a portion of Maryland were sitting on an energy gold mine.)
In short, the solutions to the problem seem to be there and many fall into the conservative, pro-liberty camp. If we tell the radical environmentalists and regulators to go pound sand because we have work to do, chances are more of us would indeed have more work to do and more prosperity to spread around.
While Black Friday has spilled over into Thanksgiving Day for some retailers, the bulk of merchants still open extremely early on the Friday after Thanksgiving, promising loss leaders which normally fall into the realm of electronics. Sadly, practically all of these items are made overseas which means Americans aren’t making them or generally raking in the profits from their sale. More than anything, this change in operations over the last half-century has been blamed for the decline of the middle class.
Last year Scott Paul, who heads the Alliance for American Manufacturing, penned an op-ed for the Huffington Post where he noted:
The day after Thanksgiving, “Black Friday,” is also an American tradition, albeit a more recent one. Shoppers sometimes maim and maul each other to find bargains at big box stores and shopping malls. It’s ugly. And in a way, it represents the very worst of America.
Black Friday is also the most visible symptom of what’s really dragging down our middle class: we consume too much from overseas, and we don’t produce enough here to make up the difference. That burdens us with debt, and leaves us fewer options for jobs.
There is a solution, and it may sound quaint, but it’s never been truer than it is today: this Black Friday: Buy American.
They’ve also put out a list of American-made gift ideas from each state, a unique collection which features everything from lip balm to motor homes. (Representing Delaware is local brewery Dogfish Head – not a bad choice for someone like me although I prefer 16 Mile. Dogfish Head was selected based on nationwide distribution.)
Obviously I’m of the opinion Americans need to make more things; the same can be said of Maryland gubernatorial candidate Ron George, who has spent the most time of his cohorts touting the idea of bringing manufacturing to Maryland. Recently he pointed out the state is dead last in the country in certain key metrics.
The way I see it, there are certain things state and local government can do to accomplish this: among them are a stable and predictable regulatory regime, a corporate tax rate that’s fair and doesn’t punish achievement or investment, and the transportation infrastructure required to whisk goods to market in the most rapid fashion possible. Hopefully all these work to a point where counterproductive incentives like tax abatement or abuse of eminent domain aren’t necessary.
Unfortunately, it seems the AAM has a different idea on how to achieve the goal. Most of their federal advocacy is barely-veiled protectionism, which in the long run discourages innovation and results in fewer opportunities for the consumer. Of course I think trading partners should deal with us in a fair way, but one also has to figure out that there has to be some reason an American company can manufacture goods overseas, load them on a ship and wait a week or two for them to arrive – paying for that service – and still make more money on the products than they would in an American factory with American workers. It can’t all be labor costs.
It would be nice to be able to go to a Walmart or Best Buy and find American-made electronics rather than support a regime with missiles pointed at us. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to want to change the system to make this happen and protectionism isn’t the answer.
It’s funny because automakers from around the world set up shop in America to build their cars, so it’s obvious some industries prefer our workers. Granted, putting together a television exhibits nothing close to the complexity of building an automobile, but if the complex assembly of a car or truck can be made here profitably we should be able to make anything cheaper and better. Now that we know we have enough inexpensive energy reserves to last us for generations, let’s make our future Black Fridays more prosperous by encouraging the return of manufacturing.
I suspended this process for several days in the incorrect belief that Larry Hogan would jump into the race and give me some direction on where he stands with the various issues I’ve already covered. But since he’s passing until January I will continue to vet the others without him.
The definition of “War on Rural Maryland” is rather broad to me, but generally focuses on land use, environmental, and agricultural issues. In many ways, the three are intertwined but over the last seven years the prosperity and freedom rural denizens of the state enjoy has been significantly eroded by decisions from on high in Annapolis. This is an effort to grade the candidates on how they would react and reverse some of these ill-considered ideas.
David Craig: As Governor, I will return land use decisions to local government where they belong and will replace a punishment and control regime with a conservation agenda. I will work with the Governors of New York and Pennsylvania to clean up the Susquehanna and reduce that major source of Bay pollution. I will end the practice of Maryland bearing the brunt of responsibility for cleaning up the Bay and being responsible for a 64,000 square mile watershed that includes surrounding states.
I will work with local governments to promote sound planning but leave the control of land use where it belongs, closest to the people. (campaign site)
When asked “where will you stick PlanMaryland?” Craig answered back with, “where do you want me to stick it?” (WCRC meeting, July 22, 2013)
What I’ve found is the best way is to actually listen to the farmers have to say and have them come up with solutions for what they think needs to be done, and then convince the other farmer this is the best way to go – it’s not government talking to you. (They’d say) I did this on my farm, it saved me money, it did this and saved me all these rules and regulations.
But we get all these people that are in environmental services, they have this job, they’re lawyers, they’re environmental – but they know nothing. I had a situation talking with the Maryland Department of the Environment, I said give me an example of this rain tax, I have two – or septic tax. I have two farms, tell me which one’s the worst. How will I be able to determine which one – one guy’s doing the good job, one’s a bad job? And the guy looked at me and said we can’t figure that out. (monoblogue interview)
Perhaps the biggest environmental enigma about David Craig is Harford County’s on-again, off-again flirtation with ICLEI, or the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives. (It’s better known as ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability.) In 2010, to much fanfare, Harford County became one of Maryland’s ICLEI members, saying it had “taken another step towards achieving the goal of environmental stewardship” by joining the group.
But less than three years later, the county more quietly withdrew from the group, with the local Harford Campaign for Liberty taking credit along with an assist from the county’s Republican Party and a resolution it passed early this year. Perhaps they read the group’s charter?
Somehow, though, that notice of withdrawal has escaped the county’s Sustainability Office, which is instead in the midst of promoting another cherished leftist scheme, Car-Free Days, next weekend. (monoblogue, September 15, 2013)
He called for a repeal of the state (“rain tax”) law, then went on to suggest that Maryland should back off from a range of measures adopted in recent decades to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. His proposals include elimination of the 1984 Critical Areas Act, a measure regarded by environmentalists as the crown jewel of the state’s Bay protection laws.
“Why don’t you get rid of all the previous bills?” Craig said. “Let’s get rid of of the Critical Areas Act.”
In addition to the critical area law, which restricts development on parcels within 1,000 yards of the bay and its tributaries, Craig said he would like to get rid of a 2007 law requiring developments to avoid any increase in stormwater runoff and abolish a 1998 law requiring farmers to limit the runoff of fertilizer and animal waste. (Baltimore Sun, September 17, 2013)
“While I share the desire for a clean and healthy bay, as most of us probably do, I question the priorities of those in Annapolis who feel that no price is too steep to pay for only a marginal improvement in bay quality,” Craig said. “Our businesses and taxpayers expect us, as county government, to act as their last line of defense against over-the-top polices from the state and federal governments whenever possible, and that is what I intend to do.” (Washington Post, September 18, 2013)
Ron George: Ease Farm regulations that over reach while making large areas unprofitable.
Restore, Conserve and Preserve Our Natural Resources without punishing the very people who live, work and recreate here because they love our beautiful state including businesses, homeowners, boaters, farmers, watermen or taxpayers…or anyone who gets rained on.
Dredge the “silt pond” above the Conowingo Dam, which causes far more harm to the bay’s ecosystem each time it overflows or the dam is opened.
Encourage planting of Maryland’s tall deciduous tree species including Oaks and Maples.
Allow for the hunting of overpopulated species.
Giving the dollars for bay oyster restoration directly to River Keepers and their volunteers. (campaign site)
In a past campaign, Ron George billed himself as the “Green Elephant.” Here’s a list of some of the environmental restrictions he’s voted for in the past eight years – many of which he cheerfully admitted voting for in his 2010 campaign. The number in parentheses afterward is the number of opposition votes in the House of Delegates.
All of these votes were graded in previous editions of the monoblogue Accountability Project.
Maryland Clean Cars Act of 2007 (17 votes)
Clean Indoor Act of 2007 (39 votes)
Chesapeake Bay 2010 Trust Fund (30 votes)
Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – Maryland Strategic Energy Investment Program (25 votes)
EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act of 2008 (33 votes)
Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Critical Area Protection Program – Administrative and Enforcement Provisions (15 votes)
Smart, Green, and Growing – Local Government Planning – Planning Visions (7 votes)
Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Act of 2009 (30 votes)
Smart, Green, and Growing – Smart and Sustainable Growth Act of 2009 (12 votes)
Natural Resources – No Net Loss of Forest Policy – Forest Conservation Act (23 votes)
Agriculture – Lawn Fertilizer – Low Phosphorus Fertilizer (19 votes)
Smart, Green, and Growing – The Sustainable Communities Act of 2010 (27 votes)
Stormwater Management – Development Projects – Requirements (13 votes)
Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard – Solar Energy (31 votes)
Smart. Green, and Growing – Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission (20 votes)
Chesapeake Conservation Corps Program (27 votes)
Natural Resources – Forest Preservation Act of 2013 (27 votes)
I will note, however, that the majority of these votes came during Ron’s first term in office (2007-10) and he has moved somewhat away from the “Green Elephant” designation – one key example was voting against the Septic Bill in 2012. But how do we determine Ron’s line in the sand? (monoblogue, September 15, 2013)
Charles Lollar: I am committed to saving the Bay – and to doing it in a right and in a balanced way.
First, I will support full annual funding – $50 million – of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, created in 2007. Those trust funds must not be diverted to general and other purposes, as the O’Malley/Brown Administration proposed in FY 2010. Other budget needs and challenges will be addressed directly – and not bailed out by grabbing Trust Fund monies.
Second, we must find deal smartly with the sources of pollutions, including those coming from other states in water that flows into the headwaters of the Bay. Our approach to the public and private point and non-point sources of the pollutants that threaten the Bay must be prudent, balanced – not extreme. Our approach must avoid economic dislocations and injuries that can result from overzealous regulation.
As Maryland’s Governor, I will fully engage directly with the Governors of the other Chesapeake Bay states and federal officials at the Environment Protection Agency to determine the best approaches to be taken to continually improve the quality of the bay and protect its eco-systems. (campaign website)
“This cronyism, and this opportunity to shut down the agricultural industry in this state, is going to come to a stop.” (YouTube video at Hudson Farm, September 8, 2013)
Since the Democrats are the ones perpetrating the War on Rural Maryland it’s doubtful they will back off. In fact, Doug Gansler’s entire environmental platform seems to be one of making chicken farmers convert waste to energy, while the other two major candidates basically ignore rural needs.
I think that, in order to give David Craig a fair evaluation, I have to know which one I’m talking to. Telling them to stick PlanMaryland, repealing the rain tax, and wiping out the Critical Areas Act would be a great start to restoring balance, although I guarantee the media coverage sensationalized what he said in the latter case just to make him look like he’s for dirty water. (I don’t fall for the hype, figuring local areas could have regulations which are just as strident, which is the beauty of local control. Or they could work toward something more reasonable.)
But then again, three years ago he was signing up for ICLEI and the county he runs still has a Sustainability Office. So I’m left to wonder just how serious he is about ridding us of overbearing government and over-the-top radical environmentalism. I think I’ll give him 8 points of 12 for now.
To a great extent, the same applies to Ron George. It’s worth pondering how he was pushed from being a “green elephant” to the point where he at least talks about easing farm regulations (but doesn’t provide a lot of specifics) and votes against an onerous septic bill. It seems to me that Ron is trying to skate a middle ground between what he thinks people want to hear and actions which would potentially help farmers and rural counties but can be portrayed negatively by the major media outlets (as Craig was.) So I can only give him 6 of 12 points, right in the middle.
In listening to Charles Lollar speak at the Hudson farm, I was struck by his passion. But when I read his brief statement on environmental matters – one which accepts the premise that the state has to spend $50 million (or more) a year in a vain attempt to coddle an environmental group which will never be satisfied, I wonder what his real plan is. Certainly it needs more study, but I can’t see at this point where he would make a bold statement on repealing legislation or rolling back regulations. If he can accept the status quo on the trust fund, what else will he leave in place? So I can give him just 5 of 12 points.
I haven’t decided if I will double back to Obamacare before tackling the higher priorities or not. Only one candidate has answered me directly on the subject, while another is promising me more information. With this being a holiday week I will likely make the decision for Friday, since I already have a book review planned for Saturday.
It was our last formal meeting of the year, but it also featured a return to scheduled speakers after last month’s work session. District 37B candidates Christopher Adams and Johnny Mautz, Jr. did the honors. (Incumbent Delegate Addie Eckardt, who is seeking re-election, was also invited but could not attend.)
As always, we began with the Lord’s Prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, and introduction of an expanding roster of distinguished guests. There were probably 40 people in attendance, which has been becoming the norm as the 2014 election draws closer and closer.
One new wrinkle is that I no longer need to read the meeting minutes, which are now posted online at the WCRC website. (I updated the page last night with the 2013 minutes.) We still heard the Treasurer’s Report, though, which had the distinction of no comparison to last year’s totals. (You may recall our November, 2012 meeting was wiped out due to the aftermath of flooding from Hurricane Sandy. The Chamber of Commerce building sustained serious damage from the “superstorm.”)
Neither Adams nor Mautz spoke at any great length, and mainly stuck to the generalities of introducing themselves and explaining why they were running rather than issue advocacy.
For example, Christopher Adams was right up front about it: “I’m a business person, first and foremost.” He added that he was “not necessarily comfortable” in politics, but ran because he was “frustrated with what I see in Annapolis.”
Adams recounted his experience at the state party convention over the weekend, saying it was “very exciting” to be part of the Maryland Republican Party. For him, the highlight was Senator David Brinkley’s remarks where Brinkley relayed the story of Senate President Mike Miller paying a rare visit to the GOP caucus in an effort to provide opposition to his own party’s excesses.
Speaking as a businessman, Christopher noted the state “is starting to tighten down” on businesses like his. Christopher became involved as the leader of his industry organization, as his company (Value Carpet One) was cited by the state for employment law violations which could have severely (and unfairly) impacted his company. His was a “test case” on the law, which has since been changed.
His goal was to be a true “citizen legislator” and eventually return to the business. I asked Christopher if he would term-limit himself and he indeed gave himself a two-term limit, based on the ages of his children who would be completing college by then and may wish to follow in his footsteps with the business.
On the other hand, Johnny Mautz was a little apologetic, saying he hasn’t been in Wicomico County enough. But the Talbot County native – whose “entire life has been invested in the Eastern Shore” – also made the case that his business (Carpenter Street Saloon) is “facing a lot of challenges.” Johnny described himself as a legislative lawyer in Washington by day, and a business manager at night and on the weekends.
Johnny described Maryland as “the leading edge of the progressive movement,” using the proposed phosphorus regulations as an example of our “out of touch” government.
But he also made a very salient point: many of the issues we are discussing now may be resolved by the time he would take office in 2015.
Mautz drew an interesting question from an audience member, who asked if the party was afraid to scuffle and “get its nose bloodied.” But both candidates – as well as District 38C hopeful Mary Beth Carozza, who was in attendance as well – made the case that you “have to be tactical.”
“Annapolis is a dangerous place for a Republican,” Mautz concluded.
After Jackie Wellfonder noted the passing of a longtime member, Dave Parker injected a lot of humor into his Central Committee report. But he turned serious when he called the Iran deal our “Neville Chamberlain moment.”
He also let the group know about some of the outcomes of the state convention, particularly the demise of the open primary which was not going to get a favorable vote from the Executive Committee.
Turning to local events, he reminded us that the next Central Committee meeting will be December 2. He also bemoaned the local employment picture, stating that the number employed in the county has been declining for several months on end. And as always, Dave encouraged people to run, saying the Central Committee needed some “new blood” as some members would be seeking other offices. “It takes a lot of courage” to run for office, said Dave.
John Palmer asked Dave to relate the story of Annapolis mayor-elect Mike Pantelides, who was the beneficiary of a Super Saturday which found a lot of new voters. Mary Beth Carozza chimed in at that topic, pointing out that education was needed about the process – she was getting quite a few registration changes by reminding would-be voters they have to be Republicans to vote for her in the primary election (and having the requisite cards handy.)
We got a number of quick updates from other candidates as well, with Marc Kilmer, Muir Boda, and Carozza making the rounds of constituent meetings and planning fundraisers.
But Delegate Charles Otto is a candidate as well, seeking re-election. (Even though no one in the room will be able to vote for him in 2014 because Wicomico County has been excised from his new district.) Otto gave some of his thoughts about matters being discussed, predicting the phosphorus regulations “would be devastating to us.” And even though there was no real scientific basis for the changes, the state was “just going to do it” so Martin O’Malley could have an environmental feather in his cap. But Otto warned that the “voters of Iowa listen to corn growers” and the incoming president of a national corn growers’ group hails from southern Maryland.
Otto also said that Obamacare “was what we said it was going to be” and told us the state was again facing a structural deficit of about $500-600 million.
Jackie Wellfonder mentioned one other event, a local fundraiser for gubernatorial candidate David Craig on December 1.
We also got an update on what promises to be a great WCRC Christmas Party on December 15. The WCRC will also be represented at the Jaycees Christmas Parade on December 8th, so organizers were looking for volunteers and a vehicle.
One final significant topic of discussion was brought up the owner of a local sign company, who posited that “we took down more signs in this county than we put up.” Simply put, he didn’t feel the county was friendly enough to business and pointed to the recent pullout of a proposed Cracker Barrel restaurant (as well as a TGI Friday’s) as evidence. Another member added that the county was also “very unfriendly” to transportation.
Obviously this was a pretty good time to bring up the topic with three candidates for and one sitting Delegate in attendance as well as a member of County Council and two others openly seeking to join him.
But I thought the subject was one which needed to be publicized, since he owns a business which depends heavily on other businesses to survive. His story needs to be backed up with facts and told in a larger venue than our small meeting.
Said small meeting, however, was the last such one of 2013. The WCRC will next convene (after the Christmas Parade and Christmas Party, of course) on January 27, 2014 – less than a month before the filing deadline.
Those who hold power in Annapolis continue to talk about bringing back manufacturing jobs, but the path toward making Maryland a major player again in that field begins with making a number of changes. So says gubernatorial candidate Ron George, who put out a stark criticism of the O’Malley record:
The O’Malley/Brown administration has abandoned the working man at the time when manufacturing companies are relocating back to the US and looking for a hard working, well-educated workforce. Our progressive tax system, from the sky high property tax rates in Baltimore City to the equipment tax that is four times the national average, has positioned Maryland as the worst state in the country for manufacturing.
Manufacturing accounts for a significant percentage of new jobs for workers with less education and experience in the workforce. I am working to reform education in our urban centers to direct and expose our young people towards careers requiring a trade or specialized certification.
George cites a Tax Foundation study which shows Maryland lagging behind its neighbors; indeed in several aspects of the study our state was dead last. (Oddly enough, though, Pennsylvania fared worse overall than Maryland – its recent good job fortune comes with its farsighted decision to exploit its underground resources.)
I found this interesting on the heels of a recent op-ed by Scott Paul, the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, which chastised the Obama administration for a slow growth in manufacturing jobs nationwide. Paul concludes that:
Too few of our policymakers have considered the consequences that came with losing a third of our manufacturing jobs in the last decade. This economic recovery has not worked for the middle class; but a real one will occur when we begin to revalue manufacturing’s place at the heart of it.
Ironically, this op-ed came out on the same day leading Democratic contender Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown skipped a Maryland manufacturing conference.
So why can’t Maryland be a leader in making things? It would certainly be good for diversifying our state’s economy, which seems far too dependent on the federal government. Rather than pushing the pencils inside the Beltway, we should be making them in Hagerstown, Elkton, or any of a number of small towns which could use the employment. Of all the GOP candidates, Ron has probably devoted the most thought to the process. I also applaud the implied endorsement of vocational programs which are sorely needed in this day and age, giving people the skills necessary to not only become useful workers but also potential entrepreneurs and teachers of skilled trades.
Yet there is one thing missing in George’s idea; admittedly, no one else has really considered it either. There are several modes of transportation available for goods produced in Maryland; for domestic consumption we have reasonably good (if somewhat traffic-choked) north-south highways in I-95 and I-81 with an alternate coastal route of U.S. 13 through Delaware and the Eastern Shore. Unfortunately, transportation to the west is somewhat more problematic, with the meandering I-70 being the best bet. There is also rail transportation available, along with a oceangoing seaport in Baltimore to export goods and more limited facilities in Salisbury for barges. (Obviously there are airports as well, but generally manufactured goods use other means of transport.)
Maryland needs to position itself as a state which has a relatively good location between the metropolis of the Boston-Washington axis and the growing region of the Sun Belt, a workforce which is better educated than most, and – most importantly – a mindset I’m going to borrow from a former Republican governor of my home state, James Rhodes: “Profit is not a dirty word.” Let businesses come and make some, rather than confiscate the fruits of their toil as Maryland seems most willing to do.
Let’s face it: with the government we have in place, both in Maryland and nationally, the middle class is being phased out. There are a few on the top with all the cronyism and connections, a small (but growing) cadre of government minions who get their wealth from writing the rules which allow the upper crust to stay where they are at, and a huge number who have become the serfs of this modern-day feudalism. When America made things, it had a middle class and everyone benefited. It’s time to bring it back through leadership with an eye toward that goal.
Today I work into the fourth part of my series, on energy policy.
It’s clear to me that if the state wants to become more successful at improving the standard of living of its citizens, we have to find ways to make energy more accessible and less expensive for the average consumer. That’s the starting point for my critique on energy policy.
There are many points the Republican candidates seem to agree on, which is to be expected.
David Craig: Craig said it is also time to stop studying fracking and enable natural gas extraction to take place in Western Maryland in an environmentally-responsible manner. (press release, October 4, 2013)
Harford County Executive David R. Craig, who also is seeking the Republican nomination, said estimates show fracking in Garrett and Allegany counties will bring as many as 14,000 jobs.
If the state continues to study the issue, the people of Western Maryland will suffer as business go to frack in neighboring Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, he said. (Gazette, September 19, 2013)
Ron George: Make Energy More Affordable, Available, and Less Dependent on unstable governments half way around the world. This includes developing natural gas resources and using clean coal for our own needs. (campaign site)
“I have to let you know that I’ve really struggled with the issue and studied the issue, I’ve listened to the fears and looked at the science,” he said. “And I’ve come down on the side of natural gas drilling for ourselves, for Maryland’s use.”
Fracking now will help the state with its energy costs and diversify its alternative energy production, said George, a GOP candidate for governor.
“We have to have other alternatives that are clean,” he said. (Gazette, September 19, 2013)
“Before we go building 40 of these [wind turbines] offshore, let’s do this step by step,” said Del. Ron George, R-Anne Arundel. He offered an amendment to build one wind turbine to study the viability of offshore wind in Maryland. He said the Virginia legislature approved a similar plan on Wednesday.
“It will test the economics of large scale offshore wind projects, it will test the mechanics of construction and issues related to offshore wind projects, and it will study the ability of offshore wind projects to withstand weather conditions” 11 miles off the coast of Ocean City.
“It is really doing the next step, so we don’t go wasting money, and we make sure we do it right,” George said. (Maryland Reporter, March 29, 2012)
Charles Lollar: I support development of Maryland’s Marchellus shale natural gas reserves. (campaign website, “Natural Resources”)
Demand that public utilities be held accountable to their customers. (campaign website, “Accountability”)
In order to reduce (energy prices) Lollar wants to remove subsidies and allow all forms of energy to compete on their merits. This includes allowing fracking in Maryland’s Marcellus shale so that natural gas can lower the state’s energy costs. He sees O’Malley’s subsidies for wind energy as a way of picking winners and losers in the market, and opposes to the handouts. (Real Clear Markets, September 3, 2013)
Lollar said the state could quickly come out of its perennial deficit if it allowed fracking in Maryland. Lollar emphasized the practice would have to be well regulated, but not so much so as to stop businesses from existing. (SoMDNews, November 1, 2013)
“We absolutely need to take advantage of that resource, not just as another energy source but to put people to work,” Charles Lollar, Republican candidate for governor, said of natural gas. (Gazette, September 19, 2013)
I think they [Pepco] have an unfair relationship advantage. I’m not prepared to blame the Democratic party but I am prepared to blame the individual people that have made the system what it is. I do believe that when you have an unbalanced system that heavily favors one party over another, this is the kind of response that you get. There’s a lot of strong-arming. There are strong and forceful relationships that are literally causing people to do things that in their right mind, they would not do.
The power held at the highest levels of our state is incredible and it’s crushing good elected officials and appointed commissioners that want to do the right thing. Let’s put the blame where it needs to be. This idea of charging someone a fee before they get appropriate services is wrong no matter what party you’re from. (Bethesda Now, November 7, 2013)
Insofar as energy policy goes, our friends across the aisle greet the issue with reactions ranging from radio silence (Anthony Brown) to a belief that poultry waste can be a “responsible investment” (Doug Gansler) to a pedal-to-the-metal emphasis on so-called “clean energy” and outright hostility to fracking (Heather Mizeur). None of these proposals meet the twin tests of reliability and market worthiness that coal, oil, and natural gas do. In particular, one has to ponder the viability of poultry waste as a fuel after the Waterkeeper Alliance picked on one family for months in an losing effort to make an example of them, a move one local environmental advocate said “definitely sets us back.”
So what I believe had “definitely set us back” is the de facto moratorium on fracking Maryland has had in effect for the last few years, as the state continues to twiddle its thumbs and study the issue at length in “setting an extremely high bar for industry.” Meanwhile, Pennsylvania has seemed to find a reasonable balance between environment and energy; thus natural gas exploration and extraction is creating jobs and revenue for those counties fortunate enough to sit atop the Marcellus Shale formation.
I think David Craig gets this part of the picture, but there’s a lot more to energy policy than just fracking. It would be good to know where he stands on other market-based reforms like repealing the wind energy bill and renewable energy portfolio – as you’ll see in a future segment David has his eye on restoring a balance between economy and environment. So I give him 4.5 of 8 points.
Ron George took a while to come down on the side of fracking, but also seems to foresee more of an “all-of-the-above” approach. Included in that was advocating a single-unit pilot project for offshore wind, despite the fact the bill he attempted unsuccessfully to amend, if passed, had a fiscal note which warned “State expenditures…increase minimally beginning in FY 2013 and significantly beginning in FY 2017 due to higher electricity prices.” Perhaps his view on this has evolved, however, as he did not offer the same amendment in 2013 and voted against O’Malley’s bill. As you’ll see below, he should get credit for weighing evidence.
But it’s difficult to reconcile George’s stance with his previous votes on the subject. Maybe he’s reached a level of satisfaction with the state’s regulations and if so he’s a little more for red tape than my taste would dictate; for that answer I need more guidance. At this point I’ll score him as a solid 4 of 8 points.
Charles Lollar stands with the rest of the Republicans on fracking, which is good. He also makes it sound like O’Malley’s wind folly would be terminated, which is great. But there’s one piece of the puzzle which troubles me greatly.
It’s noted in the Bethesda Now story, where Lollar was quoted as saying “charging someone a fee before they get appropriate services is wrong,” that the forum was intentionally held without a PEPCO representative present. Had Lollar studied the issue more carefully he would have known this rate increase was based on an executive order from Governor O’Malley, who touted the increase as “hardening” the electric grid. The idea is to accelerate the process of preparing the grid for major weather events, which may have been the point brought out by a PEPCO spokesperson had one been invited to the event.
One thing about being an elected official is that you generally hear all sides of the story as part of your duties in office. On the other hand, coming in without that experience means you have to work at the issue. On his front page, Charles claims his goal is to ”bring together people of different political beliefs, talents and backgrounds to develop solutions to difficult problems.” Yet he attended a forum where a party to a dispute is sandbagged, and that’s disappointing.
It’s populism to pick on a utility without hearing their side of the story. So my question is whether “well regulated” for fracking will be determined by the hype or the facts. Based on this concern I can only give Charles 2.5 out of 8 points at this time.
The next portion is something I would anticipate the candidates do quite well in: Second Amendment rights. I’m hoping to follow that up with a discussion of what the candidates would do about Obamacare, and for that answer I had to ask directly.
It’s also worth pointing out that this process would evolve. In his answer to my Obamacare question, Ron George elaborated a little on education so I believe I should add that portion in. It wouldn’t surprise me as the campaign rolls along that these pieces might be revised once or twice along the way; you should expect no less.
The burr underneath Martin O’Malley’s saddle must have stuck when the horses were changed because now Larry Hogan and Change Maryland is becoming an irritant to Anthony Brown. In the wake of Brown dodging and ducking the questions of interviewer Jayne Miller of WBAL-TV, Hogan added the following response under the Change Maryland banner:
The O’Malley-Brown Administration has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for the ACA and Lt. Governor Brown is responsible for implementing Maryland’s version of the law. Last night, Anthony Brown admitted that he knew many Marylanders could not keep their insurance despite promises to the contrary. By remaining silent, he intentionally misled thousands of mothers, fathers, and children who depend on health care insurance for the treatment they need.
As Lieutenant Governor, Anthony Brown has an obligation to serve the best interests of all Marylanders, which means being straightforward about the implementation of this new law. Despite all the promises from the O’Malley-Brown Administration that the state was ready for this roll out, the exchange has been plagued with one problem after another.
Marylanders deserve to know whether or not people are enrolling in the Health Benefit Exchange because ultimately, the success or failure of the program will have a direct impact on their own health insurance. Brown’s failures have given us zero confidence that the state even knows how many people have enrolled.
It’s time for Mr. Brown to come clean with Marylanders, take responsibility for the problems of the state exchange, and personally apologize for misleading the public. Regardless of how anyone feels about the new law, Anthony Brown obviously put partisan politics ahead of the people he was elected to represent. This falls 100% in his lap.
Change Maryland also pointed out a discrepancy in enrollment figures between state and federal reports, numbers which suggest the state may have exaggerated enrollment figures nearly fourfold; federal numbers show Maryland enrolled 1,284 in the first month Obamacare was active while the state claims 4,651. Meanwhile, 73,000 Marylanders were sent cancellation notices, including Sixth District Congressional candidate Dan Bongino, who posted his online. I went to public school, but even I can see that math makes the point that the Affordable Care Act is neither going to be affordable nor caring.
If you look at this through a political lens, however, two things jump out at you.
One is the presumption that Brown will be the Democratic nominee at this early stage, given his commanding poll edge. Granted, Anthony Brown is the one who is touting his healthcare record - particularly the more and more laughable claim that “independent studies show will reduce the number of uninsured in Maryland by 50%” – and running as a continuation of the “success” of the last seven long years. (Brown’s doublespeak extends to other areas of his healthcare record; according to him Maryland expanded Medicaid by “working with stakeholders and placing higher costs on tobacco products.” In English, this was the dollar-a-pack cigarette tax hike, which served as among the most regressive of O’Malley/Brown’s many tax hikes.)
Secondly, it’s a reiteration of a point which those on our side frequently make: have we seen this discrepancy covered in the Baltimore Sun or Washington Post? Looking at the Sun‘s main page today, we find instead the headline touting a 36% hike in enrollments – not a word about the Jayne Miller interview. The Post ignores the story altogether, but joyfully kicks the outgoing McDonnell administration in Virginia with a report on $575,000 in legal bills paid by the taxpayer, in a case where the billing is allowed by law. (Just wait until Terry McAuliffe takes office; he’ll make that $575,000 seem like pocket change.)
On the other hand, this allegation has received scant coverage beyond the original WBAL segment: a reprint of the press release here, a mention of the Jayne Miller interview as part of Maryland Reporter‘s state roundup yesterday, and now my piece. (Needless to say it was also linked on ChangeMaryland’s Facebook page with its 64,000 followers.) Even if this gets picked up by other local bloggers, talk radio, and such, it’s going to be an uphill fight to get the word out on anything like this.
Working twice as hard to accomplish half as much seems to be the norm for us when it comes to media. But I think we’re improving, and can do even better once we convince the campaigns to stay on message.
It was a Friday afternoon document dump on the state level, but today the Maryland Department of Agriculture dropped its phosphorus management tool regulations. A piece in the Daily Times by Jennifer Shutt reminded readers that area farmers had objected to these changes since the discussion began in 2012.
But before doing a victory lap, it should be noted the regulations aren’t going away:
As a result of concerns identified in the public meetings and public comment process, MDA is withdrawing the regulations. The department will consider all comments and critical issues raised by stakeholders, develop an approach that addresses concerns raised to date, and resubmit a new proposal to AELR in 2014 that includes a phased implementation schedule for the new tool.
Local reaction was pleased, but cautious. Delegate Mike McDermott, whose district covers much of the lower Shore, noted:
While this is great news for Marylanders and the lower shore specifically, we must remain vigilant in the coming year…they will not stop. Today, I pre-filed a bill that would require a thorough fiscal review and economic impact study on regulations brought before the AELR Committee by state departments. I will also be offering a bill that would remove the ability of the Executive Branch to implement a regulation if it is not approved by the AELR Committee. The General Assembly must stand up to the overreach by this or any future governor’s administration whey they attempt to bypass the legislative process. Today is akin to a ballgame being called on account of rain…rest assured, their will be a make up and we all need to be prepared!
Added local candidate Christopher Adams, who is seeking to represent another portion of the Lower Shore in Annapolis:
Governing to the brink of disaster is just bad public policy. While this is good short term news for the agricultural community, it is a shame that a reasoned approach was not contemplated from the beginning.
So what is a reasoned approach? Buddy Hance, the state’s Secretary of Agriculture, defended the idea behind the regulations:
The O’Malley-Brown Administration remains committed to adopting the PMT through rule making and developing an approach that further considers comments raised by policymakers and citizens alike. MDA is confident that the PMT science is sound, based on 20 years of evolving federal and state research to better understand soil phosphorus and managing risk of loss to our rivers and streams.
I guess the state was hoping to get this done before the election season heats up, but we on the Shore raised too much of a stink. (Pun intended.) Certainly the O’Malley minions in Annapolis are making the political calculation that the farmers on the Eastern Shore aren’t going to vote for them anyway, but such a proposal would please those who swoon at the thought of pristine wildlife corridors on the Eastern Shore and figure farmers are the sole source of pollution for the Bay because of that icky chicken manure.
Moreover, something tells me that research “evolved” in the direction of the wishes of those paying for the studies. Since both the federal and state governments are tightly clutched in Democratic hands, and that party is the home of those who tip the balance furthest away from coexistence between poultry production and acceptable water quality – forever chasing a goal of placing the Bay in the pristine condition it was in when just a few thousand native tribesmen lived here as opposed to the millions who now inhabit its watershed – it’s no surprise the research has suggested regulations local agricultural advocates reject.
But it’s like almost any other cherished liberal dream – like water eroding a large rock, cracks develop and eventually the obstacle is surmounted. Many of the initiatives our state is saddled with withered and died multiple times before the General Assembly finally relented. So it will be with this package of regulations: they didn’t get them this time, but in 2014 they’ll hope it flies under the radar with the looming election. If not, it might be an O’Malley parting gift at the dawn of 2015, daring a Republican successor to overturn it.
Or worse, it could be the stepping-off point for another Democratic governor to cite even more favorable and extreme “evolving research” and really clamp down on the Eastern Shore’s agricultural industry.
Poultry producers are getting it on all sides now: their feed costs continue to be well above average thanks to the ethanol mandates and their effect on corn prices, the value of their land is significantly and adversely affected by state-mandated tier maps which hinder opportunities for development on road frontage if desired, and now these new proposed regulations layered on top of hundreds of pages of existing state and federal mandates. Add to that competition from abroad, and one has to ponder how much more the major players will take.
If Perdue ever left our little corner of the world, the cherished Radical Green dream of wildlife corridors may follow. There won’t be a lot of point for many local farmers to stay in business.
As you all know I have an interest in the energy field and a disdain for the unproven – so I’m no big fan of technology that’s not reliable 24/7/365. While renewable energy has its uses in limited applications, such as the solar panels on one’s roof or the windmill which augments the rural homestead, all of these sources need a backup for when we endure a week’s worth of cloudy days or still weather. So I have a bias toward the tried-and-true energy sources of coal, oil, and natural gas.
Having said that, it amuses me when I see the potential for infighting among the environmentalist crowd as we could have a battle royale between the animal rights crowd and the renewable energy set – the reason: a study published in the journal BioScience and gleefully critiqued by Steven Hayward at Powerline estimates that 600,000 or more bats are killed each year by wind turbines – a much higher toll than previously thought. And as Michael Todd, writing at Pacific Standard, explains, it’s not for the reason you might think:
Given that wind turbines are basically a collection of whirring blades, you might assume that the bats found dead have been sliced and diced. You might also wonder how an animal that uses radar to find a single mosquito in the dark could fail to sense a monstrous wind turbine. The University of Calgary’s Erin Baerwald explained this to Discovery News in 2008: “When people were first starting to talk about the issue, it was ‘bats running into the turbine blades.’ We always said, ‘No, bats don’t run into things.’ Bats can detect and avoid all kinds of structures,” and are even better at detecting stuff that’s moving. No, they’re exploding. As I learned last year, “Baerwald and her colleagues discovered that bats’ ‘large, pliable lungs’ blow up from change in air pressure created by moving blades. Up the 90 percent of the dead bats they examined showed the internal bleeding consistent with their argument. Birds, by the way, have different kinds of lungs so their deaths are from the more predictable blunt-force trauma.”
Of course, bats are very creepy creatures and tend to be a nuisance if they get into your house. But they have one tremendously useful purpose: keeping the mosquito population at bay. A commentator on Hayward’s post writes about watching bats fly around at dusk and I can vouch for the fact that it is interesting to watch them maneuver around in the fading light of a summer evening, gorging themselves on those pesky bugs.
And the problem seems to be worst in the Appalachian part of the country, which includes the western part of Maryland. While it’s not prime territory for efficient windmills, that area is probably the most desirable in the state for the purpose.
Yet there is another energy source where the two westernmost Maryland counties are prime territory, and that’s the Marcellus Shale formation where natural gas is plentiful deep underground – and by deep I mean hundreds and hundreds of feet below the aquifers. I point this out because portions of New York state endure some of the same effects as their Marcellus cousins in Maryland; both are primarily rural areas which can use an economic shot in the arm. As is pointed out in a Wall Street Journal editorial from last week by Fred Siegel, those areas of southern New York along the Pennsylvania border suffer from the same faraway NIMBYism that the western panhandle of Maryland has to deal with – those who live nowhere near the area think they know best.
But unlike Maryland’s Martin O’Malley, whose sole response has been to study the subject to death, his potential Democratic presidential rival from New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo, at least was willing to allow some limited fracking in that specific region – that is, until he was told by the environmental extremists, “we’ll cream you if you open New York state to fracking.” While neither the western edge of Maryland nor that five-county area of southern New York along the Pennsylvania border (from Steuben County on the west to Broome County on the east and including adjacent Chenango County) has the worst unemployment numbers in their respective states of Maryland or New York, the fact is they can do better.
And it’s not just the energy companies booming – this story by Barbara Miller in southwest Pennsylvania’s Observer-Reporter newspaper (h/t Energy Tomorrow) points out the financial gains in just two of the state’s counties. Quoted in the story was Washington County Commission Chairman Larry Maggi:
I don’t want to use the word envious, but (other counties are) struggling and they do not have this resource to help them balance their budgets.
While amounts from $6 million to $18 million are drops in the bucket for a state budget, they can potentially be huge for some of the rural counties affected. Energy companies are accustomed to paying a fair royalty fee to local governments, knowing the market will support that toll while allowing a reasonable profit.
So, as you’ll see in the next week or so when my candidate dossier on energy is complete, there’s a big difference in stance between Maryland Democrats and Republicans on the fracking issue. Apparently most Democrats are happy with blowing up bats and chopping up birds, but Republicans want to create jobs.
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.