I have written testimony on bills before, but never have I done so for a budget hearing. But when Jackie Gregory, a friend and supporter of this website from Cecil County, wrote up her ideas on her county’s budget and posted this to Facebook, I asked her if I could share and she kindly gave permission. This is as she prepared it for delivery:
I do not believe that the current budget proposed is a responsible budget. I lay that at the feet of the council since one of your few powers is to appropriate funds. I do not advocate a slash and burn approach, but as a citizen and taxpayer, I expect the council to go through the budget line by line, find points of agreement on what can/should be cut, and make those decisions for the benefit of taxpayers. I haven’t seen that process play out with the council or any real collaborative effort to actually delve into the budget. This is very disappointing to say the least.
From the perspective of an average middle class citizen: There are many things in my house that need improvement, which I can’t afford to do all at once; they require me to break up the projects over the course of a couple of years. Yet I see the library asking for a $400k increase on a 4 million dollar budget in one year, because they have a lot of improvements they would like to do at once. They should decide what is necessary to do now, and what they want to defer until the next budget cycle. Also, I can’t afford to send my son to camp for a week overnight, yet this budget asks me to pay for other people’s kids to go on vacation for a week (North Bay). I don’t believe the current budget is responsible as written.
A rule for using the fund balance should be that only the amount gained in the fund balance over the course of the previous year should be used. Otherwise, it will be quickly depleted. You don’t want to adopt G.W. Bush’s economic policies: low taxes, increased spending, increased debt and deficits. Any new spending should be paid for by cuts elsewhere.
Also, new mandates beyond your control such as WIP compliance and the teacher pension shift need to be explained to the public with dollar figures attached to them so that the citizens understand what portion of new spending you control, and what portion you do not control. I believe that the teacher pension shift accounts for over 3 million dollars of the new spending in this budget.
In addition, I am aware that spending does not happen once a year, and that many taxpayer dollars have been wasted/lost due to poor decision making in the past. We lost millions and gained a continuing financial burden due to the sabotage of the sale of waste water plants to Artesian (by Councilwoman Broomell). That act alone adds 300k of unnecessary spending to this year’s budget, for upgrades to those facilities. The last board (Broomell, Mullin, Dunn) voted to waste half a million taxpayer dollars buying up development rights from a farmer to give them to the federal government. Citizens need to realize that the budget is not a one day event, and I encourage citizen involvement in government beyond just the final budget passage.
This board needs to vote down the current budget or delay it until you can come up with more significant cuts.
For the new capital road improvements, have bike paths been added into the design features of the roads in compliance with the new bike plan? If so, that should be stripped. It’s not something we need right now.
Getting rid of the turf field and replacing it with something else should eliminate a couple hundred thousand.
The sick leave issue should be dealt with.
I would cut the library budget significantly; they should defer half or more of the projects until next year.
I would give Cecil College flat funding. We already subsidize the majority of a Cecil College student’s education. At the post secondary level, the amount asked of taxpayers for the purpose of funding a college education should be much less than it is. College students are not small schoolchildren, and they and their parents need to take more financial responsibility for their own education.
Improvements on Oldfield Point Road are slated for 800k. I know that has been on the CIP for awhile, but I live near there and there really is no dire emergency to upgrade the road. It is fine. I would defer that till next year.
I don’t think there is any great emergency with the Rolling Mill Bridge either; if it isn’t vital, it should be deferred until next year too. (Those two road projects alone would save a million.)
The auditor can be cut/scaled down. An outside auditor to deal with particular issues that may arise may be legitimate, but we should not be paying a full salary and benefits to do the job members of the council are supposed to do. If a council member feels incapable of doing the job you were elected to do without the help of an in-house auditor, then it is time for you to find a new line of work.
The school budget has increased drastically. They should not be expanding preschool beyond the state mandate, and the North Bay trip is back in the budget. When I was a child, most kids, including me, did not attend preschool, and my parents never took the time to teach me anything. Yet my peers and I did just fine. I understand that there is a preschool mandate for at-risk kids, but the district should not be expanding preschool beyond that. Given the number of new mandates, I would offer the schools flat funding plus the cost of teacher pensions. That would probably save about 1.4 million. Remember, they also have a fund balance they can dip into if they believe their budget requests are crucial enough.
What I have listed above is probably close to 3 million in cuts. I’m sure there are others who can offer other suggestions. Please consider them.
If you choose to rubber stamp this budget without offering up significant cuts, then there will be a lot of citizens, including this one, who will feel like we were duped into supporting folks who were going to use their business experience to run the government in a more efficient, taxpayer conscious way. I sincerely hope you use your skills to cut the budget to a responsible, reasonable size.
Obviously I’m not a resident of Cecil County – although its politics are perhaps the most interesting in the state, particularly for a county of its relatively small size – so I don’t know the lay of the land that well. Yet I could well understand exactly what Jackie was talking about in a larger sense, and her points were well taken because she not only advocated for a more limited government, she spelled out a lot of specifics on what could be pruned from her county’s financial docket.
Oftentimes I’ve gone to Wicomico County’s dog and pony show, although I skipped this year’s rendition because I don’t have the confidence anymore that my County Council will go to the wall for fiscal conservatism since the Bennett Middle School debacle. Meanwhile, our County Executive whines about not having enough money but obviously doesn’t mind adding millions in debt while convincing the bonding agencies that our situation is better than it really is.
But I digress. One problem we’ve had is that everybody and their brother can say “we can’t afford this budget” but they’re quick to exclude their pet project from the chopping block. Instead, Jackie sacrificed a road repair near her house, telling her County Council that the road was in decent enough repair to last another year.
She also brought up a very, very important point – one rarely mentioned by those who create the budget. Just how much do state mandates cost us as a share of the budget? It would probably be an eye-opening experience to see this; for example, one state mandate cost Wicomico County taxpayers $1.3 million (see page 8 here) although it may have “saved” us from a $14 million hit. No one would call the bluff, though, and now the County Executive wants to go $1 million above and beyond maintenance of effort, meaning every year we will have to come up with an extra million dollars because the bar will be raised – by yet another state mandate, since maintenance of effort is a state law.
So if your county (or city, or state) is going through its annual budgetary battle and you have the opportunity to have your say, use this as a guide: know your facts and come prepared with alternatives. This was an outstanding effort.
I don’t know what it is about Mia Love’s announcing she will try once again for Congress that made me think about this, but ponder and write about it I will. Perhaps it’s the fact she’s a black woman who happens to be an elected official and quite conservative. Maybe the latter is no surprise in Utah, but nevertheless I hope she wins next year.
But I’m more curious to see who will be Maryland’s answer to Mia Love. While filing for the 2014 election began last month, just 10 Republicans have filed for state positions (as opposed to 30 Democrats.) Originally the filing deadline was in April, 2014 but an ill-considered act of the General Assembly moved that up to February. It was all a political calculation designed so that incumbent members knew who would be running against them and vote accordingly on legislation. All this means is a little more pressure on my to have the 2014 monoblogue Accountability Project finished by mid-June next year so people know just which legislators should be ousted, in the primary if possible.
Here in Wicomico County, we haven’t had any local filings although a Worcester County Democrat named Mike Hindi has already filed for the new District 38C seat, which will encompass the eastern end of Wicomico County. Meanwhile, John LaFerla is trying again for Congress as I already discussed.
As a member of the Republican Central Committee, I would love to be assured that we will be filling out our lineup card thoroughly this year. I’m convinced we probably could have picked up a few more General Assembly seats last time if we could have given the thirty-odd Democrats in the House of Delegates and dozen-plus Democratic Senators who received free rides an opponent. Understandably, there are districts in this state which are less fertile for Republicans (although I cede no ground) but the idea is to engage the other side in a debate over their ideas and make them defend the indefensible. If they are tied up defending their seats they can’t help others, with the 38C race a case in point: it’s probably a fairly safe GOP district but now we will have to fight for it rather than have a pass to help other local Republicans like Mike McDermott or Charles Otto stay in office.
The same goes for county races: certainly we have some long-standing Democrats in office, but one has to wonder whether their offices can’t stand some improvement and new blood. It seems as though the State’s Attorney office received a breath of fresh air when Matt Maciarello was elected, so why not some of the other county offices where the respective tenures began in years starting with 19?
There are, I believe, 23 offices in Wicomico County, counting state legislative posts. I think we should be able to find 23 good Republicans to fill each of those ballot slots, and the Central Committee is waiting to point you in the right direction.
The O’Malley/Brown job creation narrative took another hit last week as it was announced Maryland lost the third-highest number of jobs in the country, with a decline of 6,200 jobs in April. Sadly for President Obama and his steadfast ally in Government House, the announcement came on the same day Obama was touting his record of job creation – a real “inconvenient truth.”
And wouldn’t you know it, Change Maryland and its founder Larry Hogan – which much to the chagrin of Martin O’Malley and his heir apparent Anthony Brown is adding social media followers at a faster pace than O’Malley is creating good-paying jobs – had to point this out:
The President has had a rough week. Visiting Maryland to tout job creation on the same day a report shows Maryland lost the third highest number of jobs in the country is just another stroke of bad luck for this President…(b)ut it is tragic for Maryland’s struggling middle class families.
After nearly seven years of failed economic policies, it has become crystal clear that the O’Malley-Brown Administration just does not get it when it comes to jobs. Year after year, their jobs, jobs, jobs rhetoric is simply that – rhetoric. But their record stands in stark contrast. The fact of the matter is when it comes to jobs, our increased reliance on government to create jobs has left Maryland’s economy vulnerable to the ever changing political winds in Washington.
Now it’s not like I haven’t featured helpful suggestions in this space – some mine, some by others – to help relieve the state of its over-reliance on the “industry” we call the federal government, but so far they’ve fallen on deaf ears. Two of my favorites are energy extraction and Anirban Basu’s idea of eliminating state corporate taxes – a thought that probably brings Annapolis liberals to the verge of a coronary or a stroke.
What seems to go unrealized in this day and age of shrinking paychecks, stunted home values, and millions collecting checks from Uncle Sam without the production one would normally associate with “earning” a salary is that every dollar the public sector takes from a participant in the private-sector economy is a dollar the average Joe can’t direct to the highest and best use of the market. If Joe Sixpack wants to invest in home improvement but can’t because his property tax bill went up thanks to an EPA mandate to clean up Chesapeake Bay – even if our state didn’t create the largest share of the problem and other remedies go untried – that’s going to affect the home improvement supplier, which may lay off a worker or two and throw their financial world into a tailspin. Granted, a measly $100 or so won’t do that by itself but those hundreds turn into thousands and thousands into millions. Even if Jill Sixpack simply couldn’t afford the morning latte because the tax bill increased it eventually affects jobs in this consumer sending-driven economy.
Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown would have you believe that Maryland is a thriving state under their policies, and that the Free State weathered the recession better than its peers. Perhaps it did, but if losing 6,200 jobs qualifies as a recovery I would hate to see what a recession looks like.
If you do the math and factor in for various other elected officials along the way, on average any given member of Congress should deliver his or her party’s response to the weekly Presidential address about once a decade. And while I’d have much rather avoided this situation because it’s a member of the party opposing the President who gives this address in response to the President’s message, that opportunity fell yesterday to our own Congressman, Dr. Andy Harris.
Of course, this is something most of us already know but when you consider Harris is already a fairly tall guy (6′-3″ maybe?) the stack of papers dubbed as the “Red Tape Tower” looks pretty imposing. Of course, it’s also an appropriate week to discuss Obamacare as the House again voted for its outright repeal; a measure sure to die a quiet death in the Democratic-controlled Senate.
But as Richard Falknor writes at Blue Ridge Forum, there is a lot more which can be done. Perhaps this statement uttered by Andy Harris had to have the seal of approval from House leadership. continues Falknor, but the House also has the power of the purse if they’re willing to use it to achieve the desired end, that being the scrapping of Obamacare.
As a physician – his specialty is anethesiology – Dr. Harris is obviously familiar with the process of diagnosis, and certainly the sheer mass of regulations incumbent to Obamacare is but one symptom of why it would be detrimental to the American health care system, a patient for whom we are all interested in seeing survive.
But in truth, Obamacare isn’t really so much about the health care system as it is about providing the means to pay for the health care we receive. While it begins via the employer-provided health insurance we have become accustomed to over the past 70 years or so, as that becomes regulated out of existence due to the increasing difficult prospects of profitability for insurers we will begin to see an evolution in the industry where either favored private insurers become the only ones approved for providing coverage – with the reams of regulations in place to assure no smaller competitor can come along to steal market share among perhaps the ultimate in captive audiences – or a situation where the market becomes unbearable for any private provider and a program like Medicare is simply expanded to cover everyone. At that point you have the statist’s dream of complete dependence on the government, regardless of its budgetary impact.
The better solution, and one we should work toward, is to reduce the influence of government on health care. If people want simple and basic catastrophic incident health insurance and don’t mind paying out-of-pocket for routine events, that should be made more readily available – unfortunately, the trend line has run the other way for decades. You should even have the choice of not being insured at all.
Now, I haven’t even talked about the scary scenario of increased IRS influence which comes as an Obamacare feature. If they have asked questions about donors to TEA Party groups, for what else can they use all the information gleaned? That thought alone should cause heartburn among caring Americans.
You know, it’s hard to come home after a nice evening and discuss bad news, but there it was on the table: Martin O’Malley finished the damage of the “90 days of terror” by signing the last of the approved bills from this year’s “very productive” General Assembly session. If it were any more productive we’d be a banana republic.
Of all the bills signed, though, it appears that just two will be subjects of a petition drive to referendum: the death penalty repeal and the gun law. The death penalty repeal is “officially” sanctioned by mdpetitions.com while the gun law is being challenged by another group, with the petition there at freestatepetitions.com.
Regardless who begins the effort, though, the rules are the same: by June 30 there needs to be valid signatures equal to 3% of the number of those who voted in the 2010 gubernatorial election (just under 56,000) with 1/3 of those required by May 31 – the end of this month. Both drives got sort of a late start.
Unfortunately, having seen the 2012 petition drives all defeated at the ballot box, the question is whether there is enough interest in seeing another potential wipeout at the 2014 election. Granted, the demographics of the vote may be more favorable to those who would like to overturn these issues but so far both petitions seem to be having tough sledding. Moreover, failure to get enough signatures for either or both petitions will probably embolden Democrats to pass even more egregious legislation – it’s bad enough we can’t petition appropriations bills and may have an even higher hurdle to overcome in the future.
There’s also the argument about the gun bill being brought to referendum because it’s placing our God-given rights to a vote. One thing a referendum would do though is delay the enactment of the bill, so there is a point to consider.
Still, it was a sad day for the formerly Free State yesterday, and I hope in 18 months we will wipe the smiles off their faces after the people take back their state.
That’s a sentiment shared by Maryland’s GOP, as Chair Diana Waterman admitted the following:
Cracking down on crime is clearly not part of Martin O’Malley’s presidential resume. Together with the Democrats in Annapolis, O’Malley has shamefully politicized the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut in order to advance his radical agenda and political aspirations. This legislation will do nothing to curb the effects of gun violence in Maryland, but instead only makes it even more difficult for law-abiding citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights.
While other Governors like Bob McDonnell of Virginia and Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania and their legislatures are working to reform state government, Martin O’Malley, Mike Miller, Mike Busch, and the Democrat legislators in Annapolis have wasted the people’s time and money by imposing higher taxes, promoting government dependency, and assaulting the Second Amendment.
Elections have consequences. Whether it was an uninspiring top of the ticket, underperformance in filling out the ballot card, or not being effective in promoting a conservative message to the state’s voters, the 2010 election which should have been a slam dunk in t least restoring the GOP to a player in Maryland politics was, instead, a lost opportunity. In part, this led to the demise of our 2012 initiatives to roll back the welcome mat to illegal aliens and to maintain the common meaning of marriage.
Instead, we pretty much have to try again in 2014 to reinvent the wheel. Granted, there is potential at the top of the ticket for a young and dynamic presence, but the true test will be whether we can contest every race this time around. Hopefully the regressive nature of the O’Malley regime and the prominence he’s already given Anthony Brown as a hand-picked successor – and, in turn, Brown’s defense of the O’Malley record – will give the MDGOP something to build upon. A referendum drive or two won’t hurt the cause.
A week or so back I referred to one of Delegate Michael McDermott’s summaries of the 2013 General Assembly session, and he’s come back with another installment today. In this one, he laments the economic effects of those “few pennies” we’ll be paying every day to the state in additional taxes and fees by reminding us that businesses will be paying them, too. McDermott concludes that:
As the government draws more money out of the economy through these new taxes and fees, taxpayers (and) consumers find themselves with fewer discretionary dollars. This always results in fewer dollars being put back into our local economy and every point of commerce suffers. When business slows, expansion is put on hold. When business suffers loss, people lose jobs.
All this seems to be basic common sense which is lost on those who inhabit the Maryland General Assembly and vote with the majority party. It somehow never seems to seep into their consciousness that business aren’t going to pay maybe $100 a year for the so-called “rain tax” or the promised no more than $2 a month for “green” energy, nor will the effects of ever-increasing gasoline taxes be minimal for them.
The problem they have is twofold: the Maryland economy is dynamic and the geography is static. From my house I can be in Delaware in 15 minutes and Virginia in about 40. It’s worth pointing out that just four of Maryland’s 23 counties aren’t on a state border (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Howard, and Talbot as well as Baltimore City) while several border two states and Washington County touches three. Certainly it’s not like larger states where traveling to a different jurisdiction to take advantage of their business climate involves the expenditure of several hours and a half-tank of gas.
So Maryland has to compete on a playing field which is far from level, and savvy consumers know just where to go to get the best deal. It’s no wonder that neighboring states have large shopping meccas close by Maryland’s borders.
Now this isn’t all bad news for Marylanders, as some cross state lines to work just as some who live in neighboring states make up Maryland’s too-slowly growing workforce. But as critics like McDermott and Larry Hogan of Change Maryland point out, we can do better.
And don’t think Mike isn’t seeing the political reality. Note this passage in his report:
I am not sure where the disconnect lies with legislators who see nothing wrong with this tax and spend approach at governing, but I am quite sure the public is fully able to connect the dots. I was recently at a meeting of local business owners and entrepreneurs when a senator told them that what they could “conceive…the government would help them achieve.” Sadly this was repeated so there was little doubt where he was coming from in his thoughts regarding the purpose and scope of government.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Senator in question isn’t the person McDermott will be facing next year.
It’s been perhaps the worst-kept secret in Maryland politics for over a year, but it appears as though David Craig will make his 2014 plans official on June 3 as he embarks on a real statewide tour, or at least one more geographically encompassing than Democrat Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s puny effort last week when he announced his gubernatorial plans.
Within the last couple hours, the first day of the Craig tour was laid out on Facebook: a 9 a.m. announcement from his front yard in Havre de Grace, followed by an 11:30 a.m. appearance at the Dundalk American Legion Post 38 and a 7 p.m. happy hour reception at Bulls and Bears in Hagerstown. I have it on good authority there will be a Salisbury stop on day 2 of the Craig tour, June 4, although details are probably still being finalized. On that front, I was also told by that same local Craig volunteer this would be a three-day tour, so it’s possible the local Eastern Shore event could instead be June 5.
Craig would officially enter a fairly crowded field as the Republican nomination is opened up for the first time since 2002, the year Bob Ehrlich first won his nomination over two perennial candidates. Arguably this could be the strongest gubernatorial field ever for the Maryland GOP, as the shadow of Bob Ehrlich and his three-election run as the established Republican standard-bearer allowed a number of good candidates to establish a solid local foothold while clamoring to get their chance at the brass ring.
At this point only one GOP candidate has officially filed, and Brian Vaeth – who finished dead last out of 10 would-be U.S. Senate candidates last year with 1.9% of the primary vote – probably won’t present much of a challenge to the remainder of the eventual field. While Blaine Young has been campaigning mainly to party insiders for the last several months and Ron George formally announced his plans last month, we are still awaiting official word from Charles Lollar and Dan Bongino. With the caveat that both are internet-based surveys and are not scientific, Craig has held his own in two recent preference polls on conservative websites with Bongino and Lollar, while Young lags behind. Meanwhile, Ron George performed respectably in the latest Red Maryland poll cited.
Obviously this will be a developing story, and Craig’s entry may break the dam for others to make their intentions clear. It’s likely June will also be the month Charles Lollar makes his draft campaign official while Dan Bongino has no set deadline in mind.
In Dan’s case, though, there is also the chance he could choose to bypass 2014 to concentrate on a 2016 Senate run for what could be an open seat given Barbara Mikulski’s advancing age (she would turn 80 in the summer of 2016) and declining health. In that case, much would depend on whether the GOP wrests control of the Senate (and their Appropriations Committee. which she chairs) from the Democrats. Obviously this is true of the others as well, but Bongino is the only one of the five with statewide campaign experience.
Then again, the other four will catch up on that front should they go through the primary of 2014. Look for more on the Craig front in the coming days.
Update 5/14: It appears the Eastern Shore will be served
either in the evening on June 4 or on the 5th, as thus far June 4 sends Craig to an 8 a.m. breakfast in Silver Spring, the Calvert County Courthouse at noon, and the Annapolis City Dock at 3 p.m.
Update 2 5/14: Salisbury’s stop will be at the Government Center at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, June 5th.
I want to thank Rory McShane for bringing this to light via Facebook and allowing all of us to start our week on a grand note of schadenfreude.
It seems that the Maryland Republican Party is not the only political entity which labors under the adverse condition of being out of power and having the embarrassment of fiscal misfortune. At least we weren’t forcibly evicted from our West Street headquarters!
In fact, in reading about the issues being faced by the Alabama Democratic Party I noticed several similarities to our MDGOP party situation over the past few years, but done on steroids: a new Chair walking into a field of financial landmines and dealing with factions threatening to break apart from the party – and, in Alabama’s case, not just taking their ball and going home, but absconding with furniture, office supplies, and voter lists while adding insult to injury by redirecting donor funds. What is happening with Alabama may even border on criminality, depending on their campaign finance laws.
Stunningly enough, this situation has festered for almost a decade and a half, according to the AL.com website story, as the party initially spent itself near bankruptcy in a failed effort to enact the regressive tax called an education lottery back in 1999. (Fourteen years on, Alabama is still one of a handful of states which has no state-run lottery.) Former Party chairman Mark Kennedy last month blamed a Republican-backed 2010 initiative banning PAC-to-PAC transfers in the state for the party’s ongoing financial crisis.
Yet a quote from Kennedy could be the key to our rebirth in Maryland:
Unlike the Republicans, we just as a party have not developed the kind of broad donor base a modern political party needs and the Republicans have.
The same concept came up in our recent Chair race, as the two challengers to interim Chair Diana Waterman both pledged to go outside the traditional avenues the party has used to raise funds, whether through more internet fundraising or growing the donor base tenfold. Obviously this should be a priority for us going forward.
This story is doubly humorous to me because, up until 2010, the Democrats controlled the Alabama legislature and had done so for 136 years. But now the shoe is firmly on the other foot because the GOP owns 23 of 35 State Senate seats and 66 of 105 State House seats, as well as the Governor’s chair. Their partisan breakdown is “only” R+14, though, whereas we run in a D+30 state here. But other states have found at least some success with similar demographics.
So take heart, Maryland Republicans, because there appears to be a political party much more dysfunctional than ourselves out there. Hopefully we are working in the right direction – let’s allow the other side to do some infighting for a change.
By the way, I received a note from Collins Bailey the other day as well as confirmation from party activist Don Murphy, who’s planning on attending: the Republican Party of Virginia seeks volunteers for their state convention this coming weekend. The RPV convention site is here, and I imagine the interest in the event from Maryland is so we can begin to upgrade our convention in a similar manner.
Remember last year when the Obama campaign came up with the idea for “Julia”, a fictional woman who was supposed to represent how Obama made life better for women everywhere? (You know, that phony, made-up ‘War on Women’ and all that.) I wrote about this about a year ago.
Well, one year later the good folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute came up with the idea of “Julius”, a black worker affected by Big Labor and its policies and politics. It’s well worth the three minutes of your time to watch. I’ll wait.
While the account is fictional, the problems being caused by these policies are not. Yet the liberals never seem to learn – they seem to think that just one more increase in the minimum wage will do the trick, or one more revenue hike will lead to the proper “investments” of taxpayer money. And the golden goose will never stop a-layin’.
All these ideas, though, defy logic.
For example, the idea of paying just minimum wage is that of giving someone who doesn’t have a high skill level and is not all that valuable to the employer the amount which has to be given by an artificially-created law which has no relation to the actual market. If someone’s labor is worth $7.25 an hour to the company and no more, well, then that person will be a minimum wage hire. But if the minimum wage is $10 an hour – and they’ve tried to do this in Maryland on a couple of occasions – there’s no reason to hire someone who’s still only worth $7 or $8 an hour to the compamy because it would be unprofitable in the long run. That’s the point made in the video. (One thing not mentioned is that the reason unions push for minimum wage increases is because many labor contracts are pegged to maintaining a salary point a certain percentage or dollar figure above the minimum, which means automatic but unearned and non-negotiated wage increases for their workers if the minimum wage goes up.)
But if there were no minimum wage, all it would mean is that the labor market would find its level. Arguably, this is one problem which is blamed on illegal immigration and the penchant to work on a cash or “under the table” basis – they could be happy with $5 an hour if taxes aren’t taken out and there’s no need for a Social Security number.
Taken to its opposite extreme, what if there were a maximum wage and no one could work for more than, say, $20 an hour? What incentive would anyone have to succeed knowing they could only reach a certain level, and what enjoyable parts of life would we have to do without given the artificial limit of $800 a week for 40 hours of labor? That’s only $41,600 a year before taxes. To me, having a minimum wage is just as unrealistic as having a maximum one – and don’t get me started on the idiocy presented by the so-called “living wage.”
Without a minimum wage, would employers try to take advantage and pay, say, $5 an hour? (Ironically, that was my hourly wage on my first job in 1986 – one Lincoln per hour.) Some would, but in time these low-level employers would find that the labor pool willing to take that kind of wage would leave a lot to be desired, so they would have to increase their offerings to find better workers. On the other hand, in places where labor is in high demand, like the oil-rich portions of North Dakota, even workers at menial jobs get double-digit hourly pay. (Incidentally, North Dakota is a right-to-work state.) Once the employment market levels out there, that boom will slow down and wages will come back to a particular supportable level for both employers and employees, with those who work in the oil fields remaining on the top of the wage totem pole because their work is more valuable to their employer than a guy flipping burgers at the local fast food joint, as it should be.
But there is one entity which will never settle for the minimum wage, and that’s government. Living in a state which seems to be the leader in one category above all else – tax and fee increases – it always seems as though Big Labor is right behind them every time the state wants a little more out of our pockets. Perhaps this is more understandable in the case of increasing the gas tax, as those unions involved in construction moaned and complained that we hadn’t increased the tax in over two decades. (To which I replied: so?) Supposedly, the additional jobs created by building new infrastructure – even as frivolous as new light rail mass transit lines will eventually be – will assist in jump-starting the state economy.
Again, however, this is a case of gaming the market and not allowing it to seek its own level. Granted, to use the example above, we do need to improve our roads and transportation infrastructure but there were other methods of doing so and more productive ways to spend the money. Nor does this count the other tax increases we have endured over the last half-decade on income and sales taxes, additional fees, and various other methods of vacuuming our hard-earned dollars out of our greedy little fingers and into the deserving coffers of the state for “investment.” Instead of each of the six million or so Marylanders making their own decisions on where to spend, they get part of their check confiscated from them so the state can transfer wealth from flush to impoverished, taking a decent-sized cut for themselves in the process and producing nothing. Julius is the one left poorer for it.
In the video, Julius reaches what’s supposed to be his golden years without a pension because his company was driven to bankruptcy by the union he didn’t belong to. Unfortunately, the creation of promises over a generation – without the actual funding to back them up – are poised to harm both union and non-union retirees alike. Public pension funds nationwide on the aggregate have a funding gap between assets and promised benefits estimated at around $1,000,000,000,000. (That’s one trillion dollars, or about 3/10 of our annual federal budget.) While that pales next to the unfunded liabilities of Social Security and Medicare, this is still a vast sum which in all likelihood won’t be made whole without rampant inflation or a significant devaluation of the dollar.
Perhaps it’s a good plan for those under 50 to plan on a retirement – if leaving a job is even a possibility in that distant of a future – without either Social Security or Medicare because neither can survive in their present form. Simply put, they aren’t taking in as much as they are putting out. A half-century or more of promises and IOUs was never addressed because people thought the good times would last and last while the bill never arrived. That simply defies common sense, and here’s your invoice.
We don’t know what happened to “Julius” but I’m sure a lot of people can guess the rest – he dies a pauper, having done things the way he was told to do and getting no reward for it because other special interests figured out how to prime the political pump and have the system rigged in their favor. This all can be changed, but it will take a long-term concerted effort and there will be some bitter, bitter medicine to swallow in the interregnum.
As the son of a former union worker whose plant was a casualty of the recession of the early 1990s and a mom who worked for over 20 years to help support the family, I can understand just where this was coming from. My mom might not agree, but I hope she has a happy Mother’s Day nonetheless.
Recently Change Maryland had to do a mea culpa, because they found out they were incorrect.
Just weeks after putting out the word about Martin O’Malley and his 37 tax increases since taking office, the good-government advocacy group had to let people know they were just a little bit off – in the wrong way:
Previously, Change Maryland released a report that updated tax and fee increases following the 2013 session, which brought the total to 37 increases that remove $3.1 billion annually over and above the existing tax burden. These latest reports adds new fees for gun purchases, enacted in 2013, and two newly-discovered measures buried in omnibus legislation and not subject to normal legislative procedures.
So now we are up to a nice, round 40 tax and fee increases under the O’Malley regime. Aren’t we special?
Since I began with Change Maryland, I may as well continue with what their leader, Larry Hogan, had to say:
Nobody expected the total impact to be this staggering, not even me. Struggling Maryland families and small businesses simply cannot afford another four years of an O’Malley-Brown tax and spend binge.
Hogan continued by lamenting the ongoing nature of the problem:
This is not just an argument about big government. It’s about a government that is on auto-pilot to grow exponentially, beyond anything any of us have ever seen in our lifetimes and that comes directly at the expense of the private sector economy that we desperately need to diversify our employment base.
Undoubtedly, the question for the O’Malley/Brown team – and they are a team, since our lieutenant governor is the favored choice of Martin O’Malley – is whether Anthony Brown will try and run up the score some more. Would triple digits be possible over a 16-year reign of the O’Malley/Brown team? In a speech in Chestertown, Hogan used the occasion to blast the heir apparent, who’s announced his intention to snag the state’s top spot next year, from the stump.
(Side note: the odds are against Brown, as on three occasions since the office of lieutenant governor was re-created in 1970 the officeholder failed to win the office him/herself. Blair Lee III lost the 1978 Democratic primary, as did Melvin Steinberg in 1994. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend won her nomination, but lost to Republican Bob Ehrlich in 2002.)
Yet the more Hogan chooses to point out the foibles of the O’Malley/Brown team, the less of a chance there is he will enter the race himself. In a lot of ways, Larry has chosen to be this state’s version of Sarah Palin as he could potentially be a kingmaker as the leader of a bipartisan group closing in on 40,000 followers. If each can influence five voters, you have yourself a GOP primary winner in a year where it appears we will have two or three relatively strong candidates.
And then there’s always O’Malley’s own legacy and his dreams of running for President in 2016. Certainly he would find it a feather in his cap to get his LG elected as successor and cement his legacy. Being the media whore he is, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see Martin O’Malley take the tack suggested in this piece by Pete “DaTechGuy” Ingemi as MOM has to overcome the legacy of one Hillary Rodham Clinton. “I can see a certain Maryland governor doing this,” indeed.
Perhaps the pro-liberty crowd is still a little restless in Maryland.
Today I got an e-mail from “the Susquehanna Conservative,” a.k.a. Scott DeLong of Harford County. Let me toss out a couple caveats before I begin with my analysis of his remarks: one, he was a Collins Bailey supporter for Chair as I was, and two, Scott is part of the Campaign for Liberty group, which probably makes point number one unsurprising since that was Bailey’s base of support. This rather lengthy e-mail mainly speaks to Scott’s thoughts about our recent convention, although he opines on some other topics as well.
Upon his arrival, he noticed the same thing I did: a handful of Waterman signs but many passionate Bailey supporters out sign waving. Of course, he also highlighted the Maryland Liberty PAC hospitality room to a much greater extent than I did, because I went to several others in my travels that evening. I didn’t realize, for example, that Delegate Michael Smigiel spoke to the group and the information Smigiel related about the SB281 gun bill was quite enlightening. I truly appreciated the overview and wonder if anyone recorded all of the speakers there for future reference.
And since I’m sure I have the attention of the pro-liberty crowd – and hopefully the MDGOP leadership as well – I’d like to offer a suggestion. I’ve alluded to this before, but honestly I’m not sure I have done so in this particular forum: why not move the Maryland Liberty PAC suite out of Friday night, when the focus is more on socializing and schmoozing, to Saturday morning? As DeLong explained later, not all of the Saturday morning fare was well-attended, and to me it would be like a miniature MDCAN conference before our convention business began. Perhaps we could integrate a continental breakfast into it, but in either case I bet it would draw more than seven people.
So only a small portion of Scott’s reflections focused on Friday night. The next part, though, I found interesting. To quote Scott, “It was the Establishment versus 2 grassroots candidates,” but by the very next paragraph he darkly alludes that “The Establishment was going to pull out all the stops to make sure their candidate, Waterman, would win” by “Thugging The Vote.”
Personally I found what I heard to be happening reprehensible, then again, this is politics and “politics ain’t beanbag.” While we had a proxy unsure of the direction to go, having heard conflicting information about following the wishes of the person being substituted for versus following their own desire, I was hearing some of the same stories being related by DeLong in his account.
So let me back up the scenario a little bit. In previous discussions, Dave Parker (our county Chair) and I agreed that our county’s vote could easily (and likely would) split three ways. I actually was mildly surprised by the split as one person I thought of as a Waterman supporter picked Bailey and one other did the reverse. In the end, we were about as split as any county was – but our Chair was perfectly fine with that, and allowed us to make up our own mind.
Contrast that to the browbeating some county chairs gave to their charges, particularly those in the Waterman camp. It was disappointing, but frankly not too surprising. They weren’t going to repeat the same mistakes they made when they thought Audrey Scott had the National Committeewoman’s seat in the bag last spring. Granted, the three votes DeLong alludes to would not have changed the end result – unless it was the tip of the iceberg, and we may never really know that.
But after Scott goes through the voting process, he points out some of the goings-on between ballots for the Chair position:
The chain of events after the first round of balloting for Chairman was interesting.
The Kline and Bailey camps appeared to be genuinely cordial to one another.
It was reported that during that pow-wow that when Kline was deciding what to do that Bailey told him that if he thought he should stay in for one more round, he should.
That’s just Collins being Collins.
However, if one of their goals was to get a grassroots chair and get Pope off the RNC Rules Committee, then the Kline team really needed to be able to see the writing on the wall.
The only thing that would be accomplished with Kline remaining in the race would be the election of Diana Waterman as Chairman since she was 11 votes away and it would be virtually impossible for Kline to get enough to get close.
The Bailey team was prepared to endorse Kline had the outcome been reversed.
The supporters of these two groups clearly had more in common with each other than with Waterman and Pope.
Had either become the Chairman the other groups would have certainly had a seat at the table and would have had their ideas and input considered, and if found workable, implemented.
The Kline guys seemed like a decent bunch, but they clearly need to get better at reading the tea leaves.
Now that last statement will probably earn Scott DeLong the everlasting enmity of the Red Maryland crew, for whom I am an erstwhile contributor (as they like to point out.) One result of this particular election, though, is that it may create a change in the bylaws or the adoption in the future of a special rule where the lowest-ranked candidate is automatically evicted from the ballot. Again, we will never know if a Kline withdrawal and endorsement of Bailey would have been enough to push Collins over the top given how close Diana was in the first place, but as things turned out Bailey supporters got the next best result.
From here, Scott implores us in the pro-liberty movement to “unite for common goals” and launches into a discussion about national party affairs. I believe DeLong is correct that National Committeeman Louis Pope will be extremely resistant to change, and given some of his statements regarding the “Liberty Pack” (as he calls it) it doesn’t appear he will be of much use to the purpose of revisiting the RNC rules.
Yet some of the ideas in the “Growth and Opportunity Project” that DeLong doesn’t like are ones I happen to be in favor of. Personally. I would like to see multi-state primaries – but I don’t want the calendar front-loaded because I would prefer the primaries occur in the timeframe of May through early July, with the conventions remaining in September. With such a compressed schedule, there would be plenty of time for a grassroots candidate to gather support beforehand, not to mention “as much debate and discussion as possible.” (By the way, we should tell the cable networks that either we pick the debate moderators or they can pound sand.) On the other hand, the idea of all caucuses intrigues me as well – perhaps we can have a cutoff number of Republicans in a state (say, just for an example, one million) between a state which can caucus and a state which must hold a primary. (And yes, I think the primaries should be closed. Don Murphy hasn’t convinced me yet.)
DeLong returns to the convention narrative to talk about the reports from Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin and now-former House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell as well as the “usual parliamentary chaos.” I have to agree with Scott on that one.
There have been far too many conventions where we simply ran out of time before important business could be concluded, and to me that’s inexcusable. In one case, I had a pending bylaw change on the short end of the time stick; this time, there was the Tari Moore resolution which was tabled last fall. It always seems like we have some sort of high-priced dinner afterward that no one really wants to attend because they’re dragged out from 24 nearly non-stop stressful hours with very little sleep and – for many – a long drive home. (Next spring in Rocky Gap will be a classic example of that for those on my end of the state, just as Ocean City conventions were difficult on those who came from out west.) I understand we weren’t expecting a Chair election when this spring gathering was scheduled, but why put people through this?
Another place where I part ways with DeLong is over the Tari Moore resolution. If you want to be critical of her budget and other decisions she’s made since becoming Cecil County Executive, that’s one thing and I can accept that. But unless and until she files to run for re-election as an unaffiliated candidate, I think she deserves the benefit of the doubt that she will revert back to her Republican registration so I wouldn’t support such a resolution coming off the table.
To me, Scott is beginning to let the perfect be the enemy of the good and not looking at the 80% rule. Certainly I can pore over anyone’s voting record and find at least a few flaws, but until a better alternative comes along the idea is to try and steer them right.
Yet I think we could have had a better alternative than Nic Kipke for Minority Leader; unfortunately none stepped up to the plate. DeLong correctly points out some of the many flaws in Nic’s voting record but also savages Tony O’Donnell for his mistake of supporting Thomas Perez for a federal position several years ago.
I think Scott’s letter is shorter than my analysis, but in the end he does point out that:
I hope that some of the issues I’ve highlighted in this e-mail provide you with a starting point.
So I made it such. It’s better to get this discussion underway now so we can get through it in plenty of time for 2014, since it’s not like the Democrats aren’t dealing with their own problems.
Over the last few weeks the media has reveled in the divisions which became apparent in the Maryland Republican Party, first in the party chairman race which was only decided on the second ballot and later with an upheaval in House of Delegates leadership which I’m told succeeded by a two-vote margin – Nic Kipke actually only won a plurality of the 43 House members (but a slim majority of those present.)
But there is new leadership in both entities and folks seem satisfied with the final result, at least insofar as the Maryland GOP leadership is concerned because the runner-up in the race for Chair won the consolation prize of 1st Vice-Chair. Incidentally, for the first time in my memory, both Diana Waterman and Collins Bailey will be sworn in at an event outside the convention setting as they will jointly be sworn in May 13 in Annapolis. (Key question: will bloggers be invited to the “media appreciation lunch” afterward? I guess my invite was lost in the mail.)
So the GOP is more or less united and ready to do battle. But what of the Democrats? Well, they seem to have hit a little snag, which was mentioned in more detail at my Politics in Stereo counterpart on the left, Maryland Juice.
On Friday the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee hosts their annual Spring Ball, which, like a Lincoln or Reagan Day Dinner for local Republicans, serves as a key fundraiser and a chance for party faithful to hear from a number of local elected officials and a keynote speaker. But their event is threatened as a fundraiser because a number of prominent Democrats are boycotting the event. Why?
I’ll pass along the explanation from the Washington DC Metro Council of the AFL-CIO:
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and the Montgomery County Young Democrats are among those who have announced that they’re honoring a boycott of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee’s May 11 Spring Ball. The metro Washington-area labor movement is boycotting – and picketing – the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee’s Spring Ball because the Committee took a position in favor of the 2012 Question B referendum, which took away the police union’s right to bargain the effects of management decisions.
But I nearly spit up my drink when I read this line, from UFCW 1994 president Gino Renne:
Labor will not tolerate being treated as an ATM and foot soldiers for a party which is often indifferent – and sometimes openly hostile – to working families in Montgomery County.
As the Republicans often seem to ask the pro-liberty movement, where else are you guys going to go? Trust me, they will have this ironed out in plenty of time to give extorted union dues and “representation fees” to those Democrats in Montgomery County and elsewhere in the state. The point will be made at this event, but like any other “family business” they’ll come to an understanding and things will be quietly made whole at a later time when the heat is off.
I find it quite amusing, though, that members and candidates from the party which regularly chastises Republicans for signing an Americans for Tax Reform pledge to not raise taxes or kowtowing to the National Rifle Association on gun issues scurry like cockroaches once it’s learned they would have to cross a picket line to attend a party event. It would be interesting to see how many people brave the picket line (if one occurs; perhaps the threat was enough to make the point) and attend the Spring Ball. I’ve seen Big Labor when it feels slighted, so the question might be whether there will be more people inside the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel or picketing outside.