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.
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.
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.
Well, this is an interesting followup to a story I posted the other day – you know, the one where I asked whether those correctional officers indicted last month as part of the Black Guerrilla Family (BGF) prison scandal had gang ties from the outside:
Is BGF also prevalent outside the walls of the prison, too? Were any of these women gang wannabes in their youth, and recruited by the gangs from the inside?
Chair Mark Uncapher of the Montgomery County Republican Party obviously has a long memory, as he wrote in his latest party newsletter about a previous scandal uncovered in 2009 by the Baltimore City Paper.
This is a rerun of a very bad horror movie that continues to replay throughout the O’Malley administration.
Rewind the movie back to 2007, O’Malley’s first year in office. Patrick Byer is awaiting trial on a murder charge in the Baltimore Detention Center. Like many of the inmates in that facility, Byers has access to a contraband mobile phone, which he uses to negotiate a murder for $2,500 of the principal witness against him. Just 8 days before the beginning of Byer’s trial, Carl Lackl Jr. is gunned in front of his house in a crime witnessed by his daughter.
What’s perhaps more amazing is that Antonia Allison, who was cited in that City Paper story as being one of the correctional officers alleged to have gang ties, is also under indictment in the newest scandal. One would have thought the slightest hint of gang activity would have gotten her out of the correctional system, at least as a guard. But she remained and is one of the 13 correctional officers newly accused.
Understandably, the prison population isn’t adding any value to society and very, very few people aspire in their life’s wish to be prison correctional officers. Moreover, the percentage of correctional officers who are tied to gangs is probably fairly low (although it likely varies from facility to facility) but it’s obviously enough to shift the balance of power in the Baltimore City facility. For those highest up in the gang’s food chain, jail wasn’t punishment at all but simply a place to do business with decor which left something to be desired.
This isn’t going to add to Martin O’Malley’s Maryland legacy, although it may be an interesting thing to bring up for Lieutenant Governor (and 2014 gubernatorial candidate) Anthony Brown and perhaps Attorney General (and also prospective candidate) Doug Gansler. But as the meme points out, Martin O’Malley has set his sights on a higher office since about the time the results of the 2010 election became official. Priorities for him seemed to shift from the actual idea of governor a relatively small state to burnishing his resume. Running prisons? That’s boring, and they probably can’t vote anyway – let’s pander to the gays, green energy crowd, and illegal immigrants!
(Obviously the hat tip for that comes from Change Maryland. Boy, this state really does need a change.)
And one has to wonder as well about the state’s other prisons. Looking at crime in Salisbury, which is a known resting stop for families who have loved ones locked away in the Eastern Correctional Institution outside Princess Anne – conveniently about as far away from the I-95 corridor as you can get in this state but not too close to Ocean City to scare away the tourists – one has to ponder to what degree this is a problem in ECI. Like Baltimore City, Somerset County is one of the state’s poorest areas so jobs, particularly for those without a great deal of education, are scarce. Granted, the fact that ECI is in a rural setting alleviates some of the issues found at the Baltimore City facility but being inside is still being inside.
But now that environment affects us outside the prison walls. That’s the problem with ineffective leadership, and it’s something which will need to be addressed in 2014 when the state next votes.
Of course, it’s not with the Democrats.
This was supposed to happen several weeks ago during session, but cooler heads prevailed and pushed the vote back to last night. All it did, though, was delay the inevitable and this time Delegate Nic Kipke won. Instead of Delegate Michael Smigiel as second-in-command, though, the new Minority Whip will be Delegate Kathy Szeliga. They replace the old leadership team of Delegates Tony O’Donnell and Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio, which had held their respective Minority Leader and Minority Whip positions since 2007 and 2011, respectively.
And like Delegate Ron George’s announcement last night, it seems like the center is striking back. With O’Donnell being fairly conservative in philosophy – at least as evidenced by his voting record – Kipke leaves a lot of room for improvement; in fact, for as much grief as I gave Delegate George for his choices, Kipke’s have been even worse every year since I started the mAP in 2007, and for many of the same reasons. Yet when I hear Mike Busch saying “Tony did a good job of providing the loyal opposition,” I wonder if the change wasn’t needed.
On that note, Kipke is pledging to work with center-right groups like Americans for Prosperity, Change Maryland, and the central committees to “coordinate the GOP’s push for support.” We won’t find out if this bears fruit, though, until next January.
At that point Nic may have to be the circus master as Delegates eyeing new districts or higher office add their political calculations to the already volatile mix of session business.
I really wish this were an April Fool’s hoax, but instead it’s yet another cruel joke played on Maryland taxpayers who will now be forced to cough up over $3 billion a year to satisfy Martin O’Malley’s lust for spending.
Just this morning the taxpayer watchdog Change Maryland came out with its newly revised summary of O’Malley’s 37 – yes, 37 – tax and fee increases enacted during his tenure. Here’s the sad list.
Needless to say, Change Maryland head Larry Hogan had some biting criticism of the recent O’Malley move:
The Governor calls it the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act that will create jobs, end road congestion and create a 21st Century Transportation Network. I call it the Highway Robbery Act of 2013 – the 36th consecutive O’Malley tax hike that takes us to $3 billion removed annually from struggling Maryland families and small businesses which will cost us even more businesses, jobs and taxpayers.
Our top elected officials went to great lengths to avoid news coverage of the overwhelmingly unpopular gas tax by scheduling key announcements, committee votes and floor action on evenings and late Friday afternoons. The Governor led wind energy activists in chanting ‘give wind a chance,’ while the vast majority of Marylanders wish he would just give taxpayers a chance instead. Our top elected officials don’t know it yet, but they are sealing the deal for a tax revolt in Maryland.
Preferably that revolt will occur at the 2014 ballot box as many members of the free-spending majority party are relegated to the ash heap of history, replaced by common-sense conservatives who will give taxpayers a break and restore the state to a more business-friendly posture to promote real growth.
But it can’t be denied that the O’Malley administration has been good for Change Maryland’s business, as they note:
Change Maryland now has almost 35,000 members and has grown by nearly 10,000 since the most recent tax-raising legislative session began less than 90 days ago.
Bear in mind it was just under a year ago they were celebrating 12,000. Perhaps in a year’s time the cake as originally frosted will be correct.
Placed in terms we all can understand, though, Martin O’Malley’s $3.1 billion of annual tax increases – and this doesn’t count other increases in federal and local spending put into place since 2007 – are costing each and every Maryland man, woman, and child, black, white, Latino, Asian, legal, illegal, or anchor baby about 10 bucks a week or $500 a year. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s one Shorebirds game a week I couldn’t buy a ticket to. For others, as a lump sum, it might be that weekend getaway to Ocean City they cherish. Still others may see it as not being able to treat themselves to Italian ice a couple times a week – the point is, somewhere along the line the state deemed it wasn’t our money anymore, it was theirs.
Certainly some would argue this is the government we duly elected, and supposedly they share the same priorities we do. But if these moves were so broadly popular, as Change Maryland points out, why were they made at the end of the work week or in late-night votes? What were they trying to hide?
Of course no one is volunteering to pay more taxes than they have to, but we’re smart enough to know that there is a certain amount we have to chip in to keep the state functional in doing that which they are charged to do. But somewhere along the line we have crossed from a government performing essential functions to one trying for cradle-to-grave control over our lives, and that to me is a bridge too far.
Today I have two items which may not seem to be necessarily related, but in my mind make perfect sense as a cause and (future) effect. Let me start with that proverbial itch in Martin O’Malley’s back that he just can’t reach to scratch, Larry Hogan and Change Maryland:
Two outcomes of the Governor’s legislative agenda is (sic) to make gasoline and electricity more expensive. We have now seen 36 consecutive tax, fee and toll increases that will remove $3.1 billion out of the pockets of struggling Marylander’s per year, with these motor fuel taxes and the additional fees required of utility customers to support offshore wind.
Instead of developing a coherent transportation policy, our top elected officials took the easy way out by adding yet more of a tax burden to a state that has faced so many in recent years. They choreographed the proposal’s original announcement, committee hearings and final votes to take place on late Fridays and in the evenings to avoid news coverage in the waning days of this legislative session. This speaks volumes about just how unpopular more taxes are, and this may push Maryland to the tipping point. Taxpayers have finally had enough.
The second piece of the puzzle comes from interim state GOP head Diana Waterman:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland’s unemployment rate has almost doubled since Martin O’Malley became Governor. The Democrats in Annapolis have slowed economic growth by raising taxes over $1,500 per family with more on the way.
Maryland’s budgets have increased nearly 25% from $28.8 billion in 2007 to $36.8 billion in 2014. The Democrats say they are focused on “jobs” but they have not done a single thing to make Maryland more friendly to job creators. That’s why 6,500 small businesses have left our state and there are 8 fewer Fortune 500 Companies located within our borders. It is time for a change in Annapolis so we can get Maryland’s economy moving again!
I’ll set aside my thought that it was Change Maryland which trumpeted the 6,500 figure for lost businesses and concentrate more squarely on a more important theory: more than most other states, Maryland is held captive by a tyranny of the majority.
There are two classes of people who, in varying degrees, are either not affected by or prosper from a larger, more all-consuming government.
One is Maryland’s poor, which tend to congregate in the Democratic stronghold of Baltimore City but can be found in small enclaves all around the state. Billions of dollars’ worth of wealth has been transferred via the state coffers from the producers to the dependent, and although this gasoline tax will affect them adversely to some degree (as may the farebox increases for mass transit), on balance the tax hikes will be to their benefit once the money is transferred over to the General Fund. If you truly believe the majority party isn’t going to participate in this plunder – even with the laughably weak “lockbox” provision included in the gas tax legislation – you probably also believe that offshore wind is cheap and abundant energy.
The second group is all those people who actually work for the government, whether federal or state. Because of them, Maryland is one of the more prosperous states in the nation and by outward appearance she has weathered the recessionary storm better than practically anyone else. But that Potemkin village of prosperity only seems to extend to the outside of the Beltway and along portions of the I-95 corridor where enough voters live that they can combine with the group of poor voters I outlined above and run the remainder of the state into the dust. If you’re living fat and happy off the federal government, it’s really not going to matter all that much if you pay a buck or two more to fill up your Volvo; moreover, chances are that in your cocoon you won’t stop and think about how this will affect all the others who have to also pay this new freight.
But there’s the rest of us out here. And even if you’re one of those thinkers who is aware enough of what’s really going on but happen to live among the groups who prosper from the misery of the rest of us, you’re forced to take it in the shorts once again.
There is a day of reckoning that is coming. No, it’s not Election Day 2014, for even if we motivated all the Republicans and thoughtful independents in Maryland to come out to the polls, and even if we can get to what my latest interviewee Bill Campbell alluded - to “control the trajectory that Maryland is going to have economically” by electing a conservative governor and comptroller – we still would have to fight this battle on the federal level with a President who seems determined to ruin this country’s economy and perhaps with a Supreme Court willing to throw aside the words of the Founding Fathers as expressed in the plain language of the Constitution for their vision of a nation which is more “fair.”
Instead, that day comes when, proverbially, Atlas makes the decision to shrug. There’s a new study from the Mercatus Center detailing freedom in the 50 states, and one conclusion they drew was:
The more a state denies people their freedoms, increases their taxes or passes laws that make it hard for businesses to hire and fire, the more likely they are to leave.
Indeed, this is true. But what happens when there’s nowhere else to go?
As a state, Maryland may be the canary in the coal mine. But in the longer-term, we as a nation have a lot of work to do just to simply get pointed in the right direction – let alone reverse course. I know it’s a generational struggle and the other side isn’t going down without a fight.
There has to be an uprising of some sort. Note well that guns do not necessarily have to be involved, for the uprising could also be spiritual in nature, or it could even take form as a restoration of the honesty and work ethic for which Americans used to be known. At one time most of us were too proud to take “relief” but now the (so-called) “independence card” is viewed as an entitlement, if not a badge of honor which has been “earned.”
Whatever the case may be, the time between now and that day is getting shorter, and things are changing at an accelerated pace. Let us use the principles many of us share and the technology we have in this era to better things just as our forefathers did almost a quarter of a millennium ago. Remember, if a rising tide lifts all boats, a falling tide means some will run into the rocks they never saw.
I almost hate to be the bearer of this bad news, but hopefully the word will spread and be a wake-up call for a state where wallets are being plundered and freedoms eroded: Change Maryland is just now out with a new listing of taxes.
I actually had a chance to check out an advance copy of this scary reading, with the Change Maryland release excerpted below:
Change Maryland released today an updated list of tax, fee and toll increases enacted under the O’Malley Administration. This latest report shows 32 increases that remove $2.3 billion out of the economy annually and includes only measures that have been enacted. As final passage of increasing motor fuel taxes and offshore wind resulting in higher utility bills appear imminent, the list is a reminder of the ever-increasing amount struggling Marylanders are being asked to pay for the big-government ambitions of politicians.
Fully sourced using Department of Legislative Services analysis, executive branch budget documents and fiscal notes from bills, the list is the only comprehensive analysis of what Marylanders are paying in levies over and above existing taxes and fees since 2007.
“This will not be a slide in the Governor’s power point presentations,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan. We’re finding yet again, it’s time to pull the curtain back on this Administration. Elected officials and bureaucrats don’t want their tax, fee and toll increases to be public and understandable, so we did it for them in the interest of promoting fiscal responsibility and transparency.”
The group went on to detail a year-by-year, blow-by-blow rendering of all the additional taxes and fees we are subjected to, and added:
The General Assembly’s presiding officers and the Governor are making a unified push in 2013 to raise motor fuel taxes and to pay for offshore wind by increasing utility bills to customers. Change Maryland will footnote those proposals as they work through the legislative process and add those in another list to be released separately. The grassroots organization periodically updates this list based on newly-discovered measures often buried in legislation and counts separate revenue-raising components individually when they are rolled into omnibus legislation.
“It’s hard to believe but they’re not even done yet,” said Hogan.”The Governor and his enablers in the legislature are asking for even more tax increases in the next few weeks, This may very well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. One-party monopoly rule is just too expensive. We need balance and a healthy and competitive two party system. The taxpayers of Maryland have had enough.”
Bear in mind that the state’s budget has surged by nearly a third since Martin O’Malley took over in 2007; although he likes to speak about phantom “cuts” made in the state’s spending docket, the fact is that we spend more dollars now in 2013 than we did in 2007 when Governor O’Malley took over. The increases outstrip the state’s population growth and the rate of inflation.
Moreover, several conversations and speakers I’ve heard over the past few days allude to the fact that a significant portion (up to 40 percent) of Maryland’s budget comes from the federal government. The gentleman I spoke to for Ten Question Tuesday, in particular, has some eye-opening assessments of Maryland’s economy on tap – it may be a considerable struggle for the state to maintain its breakneck spending pace; meanwhile, Free State residents are staring down the barrel of tax and fee increases #33, #34, #35, and perhaps #36 as explained below in previous recent Change Maryland releases, beginning with Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan on offshore wind:
With a proposed motor fuel tax increase this year and several years of raising taxes on everything else, now is not the time to experiment on unproven energy sources with other people’s money. Once again, the priorities of our top elected officials are not aligned with regular, working people who overwhelmingly reject any further tax increases.
This offshore wind scheme requires a tax to make it possible. The private sector does not get to tax people to experiment with projects and with very few exceptions neither should government. This will be a huge waste – assuming anything gets built at all. Governor O’Malley has been focused on increasing the cost of electricity and gasoline for struggling Maryland families and small businesses. He has now accomplished half his goal, and is working hard to increase the cost of gas in Maryland to the highest in the region.
That’s increase number 33. But as Larry alluded to, the gasoline tax passed in the House of Delegates last week:
A proposal as unpopular as this one must be hidden from public view and carefully timed to avoid news cycles. In fact, this proposal is so unpopular that the Governor announced it in the evening, the first hearings were held on a Friday afternoon the same day as the death penalty vote, House passage is on a Friday afternoon, and final votes are taking place in the closing weeks of this legislative session.
Just as unpopular is Governor O’Malley’s record of raising taxes and fees. There are currently 32 enacted measures that remove $2.3 billion out of the economy annually. Marylanders are now faced with the prospect of paying another $800 million on top of the $2.3 billion a year we’re already paying in new taxes if this passes the Senate without substantive changes from the Governor’s proposal.
Hogan also bashed the gas tax for its effect on rural areas.
Committee leaders provided yet another platform for the big county executives, who time and again have pleaded for more revenues that help their urban areas. Missing from this were elected officials from rural parts of the state. Instead, we heard the tired argument that we need more transportation money to attract the FBI headquarters to Prince George’s County. Here we go again – relying on the federal government instead of putting in place policies that attract Fortune 500 companies and small businesses back to our state. Moreover, nobody at the FBI is conditioning the move on Maryland increasing gasoline taxes, and this argument is simply pathetic.
I know Larry lives somewhere on the Western Shore, but I’m glad to see he’s alert to the War on Rural Maryland those of us who choose to live out here have to deal with.
And, if you’re keeping score (I’m sure they are) the gasoline tax increase counts as three increases: not only will the gasoline tax increase, but there will be farebox increases for those who use mass transit and a $3.50 increase in vehicle registration fees. So there you have increases 34 through 36.
It would be one thing if Maryland spent its money wisely, but we really don’t. I was going to write that an interesting case study would be one figuring out what state spends the most per capita, but I found out to my pleasure someone beat me to it. It’s data three years old, but as you can see Maryland was higher than the norm then and it’s doubtful we’re closer now. Just bringing spending down to the nationwide per-person average would save Maryland taxpayers about $4 billion annually – wiping out the extent of O’Malley’s tax increases each year and, even better, allowing its citizens to direct economic growth to where the market leads it rather than have it foisted upon us.
Perhaps with a new Republican team at the top in Annapolis come 2015, we can rebuild the state’s economy to one not so dependent on the largess of Uncle Sam. When the federal bubble bursts, we don’t want to be the ones who have to clean up the mess.
I thought wind was free. So why will electric bills go up $1.50 or more a month to provide us with wind power?
That seems to be the direction Maryland is going after the Senate approved its version of offshore wind on a 30-15 vote, with Republicans providing most of the sanity. The same was true in the House, but this hot air and rhetoric still passed there 86-48. And as I read the proposed law, the $1.50 monthly limit only applies through June 30, 2016. It’s covered in Section 3, and as Section 10 states:
AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That Section 3 of this Act shall take effect June 1, 2013. It shall remain effective for a period of 3 years and 1 month and, at the end of June 30, 2016, with no further action required by the General Assembly, Section 3 of this Act shall be abrogated and of no force and effect.
A pricing schedule can always be changed, but the portfolio requirement that 2.5% of Maryland’s electricity be created by offshore wind isn’t part of that restriction. If history is any guide, the percentage will be increased in order to try and coerce the market into building this offshore boondoggle 10 to 30 miles off Ocean City.
In his usual “bull in a china shop” fashion, Delegate Pat McDonough blasted O’Malley’s scheme and made a little wager:
I know this story may be hard to believe, but the Governor wants to construct 40 wind turbines that are 80 stories high (think: Baltimore’s tallest building) and 20 miles out in the ocean. This has never been done before. The cost of this green pork scheme is currently calculated to be $2 billion. I believe that estimate is very shallow compared to the eventual real costs. Of course, the usual ATM machines, meaning the people of Maryland, will be mandated to pay for these monstrosities through another new surcharge. The surcharge will be about $2 per month for consumers and unlimited for the business community. I will purchase a free crab cake for every rate payer in the State if this project costs $2 billion or less.
Someone else can have my crab cake as I don’t care much for them – not that I expect dinner on McDonough anytime soon. A more reasoned criticism was delivered by experienced O’Malley needler Larry Hogan of Change Maryland:
It seems Martin O’Malley’s priority is to make electricity and motor fuels more expensive. He wants an increase in the gasoline tax while simultaneously pushing a wind energy policy that is not cost effective and guarantees that electricity will be more expensive for rate payers. The timing couldn’t be worse.
There are no assurances that this offshore wind proposal will not devolve into crony capitalism that reward friends of the governor and political donors.
While there may be political support for offshore wind among narrow special interest groups, 96% of Marylanders are opposed to higher taxes. And make no mistake, the Governor’s offshore wind proposal is simply a tax by another name.
This governor has raised taxes and fees 24 times, taking $2.4 billion out of the economy each year. That is likely soon to be at least 25 with top-elected officials including the Governor rigidly adhering to increasing the motor fuel tax and adding charges to consumers’ electric bills.
Actually, Larry, O’Malley’s priority seems to be that of making life itself more expensive.
It just boggles my mind that we have a governor who “can’t imagine” using proven resources and technology to drill for oil offshore or explore for natural gas under the hills of western Maryland yet wants to go into an area with limited experience and a lack of reliability. You know those howling winds we’ve had the last few days with our most recent winter storm some thought was a “second Sandy“? Wind turbines don’t work in those conditions, nor do they have a history of reliability. Who pays if one of these 400-foot behemoths tumbles over in the middle of a hurricane?
If a private investor thinks it’s a grand idea to put up a wind farm and capture the free energy thought to be blowing around out there over Davy Jones’ locker, I say knock yourself out. Just don’t make the rest of us pay for it.
If it were such a great idea, one would think they wouldn’t need the coercing force of law to make it so. Bluewater Wind failed to make it, and that should be the clue our illustrious governor buys.
You know, it seems like every time I see a release from Change Maryland they remind us exactly how many tax increases Martin O’Malley has inflicted on the state – the total is now 24, going on 25. Something tells me that they could probably provide the exact dollar amount raised by all these tax hikes and how far short of projections they came out to be – after all, if enough dollars were raised by tax hikes 1 through 24 we wouldn’t be discussing number 25, would we?
Anyway, here’s what Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan had to say about the latest drop in this Chinese water torture we commonly refer to as the tenure of one Governor Martin O’Malley:
The Governor complains that Maryland has crumbling roads and bridges and the worst traffic congestion in the country, but what he doesn’t tell you is that it’s his fault. There has been no comprehensive transportation strategy from the O’Malley administration. Over a billion dollars has been diverted from the Transportation Trust Fund, and the vast majority of the billions of dollars that has been spent on transportation have been wasted on expenses that are completely unrelated to fixing our road problems. Now he wants struggling Maryland families to pay for his mistakes and his lack of leadership.
Over the last 4 years, Governor O’Malley has spent over $1 billion in dedicated transportation funds for things completely unrelated to transportation – even the money left in the transportation budget was also spent in the wrong place. In his 2014 budget, O’Malley proposes to spend $1.1 billion – a whopping 46% of our state capital and operating transportation budget – on public transportation, even though only 8% of us use public transportation to commute.
What we need is a coherent transportation policy that makes roads a priority and realigns spending based on how Marylanders actually travel. We also need the Governor to restore all of the money he has diverted from the Transportation Trust Fund and immediately appoint a competent Secretary of Transportation. The last thing in the world Maryland needs is another tax increase.
Actually, I have to disagree with Larry on one point: there is a comprehensive transportation strategy going on with Martin O’Malley. It’s just not the one most people would consider.
Remember what happened when gas prices went up to $4 a gallon the first time, in 2008? People parked their cars and decided it was cheaper to use mass transit. While O’Malley can’t directly influence the price of oil because Maryland isn’t that large a piece of the overall energy market, he can work on the the perceived problem of traffic congestion in two ways: try to steer development to urban areas – as I’ll expound further on momentarily – and raise gas prices through taxation, not to fix the highways but to increase the footprint for and subsidy of mass transit. After all, the logical method of addressing problems in the traffic flow through adding capacity is so twentieth century, even though it works.
Several years ago the state assisted in the development of what was called a “Central Maryland TOD Strategy,” with TOD being the acronym for transit-oriented development. One of its strategies for encouraging this sort of “sustainable” development was the following:
The uncertainty and slow pace of financing for transit upgrades hampers the market for TOD. Regional transit financing tools, such as the FasTracks program in Denver, can accelerate the implementation of transit and TOD and build market momentum. These initiatives often face substantial political barriers, so a coordinated and effective regional outreach and messaging campaign is essential.
Guess what’s in the O’Malley gas tax proposal? A study on creating regional transit financing. Granted, the idea has some appeal because it would more than likely serve as a sort of user fee and hammer just those who live in the area served, but once that genie is out of the bottle it’s not going to be forced back in and we will see all sorts of new taxing districts, both inter- and intra-county. Imagine a higher flush tax for the septic-rich Eastern Shore, for example – in Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton is proposing something along this line to come up with the city’s supposed nine-figure share of enacting the EPA’s Watershed Implementation Plan.
I’ve gone a little far afield in discussing this release, but one other goal mentioned in the Central Maryland TOD report was construction of the Red Line in Baltimore, and indeed that’s one of the prospective uses for the money raised by the gas tax, which, by the way, will automatically increase each year at the rate of inflation. No more messy votes for people like me to scour and make known.
That lack of accountability out of Annapolis is something else which happens with depressing regularity. How about making some changes to Maryland in 2014?
On Monday night the Wicomico County Republican Club held its monthly meeting with gubernatorial candidate Blaine Young as the guest. Young spoke for about a half-hour on a number of topics, mainly relating to events in Frederick and surrounding Frederick County, a place where rapid growth over the last several years has come from those he jokingly described as “refugees from Montgomery County.”
Blaine outlined his position as President of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, although that position will soon be abolished as Frederick County will join a number of other Maryland counties which have adopted a County Executive form of government. In fact, just like Wicomico County, Frederick will have a similarly-comprised seven-member County Council as well beginning in 2014.
In speaking to those gathered, though, Young made it clear his biggest influence after completing a brief previous political career as an alderman in the city of Frederick was that of becoming a small business owner. “It woke me up and opened my eyes,” he said. Blaine is also a radio host, a daily enterprise he claimed the local papers and liberals hate. But his overall stable of business support between 120 and 140 people, stated Young.
But Blaine made the case that he took the appointment to the Commission in 2010 and subsequently decided to run for a full term because his predecessors “liked to spend money.” Instead, the slate he led into office is “a very property-rights oriented commission” which “started slashing away” at a $48 million deficit and turned it into a $29 million surplus. They did so by cooperating with the local Chamber of Commerce to adopt over 200 of their suggestions, eliminating taxes and rescinding “frivolous” fees. The number of county employees had also declined by 400 during his tenure, Young added.
(continued at the Watchdog Wire…)
As I often do, here’s a collection of little items which grow to become one BIG item. And I have a LOT of them – so read fast.
For example, I learned the other day that Richard Rothschild, who spoke so passionately about private property rights (and the Constitution in general) will be back in our area Saturday, March 2nd as the speaker for Dorchester County’s Lincoln Day Dinner. That’s being held at the Elks Lodge outside Cambridge beginning at 3 p.m. Tickets, which are just $30, are available through the county party.
While Rothschild is the featured speaker, you shouldn’t miss some of the others scheduled to grace the podium, particularly gubernatorial candidates Charles Lollar and Blaine Young as well as Congressman Andy Harris. For a small county like Dorchester, that’s quite a lineup!
The controversy over the Septic Bill is far from the only item liberty-minded Marylanders have to worry about. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been bombarded with notices over a number of issues.
For example, after what State Senator E.J. Pipkin termed as a “structural failure” regarding hearing testimony on Senate Bill 281 (the gun-grabber bill) he offered an amendment to the Senate rules to handle these cases. However, I could not find a follow-up to that bill.
What I could find, though, was Pipkin’s statement that the state was making citizens into criminals, stating “The penalties embedded within the Governor’s Gun Control bill are extreme; they would criminalize paperwork errors in ways that destroy careers, lives, and families.” And he’s absolutely correct.
“This bill does not address the issue of gun violence in Maryland. The real issue is illegal firearms in Maryland, something the Governor’s bill does not target,” Pipkin concluded.
But guns aren’t the only problem. Unfortunately, we are one step closer to an offshore wind boondoggle in Maryland despite the best efforts of those who deal in the realm of reality to stop it. One bastion of sanity in Maryland is Change Maryland, whose Chair Larry Hogan expressed the following regarding offshore wind:
It seems Martin O’Malley’s priority is to make electricity and gas more expensive. He is pushing an increase in the gas tax and pushing a wind energy policy that is not cost effective and guarantees that electricity will be more expensive for rate payers.
At the close of the last session, the governor ignored the budgeting process which resulted in a train wreck. Instead he was out on the steps of the capital, leading wind energy activists in chant that said ‘all we re saying is give wind a chance.’
There are no assurances that this offshore wind proposal will not devolve into crony-capitalism that reward friends of the governor and political donors.
Actually, Hogan slightly misses the point because true capitalism would occur when the market continues to shun the expense and non-reliability of offshore wind. I guarantee that if this project goes through it will cost those of us who use electricity in Maryland a LOT more than $1.50 a month – subsidies can always change, just like tax rates on casinos.
The aforementioned Pipkin also weighed in on offshore wind:
This legislation may represent a shift in how private business is done in and regulated by the state.
This bill requires the Public Service Commission (PSC) to weigh new criteria in approving private development contracts to build off-shore wind turbines. The Commission will now consider prevailing wage and Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) participation as criteria in its contract award.
This could set new precedent. In the future, we could see every business now regulated by a state agency subject to prevailing wage and MBE requirements.
You think? Our Big Labor-friendly governor stops at nothing – nothing – to grease the skids for his union cronies. And surely this will extend to whatever road work is performed once the gas tax is increased by O’Malley and General Assembly Democrats. Wait, did I say road work? Hogan and Change Maryland question that assumption, too:
Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan backed transportation reform which has emerged as a key issue this legislative session after several years of being relegated to the back burner. Specifically, key members of the Maryland House of Delegates are advocating guiding principles to ensure much-needed investments are made in infrastructure and fundamental reforms made to transportation policy.
“Previous attempts to improve our transportation network in Maryland have been an abject failure. Our top elected officials are saying roads and bridges are crumbling, but what they won’t tell you is they are the ones who caused the problem in the first place,” said Hogan. ”Another myth that is being foisted upon us is that there is an urgent need to raise the gasoline tax, and that is simply not true.”
Hogan joins Del. Susan Krebs and other House members in instilling common-sense policy solutions to making transportation policy. These include protecting the transportation trust fund with a constitutional amendment, realigning infrastructure investments to reflect how Marylanders actually travel and restoring funds for transportation. (Emphasis mine.)
I highlighted the above phrase as a way to say, “bingo!” That, folks, is the problem in a nutshell.
This is a state which jacked up the tolls on the Bay Bridge to create a cash cow for other projects which don’t pay their own way, like the Inter-County Connector outside Washington. O’Malley’s gas tax is really intended to build rail lines most of us will never ride rather than build projects we could use, like perhaps a limited-access Easton bypass for U.S. 50, widening Maryland Route 90 into Ocean City, or building an interchange at the dangerous U.S. 113 – Maryland Route 12 intersection in Worcester County.
The gas tax proposal has led to acrimony in Annapolis, as Delegate Kathy Szeliga points out:
(Senate President Mike) Miller called House Republicans who oppose his gas tax proposal, “Neanderthals,” and “obstructionists.” In response to his comments, Delegate Szeliga tweeted, “Yabba-dabba-do, Mr. Miller,” further commenting that she hopes to obstruct and stop this massive 70% increase in the gas tax and government expansion. In response to Senator Miller’s jabs at Republicans, Delegate Herb McMillan added, “Even a caveman can see that it’s stupid to raise gas taxes when there’s no guarantee they’ll be used for roads.”
Kidding aside, you can call me a “total obstructionist” as well, Senator Miller. On the road to serfdom someone has to stand in the way, and I’m one of those someones.
Notice that I haven’t even talked about the federal government yet. One sure sign of a new year, though, is the ubiquitous Congressional scorecard. Two organizations which have released theirs recently are Americans for Prosperity and Heritage Action for America.
Not surprisingly, Harris scored a 95% grade from AFP, leading the Maryland delegation – former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett had the second highest grade at 91%. As for the rest, well, their COMBINED score was 50 percent. Heritage Action, however, graded Andy more harshly with an 81% grade (Bartlett scored 67%.) Once again, the remainder of Maryland’s delegation scored anywhere from a lackluster 17% to a pathetic 4 percent.
We’re also talking about immigration reform more these days. I happen to lean somewhat on the hawkish side, so I believe these reports from the Center for Immigration Studies are worth discussing. In one, former Congressman Virgil Goode of Virginia looks at what happened the last time we went down this road insofar as collecting back taxes from illegal aliens – a key part of the compromise provision – was handled after the 1986 reform.
The second CIS report looks at recommendations the bipartisan Jordan Commission made in 1997, after the 1986 immigration amnesty program failed. This middle ground made five recommendations:
- Integrate the immigrants now in the United States more thoroughly;
- Reduce the total number of legal immigrants to about 550,000 a year;
- Rationalize the nonimmigrant visa programs and regulate them;
- Enforce the immigration law vigorously with no further amnesties; and
- Re-organize the management of the immigration processes within the government.
That seems like a pretty good starting point to work from, particularly the first recommendation.
Another study worth reading is this one from Competitive Enterprise Institute called “The Wages of Sin Taxes.” In it, author Chris Snowden takes an unflinching look at who really pays for these tolls. As CEI states in their summary:
Most remarkably, Snowdon, a fellow at the Adam Smith Institute in London, demonstrates that financial burden supposedly placed on society through the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, high-calorie foods, has little basis in reality. The myth that these “sinners” cost the rest of us money is perpetuated in large part because “government has no incentive to tell the public that these groups are being exploited, and the affected industries dare not advertise the savings that come from lives being cut short by excessive use of their products.” This type of tax is actually a regressive “stealth tax” that allows lawmakers to take money from their constituents with the lowest incomes without the pushback an upfront tax would provoke.
I would put that in the category of “duh.” Ask yourself: how much state-sanctioned money and effort do you see given by government to prevent drinking, smoking, and gambling? Yet they rake their cut off the top in each of these three vices, which are only legal because government and society have compromised on these issues.
On the other hand, those who grow or smoke marijuana or do other illegal drugs are considered criminals and tossed in jail or fined. The same is true with prostitutes in most locales. If there were tax money to be made, though, and societal mores shifted ever-so-slightly toward a more libertarian viewpoint with regards to these self-inflicted actions, they would be legal – but you’d certainly still see the public service announcements about “just say no” or the dangers of selling one’s body. (Oddly enough, I doubt we buy time around the world to warn about the dangers of illegally immigrating to the United States. Why do you think that is?)
And I don’t think items like this upcoming movie will help the libertarian cause – not because of the message per se, but the poor quality of the animation. It reminds me of those cheesy Xtranormal movies people make, sorry to say.
I also have a couple items – as I get closer to wrapping this up – that I think are worth reading. Paul Jacobs is on Townhall giving our state a little tough love regarding the drive to tighten petition rules (in a state where it’s already very difficult to succeed) while Mike Shedlock is there making a point I’ve made for several years – my daughter’s generation is being hosed.
While he’s a little bit older than the Millennial Generation, I think Dan Bongino can relate. This video is now going viral on Youtube, in part thanks to the Blaze.
Finally, I think it’s worth alerting my readers that this may be the last edition of odds and ends for awhile. No, I’m not going anywhere but in the interest of bringing more readership I’m in the process of exploring the concept of a quicker posting tempo which may or may not feature shorter posts.
I’ve always felt the ideal post was somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words, but these odds and ends posts can run 2,000 words or more. Maybe it’s better for both readers and this writer to space things out and perhaps devote 200-300 words to an item rather than wait and collect a bunch of items which could get stale after a week or two. I can’t always control the length of my Ten Question Tuesday posts or ones where I report on an event, but I can work with items like these and see what’s truly worth writing about.
As the political world and internet evolve, I think the time is right to change up the mix and tempo here just a little bit. Certainly I won’t get to a point where I’m simply rehashing press releases but I think it’s a better use of my time to shorten the average post I write.
So there you have it: another post which weighs in at 2,000 words, exactly.