Yesterday the latest Maryland Poll from Gonzales Research came out (h/t Maryland Reporter), and it suggests that we have a long way to go in educating the voters of this state about the real facts at hand. But there are a few encouraging signs, I suppose.
In the nine months since a similar sampling in January, we can now determine that Barack Obama’s job approval has gone down six points in the topline, from 64% to 58%. But the difference between “strongly approve” and “strongly disapprove” has plummeted in that span: it was +19.4 in January but is now just +6.7. A 13-point swing in that demographic suggests the national economic situation of an ongoing sluggish “recovery” is taking its toll.
By the same token, the 54% job approval Martin O’Malley enjoyed in January was a mirage, too. O’Malley now finds himself in a statistical dead heat, with 48% approval and disapproval in the October poll. But that difference between “strongly approve’ and “strongly disapprove” has once again moved more than the six-point decline on the topline, going from a +0.2 in January to a (-15.1) now. That’s an even more pronounced 15-point swing not shown by a 6 point drop in the headlines. Tellingly, nearly 3 of 10 Democrats now disapprove of O’Malley.
But that doesn’t seem to reflect on Anthony Brown, who leads the first non-campaign poll by a fairly similar margin to the Garin-Hart-Yang poll released by Brown’s campaign last month. The Maryland Poll has Anthony Brown/Ken Ulman at 41%, Doug Gansler/Jolene Ivey at 21%, and Heather Mizeur at 5%. (Maybe she can have Wayne Gilchrest as a running mate. As an aside, Mizeur also got the endorsement of Salisbury City Council member Laura Mitchell.)
Unfortunately, the numbers trend the wrong way on some key issues. While 49% of Marylanders polled favored the death penalty and 44% opposed it in January, those numbers are now reversed in that 49% favor the law rescinding it and 44% said no. Then again, its support was rather soft all along because it had a strong approve/strong disapprove ratio of (-3.2) in January while the repeal now has a +5.5 ratio. In part, this is probably because of the state’s reluctance to use the death penalty and the over-sensationalized Kirk Bloodsworth case. However, I would wager that if you put a name and a victim to a case (e.g. Thomas Leggs and Sarah Foxwell) the support for rescinding the death penalty repeal declines drastically. (In that case, Leggs pled guilty to avoid the death penalty, while the family agreed because of the probability of endless appeals.)
Meanwhile, those who responded to the poll must have believed the onerous gun laws passed by Martin O’Malley and Democrats would actually curb crime. When asked in January, support for an assault weapons ban in the immediate wake of Sandy Hook was 58-40 (with a +17.5 intensity of strongly support/strongly oppose), while background checks passed muster by an 88-11 figure overall. But the gun law as passed maintained its 58-40 support (with only a slightly lower +16.7 intensity.) That, my friends, is a sadly bamboozled and gullible public.
Yet when it comes to the pocketbook, people get it. When asked whether a 10 cent per gallon gasoline tax was acceptable in January, just 26% favored in with 73% opposed. The intensity of opposition was just as stiff, with a factor of (-50.8) strong approve/strong disapprove.
So now that the reality of a 21 cent per gallon increase spread out over three years has smacked Free Staters in the pocketbook, they hate it even more. 22 percent approve of the tax hike, while 76 percent oppose it. Intensity remains as strong, at a factor of (-50.7). Most telling to me is that the Democrats don’t tout it as a success.
Knowing that, where do we go from here? It appears to me that the emotional appeals of Democrats have worked on the above non-fiscal issues because those polled are probably not affected – the chances are small that someone knows a person who’s been heinously murdered by someone who would receive the death penalty, and for those who do too many are blaming the tool used for the victim’s demise.
I can sit and stare at a gun with a 30-round magazine all day, but as long as I don’t pick up the weapon and make the physical motion to fire it, the gun is inert and harmless. Thousands of Marylanders have access to a gun, most have never fired it outside the confines of a closed gun range. Those who use the tool of a handgun otherwise are more often than not breaking enough laws already that the so-called Firearm Safety Act of 2013 won’t prevent them from carrying out their mayhem. However, another person with a weapon just might.
Someone out there probably collects the rare news stories of crimes prevented by the presence of a gun, but the narrative of “if it bleeds, it leads” plays into the hands of those who would usurp our Second Amendment rights. Yet if the hapless victim of random violence had his or her own weapon, things may have played out differently. Instead, the state is placing a burden on those who simply wish to defend themselves, and I thought government was supposed to be about empowerment. That’s what liberals tell me, anyway.
Liberals like Anthony Brown, Doug Gansler, and Heather Mizeur.
And by the way, where is the Republican poll? I think the Gonzales pollsters have fallen into the same “one-party state” trap Doug Gansler did. I’d like to see something more scientific than a blog poll on that race.
Since I didn’t get a GO Friday feature this week, I added my own two cents as I told you I would. This place doesn’t go dark.
But if you want to be considered for GO Friday next week, just let me know.
Gasoline. It’s something all of us need, and if you’re reading this in Maryland last month you began paying roughly 3.5 cents more per gallon at each fillup thanks to the state expanding the sales tax to gasoline as part of a multi-year process for full adoption of our 6% sales tax to that product.
While that bad news applies to Maryland consumers, all of us may soon be seeing less bang for the buck if the EPA gets its way. They’re edging us closer and closer to widespread usage of E15 fuel, which may be a necessary method to comply with short-sighted federal law. The problem: a “blend wall” where the amount of ethanol mandated for use runs up to the limits created by actual consumption, which is down significantly from that which was predicted when the regulations were written several years ago when the economy was humming along.
Many longtime followers of my site know I use the American Petroleum Institute as a go-to resource when it comes to energy issues. Yes, they are an advocacy group but they advocate the tried-and-true solutions for our energy problems, advocating for the least-costly alternative of petroleum which, as a beneficial byproduct, is a great job creator to boot. So while the EPA believes it’s “flexible” on renewable fuel standards enacted as part of a 2005 law, API believes they’re quite inflexible. The only real change was in the category of cellulosic biofuels, which saw its mandate cut by more than half – quite handy when there’s only a negligible amount currently in production. (API has a handy guide to the pitfalls of the RFS here.)
Meanwhile ethanol apologists – like the group which lobbied for E15 in the first place – claim their product will create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign oil without making an impact on grocery prices, Yet their solution is more government mandates and subsidies. I find it quite telling that this group formed mere days after the election of Barack Obama, who was probably – and correctly – thought of as a person who would shower even more government largess onto the ethanol industry in his quest to wipe out the coal and oil industries.
Yet Congress can act, just as it did in making the mandates in the first place nearly a decade ago – a lifetime in the oil industry, given the boom in oil exploration and fracking over the last five years. So what would happen if the ethanol mandates were scrapped?
Obviously you would have a number of winners and losers. All those who invested in ethanol plants figuring that the government subsidies and mandates would have profit rolling their way – well, they would have the biggest “L” stamped on their forehead. Farmers may take a temporary hit as corn prices drop, but they would eventually stabilize; moreover, farmers who shunned soybeans or wheat for corn to be turned into fuel could go back to those other staple items.
Consumers would win in a number of ways. First of all, they’d get better quality gasoline that’s less expensive, which would both increase their mileage per gallon and amount of money remaining in their wallets. Secondly, the lowering of corn prices would benefit them at the grocery store, and not just in corn-based products because feed for poultry and livestock would be cheaper. And lastly, their small equipment would last longer because ethanol is poisonous to many small gasoline-powered motors.
And while the intention of these mandates was to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, new advances in exploration and extraction have placed the goal of North American energy self-sufficiency within reach. Nor is it necessarily in the form of gasoline, as companies with large automotive fleets are moving toward using natural gas as a motor fuel, building their own infrastructure along the way. (Yes, this can be done without a massive taxpayer subsidy or regulation.)
It just makes more sense to me to not grow our fuel, but our food. When you think of corn, you don’t think of a gas tank but instead think about that tasty ear cooked to perfection with some butter and pepper on it. Let’s get back to using corn for what the Good Lord meant it for, eating.
Yesterday Maryland wallets got a little bit lighter as travelers over most of Maryland’s tollways had to dig a little deeper into their wallets, and those motorists unfortunate enough to need to fill up their gas tanks chipped in another forty cents or so to the state’s coffers. (My travels take me to Delaware today – guess where I’ll fill up?) And those with property in nine of Maryland’s counties? They just saw a significant property tax increase. (The exceptions are the fourteen rural counties not yet covered by the state’s new “impervious surface fee” derisively known as the “rain tax” and those property owners in Frederick County who will pay exactly one penny per piece of property.)
Needless to say, a number of state Republicans weighed in on the topic:
State GOP Chair Diana Waterman: ”This irresponsible taxation and the reckless spending it supports offers an opportunity for those of us who believe in good government. As Republicans, we are in a great position to remind our fellow Maryland residents why 2014 must be the year we send a loud message to the Democrats that it’s time to put people first.”
Maryland Young Republican Chair Brian Griffiths: “These taxes will hurt all Marylanders and huge sections of our economy as businesses are forced to raise prices to cover the costs of these new taxes, the costs of which will invariably be passed on to the consumers. At the end of the day, just these three tax increases will likely cost each Marylander over $1,000 a year that could be better spent to stimulate our economy and create job growth.”
Several other state Republican leaders were quoted on the Maryland Politics blog, part of the Baltimore Sun. Writer Michael Dresser quoted the group as calling this a “virtual downpour” of tax increases.
Candidates for Governor weren’t missing the opportunity, either.
David Craig: ”(W)e are witnessing yet another example of how the one-party monopoly in Annapolis is working for itself and not for you. With the increase in tolls and the first of multiple increases in the gas tax, Maryland families are being forced to give more of their hard earned dollars to a failing and ineffective government.”
Craig also put together a brief video with a similar message. (Shouldn’t it have an authority line, though?)
On the rain tax, David added, “Stormwater-related costs necessary to comply with EPA mandates are projected to cost county taxpayers a staggering $6.3 billion through 2025. If you wanted to open a business with a parking lot, would you want to come to Maryland and figure out this new tax?”
Ron George: “O’Malley/Brown now are stealing from your summer vacation funds. Since they robbed and misspent what was needed for transportation, they are now grabbing your money through tolls, rain and gas. As you look at the bay bridge behind me, it is an example of what is happening around Maryland. More and more people on the Eastern Shore, which has lost manufacturing jobs, have to drive to Washington and Virginia for a job, if they have a job. Less and less people on the Western shore will drive to doctors and businesses on the Eastern Shore.”
“This is not how you build an economy.”
Charles Lollar: ”To think that just a few weeks ago, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown stated that Maryland had a ‘great session’ makes me wonder what great accomplishment they had. Was it the Rain Tax that punishes citizens when it rains because of how much ‘impervious surface’ they have on their property? Was it the fee increase for tolls up to $6? Or was it the gas tax increase that pretty much goes up year after year?”
Even though he’s not a candidate, it’s no surprise that Change Maryland had some reaction as well.
Larry Hogan: “Your family trip to the beach just got a lot more expensive. Today, the second round of O’Malley toll increases took effect and the gas tax increase kicked in at the same time. While you are sitting in traffic at the Bay Bridge for the 4th of July weekend you can thank Governor O’Malley and the monopoly in Annapolis for the 140% increase in tolls, and for giving us the most expensive gas in the region.”
“Governor O’Malley says he’s ‘Moving Maryland Forward’. But if that’s moving Maryland forward, I say maybe next year, we’ll just have to take Maryland back!”
Needless to say, our governor didn’t look at it this way, placing a splashy graphic on his Facebook page:
These, of course, are numbers coming from the same guy who has “cut” billions in state spending yet whose budget has increased by 30% since taking office in 2007. At 9,500 jobs a year, he’s barely making a dent in Maryland’s chronic unemployment, nor is he accounting for the potential of job losses in various industries dependent on people having extra money, such as tourism. Just as a real-world example, it would take just over 22 years for O’Malley to get to full employment gaining 9,500 jobs a year (based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment estimate of 210,800 unemployed Maryland workers in May.) Obviously that doesn’t account for population growth, either.
But what slays me is the concept of building a “21st century transportation network” using the 19th century technology of the railroad. Granted, rail transport has its place in commerce and trade, but as currently practiced it is woefully inefficient for the needs of most commuters. (If it weren’t inefficient on an overall scale, why are such a small percentage of Maryland workers using it?) I think my concept of an improved transportation network – which could also include a widening of I-70 beyond Frederick, to avoid the usual bottleneck of merging I-270 traffic and allow smoother flow westward – is far more practical than the O’Malley/Brown vision.
The idea of a good transportation network is to get people and goods to where they need to go, not pretend that a light rail boondoggle which will cost billions is the panacea. I don’t think people would mind the additional transportation taxes and tolls as much if they were confident the money would be used to repair and improve our highways and bridges – instead, most of it seems to be earmarked for two rail lines and one toll road few will use.
Similarly, we all want a cleaner Chesapeake Bay, but the idea of a mandate from on high which affects some more than others and is to be used for a concept where fruition is a constantly-shifting set of goalposts (because it’s in the best interest for those who created the benchmarks to continue as a political entity if the problem is never solved) simply seems unfair to those saddled with paying this fee on top of their remaining tax burden.
That’s why we’re angry. But Democrats are wagering that all this will be forgotten in 17 months’ time, particularly as some of these transportation projects reach the groundbreaking stage, with its requisite photo-op.
But consider the relative lightness of your wallet when you see your local Democrat gladhanding at this photo-op. If we simply used proper prioritization for transportation funding, we wouldn’t have needed to raise the gas tax every year from here to eternity.
That’s the common sense woefully missing from state government.
If it’s not bad enough that Maryland drivers will be suffering from the first of what now promises to be annual hikes in the state’s gasoline tax, due to a combination of adding gasoline to the palette of items subject to the state’s sales tax and eventual indexing of the existing gasoline tax to inflation, a pending federal bill may allow the addition of natural gas-based ethanol as an allowed blending agent, joining the corn-based ethanol that’s currently allowed to comprise up to 10% of most available gasoline.
H.R. 1959, the Domestic Alternative Fuels Act of 2013, was introduced as an effort to provide other options for attaining the renewable fuel standard already codified into law. But a coalition of groups, led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, recently wrote a letter to Congress urging the bill be defeated, citing the idea that renewable fuel standards should be scrapped, not enhanced:
The undersigned organizations urge you to oppose H.R. 1959, the Domestic Alternative Fuels Act of 2013. The bill would allow ethanol derived from natural gas to count toward the mandatory blending targets established by the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and the EPA’s implementing regulations.
We commend Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) and his co-sponsors for seeking to break the corn lobby’s legal monopoly on a significant and growing share of the U.S. motor fuel market. However, the solution is not to make the RFS more inclusive, so that more special interests profit at consumer expense, but to dismantle the program.
The other eleven groups signing with CEI represent a broad spectrum of conservative and free market entities: 60 Plus, American Commitment, Americans for Prosperity, American Energy Alliance, Club for Growth, Commonwealth Foundation, Freedom Action, FreedomWorks, Frontiers of Freedom, Let Freedom Ring, and the National Taxpayers Union.
On balance, the groups are correct in wishing the ethanol mandate be eliminated. Even with the abundant supplies of natural gas which weren’t in play just a few short years ago when the original RFS was cast in place, there is no need to supplement the fuel we use in our vehicles; in fact, eliminating the mandate would probably make those who own watercraft or items with small gasoline engines ecstatic since they’ll no longer have to search for ethanol-free fuel to maintain their equipment.
The EPA’s push toward allowing E15 fuel stems from the increasing amount of ethanol required to satisfy these artificially-induced mandates for usage running into a “blend wall” where it becomes physically impossible to limit the amount of ethanol in a gallon of fuel to just 10 percent and comply with the law. Writers of the RFS miscalculated the future demand for fuel, which is increasing more slowly than predicted due to a number of factors: more fuel-efficient cars and a sputtering economy most prominent among them.
Interestingly enough, Rep. Olson is also in favor of eliminating the mandates, but he obviously feels that’s politically impossible at this time:
The RFS’ singular focus on corn ethanol translates into higher food costs for working families, as well as higher feed costs for livestock producers. To be clear, my primary goal will always be the full repeal of the market distorting RFS. However, until then, we can take care of immediate problems by providing greater participation and competition under the program. Expanding the sources for ethanol will only benefit all Americans. I’m pleased this measure enjoys bipartisan and widespread support.
But this bill promises to align two key constituencies which aren’t always in the same room. It’s a point made by CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis:
Enacting this bill would align the natural gas lobby with the corn lobby. Their common interest would be to increase the overall RFS blending target beyond 36 billion gallons, mandate the sale of E20 or even higher ethanol blends, and relax environmental criteria so that corn- and gas-based ethanol can fill the void created by non-existent advanced biofuels.
All this would do is create yet another group of hogs lining up at the federal cronyism trough, trying to grow their business at the expense of competition despite having an inferior product. You may not remember the gasoline price shock of 2008, but one outgrowth of it that I noted at the time was a video campaign dubbed Nozzlerage and the formation of a group called Citizens for Energy Freedom, a subgroup of another entity called the Center for Security Policy (CSP). Their solution was to give ethanol a permanent market by mandating cars sold in the United States be flexfuel vehicles. As I said back then:
Regardless of how little it supposedly costs to convert cars to flexfuel, the truth is that the option has been available for some time and the market has proven it to be a slow seller. Thus, the soon-to-be-created CSP subgroup (Citizens for Energy Freedom – ed.) is looking to lobby for the bill’s passage and force automakers into another mandate, just like CAFE standards, air bags, catalytic converters, and many other features that were foisted upon automakers by big government. Certainly the idea has some merit but by placing the initial meeting in Des Moines, Iowa, it’s a safe bet that ethanol created from corn will take center stage and we’ve already seen the impact ethanol mandates and subsidies have had on our food prices.
Taking food out of our mouths and dumping it into our gas tanks has always been a bad idea, particularly when there is a cost-effective and inedible solution already in place. CEI and its allies make a sound point, but it will be up to someone in Congress to introduce the bill to eliminate RFS mandates. Of course, we need a President who would sign such a common sense bill and right now common sense is in short supply around the Oval Office and probably will be until at least January, 2017.
First off, I want to wish all those dads out there a happy Father’s Day. I spoke to my dad in Florida this morning, and got a call this evening from my daughter in Ohio.
And because it’s Father’s Day, the news is sort of slow – unless you want to count sniping at Barack Obama’s Father’s Day picture with his super soaker squirtgun. Yet those who would be the Republican candidate for governor in Maryland have been busy laying out their campaigns, preparing for the grunt work of getting the word out to voters.
As one example, I got these in the mail Friday from the Ron George campaign.
These are actually fairly slick palm cards, with one flap highlighting Ron’s bio and record while the other two serve as an information collector and return envelope to the campaign. Very nice and efficient.
Meanwhile, last week David Craig put out a highlight video of his June 3-5 campaign tour, although most of it focused on day 1.
But more importantly, Craig used his connection with the advocacy group Change Maryland to highlight the fact that Maryland’s spending is out of control, projected to rise at twice the national average. It allowed Craig to assess the situation: “This government taxes too much, takes too much, regulates too much and is expanding at the expense of job creators and taxpayers.”
In comparison to several other states in our region, the data suggests Maryland looks even more like a drunken sailor.
With the possible exception of the gas tax that takes effect next month, there is no tax reviled more by Maryland conservatives than the EPA-mandated “rain tax.” (In reality, it’s an impervious surface fee, but the effect is the same: money out of property owners’ pockets.)
And even though he’s not officially in the race yet, Charles Lollar had some pointed comments about this fee, with a little praise for Frederick County Commission president Blaine Young:
(T)here is a much deeper story that is not being covered and that many folks haven’t considered.
If you all remember, last year to “balance” the state’s budget, the administration pushed much of the teacher pension costs back to the counties. This move has severely hurt county budgets as they’ve had to move appropriations from certain capital projects to cover these new pension costs. The governments across our state that are the closest to the people are often our counties. Don’t worry, our counties will figure out how to make it work, but it makes it much harder for them.
So what is this rain tax really about? In my estimation, this is just the state paying the counties back for pushing pensions down to them, using the EPA mandate as an excuse. I applaud Frederick County Executive Blaine Young for only charging the residents of Frederick one penny per ERU. The law forced him to comply but he made the right choice by mocking a laughable law.
This bill is hurting non-profits like churches and could drive them out of service. It’s going to drive up costs for malls, grocery stores, and just about everything else with a large, “impervious surface.” In the end it will drive up the costs for consumers to buy products and make it even harder for people to find jobs.
I don’t know if Charles knows something we don’t or is trying to make a subliminal suggestion, but Blaine Young isn’t Frederick County Executive. There’s a chance he may be after the election as that newly-created office will be filled for the first time, but for now he’s simply their commission president.
Regardless, Lollar brings up an interesting sidebar – one for which I have a mild rebuttal. If this were true, why didn’t all 24 counties have to pay this fee? If my memory serves me correctly, my home county of Wicomico is getting a disparity grant from the state to help with assuming the cost of the teacher pensions because we’re one of the less well off counties (and state policy seems to be that of keeping us that way by choking off development.) But at some point we will have to figure out how to pay on that mandate to the tune of $1.2 billion over 10 years – bear in mind our county budget runs in the $120-130 million range.
My hope is that whoever becomes governor will stand up to the EPA – in court if necessary – and tell them to go pound sand. Certainly a clean Chesapeake Bay is desirable, but the state budget also has to address higher-priority items like public safety, infrastructure, and education. It would be great to see a Maryland governor tell the federal government “no thanks” to unfunded mandates because, even if they chip in for a year or three to defray the state’s short-term costs, we end up being stuck with the tab.
Democrats have it easy, since all they seem to know how to do is turn the screws on hard-working taxpayers as a method of amassing money and power to redistribute, showering favored group with undeserved goodies. Unfortunately, other peoples’ money always runs out so new solutions are needed.
I look forward to a spirited debate about a new paradigm.
As I noted in my original coverage last Wednesday, I received the opportunity to have a one-on-one interview with gubernatorial candidate David Craig after he concluded his public remarks. Rather than ask him strictly about his stump speech, I wanted to ask about some of the topics which may be more important to my fellow Eastern Shore residents.
monoblogue: Just to ask you the first question, I know we’re the seventh stop or so on this tour…
monoblogue: …so how’s your reception been?
Craig: It’s been very good. Started out good – a little rainy when we started out…
Craig: …but good crowds everywhere we’ve been, the people who showed up have been very receptive (and) very happy about what was happening. Very impressive in Hagerstown, we got out there and did the walking tour of downtown and went in to see several businesses, went by the schools…a lot of people saw the bus, they saw me, and they started walking with us. Got a little reception afterward where people could just come in and talk about stuff.
We went to Silver Spring – how many Republicans are going to go to Montgomery County? But we drive through the neighborhoods and I think, “Why are these people voting for Democrats?” These people have their nice little homes, they obviously have nice jobs and stuff like that, paying taxes…
monoblogue: Well, the problem is they may have government jobs that depend on the government being large.
Craig: Well, they may depend on the federal government being large but not us. Anyway, it’s nice neighborhoods and things like that. The one in Prince Frederick was very good, Annapolis was Annapolis (laughs)…that was fun. So they’ve all been very interesting, you see the differences – everybody says one Maryland, but there are slight differences.
monoblogue: Yeah, well, for example I come from a rural perspective – I grew up in a rural area – and I know you talked in your speech about the lost balance between environmentalism and that. How’s that going to affect our “outhouse” out here?
Craig: (laughs) You tell people that farmers were the first environmentalists that we ever saw. Farmers are usually pretty fiduciary – they usually don’t waste money.
monoblogue: No, they’re trying to make money.
Craig: They’re trying to make money, so they’re not going to do things that are bad. What I’ve found in doing this in Harford County is I do have an executive – I have an Agricultural Economic Advisory Board and I have an Agricultural Preservation Board that I work with, and one of my deputy chiefs of staff is the agricultural deputy chief of staff. What I’ve found is the best way is to actually listen to the farmers have to say and have them come up with solutions for what they think needs to be done, and then convince the other farmer this is the best way to go – it’s not government talking to you. (They’d say) I did this on my farm, it saved me money, it did this and saved me all these rules and regulations.
But we get all these people that are in environmental services, they have this job, they’re lawyers, they’re environmental – but they know nothing. I had a situation talking with the Maryland Department of the Environment, I said give me an example of this rain tax, I have two – or septic tax. I have two farms, tell me which one’s the worst. How will I be able to determine which one – one guy’s doing the good job, one’s a bad job? And the guy looked at me and said we can’t figure that out.
monoblogue: Well, that’s reassuring. After they passed the septic bill and they can’t tell you that? I know there was a bill – and it was one of our Delegates (Mike McDermott) put it up – to rescind that entire septic bill. Now, if it does somehow get through the General Assembly would you consider signing that bill rescinding the law?
Craig: I think there are many things that have been done over the last 20 years that ought to be rescinded, particularly when it comes – what was the one Parris Glendening did? I can’t remember, it was some kind of infectious disease thing…
monoblogue: I don’t know, it was before my time.
Craig: Anyway, they came up with all these ideas – for them it’s always about what’s the headline, what’s the media going to report in the next 90 days – after it gets done, do they ever go back and evaluate what the bill did, and whether it was effective? You know, William Donald Schaefer was the one who put the Critical Areas section in – I was the mayor, I had to adopt Critical Areas legislation in the city of Harve de Grace or no building was going to be permitted. I had to actually impose a tax, I was the first one to pay it because I was the first one to go for a building permit. And they kept saying, we need 1,000 feet from the bay to be doing this. And I would say we’re not the only ones polluting this, you think it’s just us, why are you doing this to us? And does it actually solve things? If I have someone who rebuilds something and fixes it up, isn’t that better than just letting it sit there the way it is? Let’s come up with real solutions for what needs to be done. Did the critical area and the critical area tax solve the Chesapeake Bay problem?
monoblogue: No. And the problem is they keep moving the goalposts…
Craig: Yes! And they’re made up – that’s the thing, the numbers are made up. Who came up with the idea a football field had to be 100 yards? Why couldn’t it be 120 yards, why couldn’t it be 90 yards? You know, it’s like – first they make a number up, I’ll give you this example. I was the mayor of Havre de Grace, we get hit with this issue with our sewage treatment plant that we have to do this change – $9 million it costs us to upgrade the sewage treatment plant.
A week later, the rules and regulations were changed. They came back and said, this is no longer functioning the way we need it to function, now you need to do this – $47 million. Here’s the problem, the analogy I use. Let’s say you decided to redo your kitchen – new refrigerator, new stove, new microwave, you buy new ones, you put them in there, spend $4,000 – and then you come back home, no I think we need to rip the whole kitchen out and you throw away those appliances. None of that $9 million was good enough to maintain the $47 million, so we wasted the $9 million. We’re still paying – the people of Havre de Grace are still paying…
monoblogue: Salisbury has the same problem, they’re messing around with their sewer treatment plant.
Craig: Yeah, so they keep changing the concept of what’s going on, and they don’t really look at real solutions. And if someone comes up with a real solution that’s not what the government wanted, then they ignore it.
At this point, we were interrupted by a well-wisher. When we got back to the conversation, I changed the subject.
monoblogue: You also talked about the – all the tax increases we had. I love how you used all the Change Maryland numbers, that’s great. I said I could tell Jim Pettit’s on his staff now…
Craig: Well, we’ve got them for a variety of things but when Larry Hogan started Change Maryland we talked about it and said, you know, I might run, I might not run, but if I don’t run Change Maryland’s going to go with you. And I’d like to admit that Larry’s done a good job getting that information out…
monoblogue: He does.
Craig: …and persuading people. I think in the long run Larry realizes that he’s making more money (laughs) being a private worker…
monoblogue: Oh yeah.
Craig: …and I think ultimately he stays there. But he can he huge in helping us reform the state party.
monoblogue: Right. But is there any chance we’re going to see some of that stuff rolled back if you’re elected?
Craig: I will look at all of them. But if somebody says “which tax first?” I’m going to look at all of them. There are certain taxes that probably haven’t been on the table that people said, would you ever get rid of this? If the state says that we’re going to make – we have a Public Service Commission to keep your BG&E rate as low as possible, why do we tax it? Why do we tax it? If we got rid of that, it gets rid of $5 on your BG&E bill every – well, it would save you 60 bucks. And guess what? You’re probably going to spend it somewhere else.
monoblogue: Well, that’s the idea. It’s where YOU want to spend it, not where the state wants to spend it.
Craig: You know, sales tax…I go back to that Calvin Coolidge thing with lowering the income tax, if you lower the sales tax more people would buy stuff here and it increases what gets sold. My wife’s not dumb – we live 17 miles from Delaware. You’re going to buy $4,000 worth of appliances times 6 – you do the math…
monoblogue: And seven miles from Delmar – if you go up 13 you’ll notice all the big-ticket items, furniture stores…
Craig: Yeah, look at the ads, look at the ads. I mean, I was looking at ads this morning on the TV when I was here and it was like – I forget what the particular issue was they were selling, and they go “in Delaware, no tax.” You know, it’s like – and how far away are you? Cecil County last month, in May, had twelve liquor stores give up their licenses…
Craig: …and close. And they did it because, if you live in Elkton in five minutes you could be in (Delaware), you can buy your liquor, you can buy your gasoline, you can buy your cigarettes. All that tax is lower or non-existent and we got nothing. And so, I don’t know how many people but say each had three business people – so 36 to 40 jobs gone?
Craig: And all because “oh, it’s an alcohol tax, it’s okay to raise it.”
monoblogue: And the same thing is true (for cigarettes), because I go to Virginia for my job every week and driving back into Maryland the last convenience store I see – “Last Chance for Cheap Smokes.”
Craig: That’s right.
monoblogue: Because Virginia’s tax is, like, thirty cents and ours is two bucks.
Craig: And if I throw out the issue of the corporate income tax, people are like “oh, you’re only for the rich people.” All right, I’ll throw out other issues: Harford County, a lot of military people stationed there, when they get done they retire. They move to Pennsylvania because their military pension is taxed. We shouldn’t tax a military person’s pension, they already made their sacrifices. So let them live here in the state of Maryland.
monoblogue: I think they have tried to do that a few times, and the legislature just doesn’t go anywhere.
Craig: Well, they haven’t gone with it because they haven’t been told to go with it. If the governor had said go with it, they would have gone with it.
monoblogue: That’s true, it’s usually Republicans who bring it up.
Craig: Well, you know, I think if enough veterans were showing up and saying – what was this whole thing about the governor pointing out and bragging about what he was doing about creating jobs for veterans, about a month ago? Remember he was changing some policies, it was going to make it easier for them to get a job?
Craig: Why would they want to come here and get a job and pay a higher tax on their pension that they also get and then a higher tax on their income tax? So, we need to change the income tax…(also) the death tax is ridiculous, somebody in your family passes away, they pay taxes on that money for their entire life – why are you paying a tax to inherit it? If they were smart I guess they should sell everything and give you the money before they pass away. But people leave the state all the time, go to Florida, no tax, go to Pennsylvania, don’t have to pay that tax.
The gas tax – I do tell people I have to be cautious to (not) say I’m going to get rid of this tax or lower this right away because – I’ll have to use the septic tax for an example – when Ehrlich was governor the septics were all done through PAYGO, so he didn’t have capital projects. This governor turned it to bonding, so if I’m stuck with paying off a bond I’ve got to do that first before I can get rid of the tax.
monoblogue: Right, exactly. I’m sure he’s created a few mousetraps for his successor to deal with if they want to change things. It’s going to be harder to undo this Gordian knot then most people would think.
Craig: And then they brag about, oh, we’re going to do this private-public partnership, this 3P thing, it’s like – most likely that’s not going to work. If you look at something that’s going to be a good financial thing with some private company coming in and doing something, they probably could have done it if they didn’t have to pay the minimum wage, if they didn’t have to pay the union fee, if they didn’t have to deal with the minority business stuff – you could probably lower the prices of those projects by 35 percent. Stephanie Rawlings-Blake just gets a billion dollars for school construction, well, $300 million of that is going to be wasted and she could have had it – that would have done how many more schools for her?
Craig: So which is better? Is it better to have a good school for the kid, or you created this “fake” job?
monoblogue: Right. I remember, being from Ohio, when Ohio built all its schools they actually eliminated the prevailing wage for schools just to get more bang for the buck.
Craig: Yeah, that’s what you should do. Period.
monoblogue: Speaking of education, I liked how you tied in the lack of – lack of academic achievement with our so-called “number one” ranking. Now where do you – where do you prioritize your spending to bring up the actual achievement and not necessarily worry about being “number one” in the country?
Craig: A couple things. There’s a lot of duplication that we could…a lot of duplication. Here’s the situation in Harford County. Since I’ve been County Executive, the size of the school board employees has increased by 650 employees. The school population has declined by 2,500 students. Why didn’t the size of the working staff decline?
Now, if they had had 2,300 new students move in they would have come to me and said, “we need 100 new teachers.” But when 2,000 went down they didn’t say, “well, we didn’t need 100 teachers anymore.”
Craig: So we have that situation, and I get teachers complaining to me all the time, “well, you know, the size of the class has gone up.” If you’re a good teacher, it doesn’t matter how many kids you’re sitting in the class. The first year I taught, 39 kids in the class. Second year, 42 kids in the class. Forty-two. I didn’t even have enough desks for the kids; one of them had to sit at my desk and one of them had to sit at a table. So when they say there’s 23 kids, the fact is, studies have been shown that the change does not occur until the size of the class falls below 15. So that’s what you’re going to do, if you say we’re reducing the size, we’re going from 24 to 23 – so what? If you’re a teacher, you can’t teach 24, can’t teach 25? That’s one thing.
But there’s duplication, so much duplication, in government – county government and school board government. I have a capital projects committee, they have a capital projects committee – why do we need both? I have the same guys that do the investigations, the inspections and all that stuff, I have a procurement department. I don’t buy chalk and all that stuff, but they have a procurement department. That’s duplication. I have a lawyer, a law department, they have a law department – duplication. They have a human resource department, I have a human resource department, duplication. Now, do I get rid of all those employees? No, but at least get rid of the top person. The person who’s making $150,ooo, instead of having two of them, you only have one. And you can probably merge a lot of things together and only have office – and none of that takes place in the classroom.
monoblogue: You need to think about that at the state level, and not necessarily the county level – I mean, if a county wants to do that, that’s fine and dandy, that’s their money. At the state level is where you’ll be concentrating…
monoblogue: …I would think we need to rightsize the state Department of Education…
Craig: I agree.
monoblogue: …because the localities should control anyway.
Craig: Yes they should. Yes they should. And it has grown exponentially. And if you look at higher education, when I was in the House I was always assigned the higher education budget and you look at a college that’s got nine vice-Presidents – why? We only have one Vice-President in the country, yet nine in a college? Come on! And are they teaching? No. You know, all these different people, you have all these professors that are teaching one class, maybe two classes. I had someone, when I was doing a debate one time, who said “what are you going to do about the cost of higher – you know, how much my education’s going to cost?” We need to reduce it on our size – on our side, for one thing. We’re forced to spend this money on that, it doesn’t need to be spent.
So there’s a lot of duplication in both higher ed and elementary through high school at the state level that I agree we could change.
monoblogue: Okay, I appreciate it.
Craig: Thank you.
Ideally, I wanted to come in about 15 minutes and with the interruption that’s about where I ended up. Hopefully this establishes some of where David Craig stands on various issues.
Since I covered David Craig in depth on Wednesday, it’s probably good to consider what Ron George said in his formal announcement, also on Wednesday. His campaign was kind enough to forward his remarks on to me.
And the way it was written it gives me an opportunity to see what his priorities would be as a governor. I already have a idea of where he stands on issues through Ron’s votes in the Maryland General Assembly, but in this announcement we can determine what the overall themes may be as the campaign progresses. Assuming these are presented in the order of importance, it’s clear that the top priorities for George are (in order) economic growth, ethics and campaign finance, spending and taxation, public safety, education, energy independence, transportation, environment, and protecting our rights. I might quibble with the order somewhat, but it appears that Ron laid out a broad agenda for himself.
In considering the overall plan, it’s clear to me that Ron is betting that reducing the tax burden will spur enough growth to cover whatever state spending is required; moreover, he’s pledging to reduce spending by cutting out waste. I did a little research not long ago and found that if Maryland had simply reduced its spending to match the national average per-capita spending among the fifty states, we would have negated the need for any of Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown’s 40 tax increases. (It’s telling that George doesn’t use the Change Maryland figures as much as David Craig does – there’s an obvious influence of Jim Pettit working in David’s campaign.)
But I guess I need to understand better how the sales tax rebate Ron is proposing would work. Maybe it would work better along the I-95 corridor but I’d rather take my tax-free Delaware bird in the hand than a 20% rebate in the bush, provided I kept the proof of purchase in the first place.
Another point George made was repealing the gas tax and “rain tax,” challenging the EPA in court if necessary. These are strong words from a guy who I detailed bragging in a previous campaign about being “nicknamed the Green Elephant.” So I guess I have to naturally question how this particular line in the sand came about when he helped enact the O’Malley/Brown green agenda.
It’s unfortunate that my fiance’s daughter will be a freshman in high school by the time George would be inaugurated, and probably would be well into her high school years by the time the scholarship for non-public school students idea would come to fruition – like the MSEA would ever allow THAT to occur. There would be a run away from public schools like you wouldn’t believe were this to happen, and MSEA needs those union dues.
And I know we’re only weeks into a campaign which may last for another 17 months if George wins the GOP primary, but I can’t wait to hear how he fleshes out the last several parts which he’s left sort of undefined. What methods will be encouraged to promote energy independence? What is a proactive transportation plan? I know I have my thoughts on these subjects.
Moreover, while I would presume Ron is referring mostly to the Second Amendment when he promises not to infringe on my God-given rights I would hope he won’t violate the Fourth Amendment in his quest for public safety or the Fifth in being a “green elephant.”
When Ron comes this way I hope to get some answers.
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.
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.
Late last month the Americans for Prosperity Foundation – Maryland, along with the Sage Policy Group, released a study claiming that possibly over 1,000 jobs could be lost in Maryland if the gasoline tax is increased via either the adoption of a 3% or 6% sales tax on the product – in other words, expanding an already-existing tax to cover a product previously exempt from that avenue of taxation – or simply adding a dime per gallon to the current state tax burden of 23.5 cents per gallon.
Before I begin my take on this, though, it’s helpful to know the players. We all know AFP tends to be a group which favors low taxation and limited government; they have graced this website many times before with their message. I had never heard of the Sage Policy Group prior to this study, though, so I looked them up. It seems like a small, one-horse operation but their clientele is varied and they appear relatively apolitical. I would have to say, though, this isn’t the most in-depth study I’ve ever read – to me it’s almost like a paint-by-numbers job based on the description of the software used. (Then again, the experience to interpret the numbers has some value.)
The obvious weakness of the study, plainly stated within, is that it’s not an attempt at a cost-benefit analysis. Obviously the state would be able to derive some benefit to having a Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) stocked with more cash to do the needed repairs and construction on state transportation infrastructure, but the question on the mind of most is whether they trust a greedy governor and compliant legislators to keep their hands out of the till. We probably wouldn’t be having this discussion if our last two governors hadn’t “borrowed” over $1 billion from the TTF “pot of gold” to keep the budget in balance, rather than bearing the blame for unpopular spending cuts or more new taxes; not that the latter stopped Martin O’Malley.
Yet it’s all but inevitable the tax will be increased; after all, the Democrats have the votes and the respective ribbon-cuttings on projects would likely be timed in the few months before they face voters. Surely, they will argue, a dime or two a gallon – most of these schemes would work out to ten to twenty cents a gallon, depending on gasoline price – is a small price to pay for fixing Maryland’s roads and bringing O’Malley’s dream of expanded light rail to fruition. And perhaps it would be, if the former assumption on usage was true.
But a study by the Department of Legislative Services shows that spending on transit takes up almost half of TTF funding, up from about 1/3 twenty years ago; meanwhile, the highway construction share has declined by about the same amount, to less than a quarter per dollar spent. The drop has been most precipitous during Martin O’Malley’s tenure. Given those facts and O’Malley’s stated wish list of new mass transit projects, it’s likely that the best we can hope for would be to get back to pre-O’Malley levels of spending on highway needs if the gas tax were increased.
The Sage Policy study, though, also estimates the number of jobs lost due to the tax hike. Obviously, though, there would be some jobs gained as a number of construction projects are funded. Someone has to pave the roads, design the bridges, and provide the materials necessary for working on infrastructure. While the Sage study couches in some fashion the job losses based on a theory that money taken out of the private-sector economy results in job losses, there are legitimate needs the public sector pays for and roads are among them – hopefully to provide a net gain.
Simply put, if you figure the $4 a week lost by an average family due to this tax is computed as one latte, sure, if everyone stops buying as many lattes it will eventually result in the coffee shop laying off workers or even closing, but the construction business next door may be able to hire laborers with a higher skill level and wage thanks to the new highway projects being built. It’s a tradeoff, and we all know that a robust highway network facilitates the efficient movement of people and goods. On the other hand, light rail projects don’t contribute in the same way and generally require subsidies from the state to remain in operation. Fewer jobs are created with that spending – yet that’s my suspicion as to the real purpose of this proposed gas tax hike.
I believe Marylanders would be less reluctant to pay a gas tax increase which amounts to something no worse than an average “sticker shock” gas price jump where the cost goes up 20 cents a gallon overnight if they had confidence the money would be spent wisely and not just tossed into the void of the state’s General Fund or spent on mass transit boondoggles. Yet if we returned mass transit to its traditional level of spending we might be able to get back to fixing roads without the need to increase the gasoline tax. That seems like the logical step here before we vacuum more money from the pockets of those Marylanders who still are among the working.
More and more items pique my interest as the General Assembly session wears on, so you might find these continue to pop up on a regular basis. As always, these are items to which I devote anywhere from a sentence to a few paragraphs, so here goes.
I’ll begin with this pre-emptive strike by Delegate Justin Ready I learned about a few days ago. He’s planning to introduce a bill which will prohibit the state of Maryland from enacting user fees based on mileage driven to replace or supplement the existing per-gallon gasoline tax. The state of Oregon has, for several years, been exploring ways of doing this and the latest ties into existing onboard and smart phone technologies. But the Luddites out there should take this under advisement; this comes from the Council of State Governments piece Ready links to:
Importantly, the use of GPS also will not be a requirement. For those who reject all the private sector technology options despite being able to choose between them and despite their information not being transmitted to a government entity, another option would allow drivers to pre-pay for the miles they expect to drive at a rate based on 35,000 miles minimum annually. Those drivers will pay a substantially higher flat fee than what most drivers whose mileage is more closely tracked will likely average. Instead of paying at the pump as participants in the initial pilot program did, motorists will pay at the end of the three-month demonstration. State transportation officials foresee monthly or quarterly charges if the system were to be adopted on a statewide basis. (Emphasis mine.)
So the options are, in my case, either “voluntarily” allow the government into my personal car to see that I drive roughly 20,000 miles per year or pay a significantly higher penalty to keep my freedom. Some choice. It almost makes raising the gas tax more attractive, which may be the overall aim of Annapolis liberals. They constantly harp on the fact we haven’t raised the tax in 20 years or so – well, if you would spend it on what it’s meant for instead of wasting it on mass transit no one rides, we may accomplish the road repairs and construction for which the gas tax was intended.
Another pro-freedom push to free Maryland’s roads comes from HB251, a bill introduced by Delegate Michael Smigiel to repeal Maryland’s speed camera laws – a bill which has my full support and should have yours, too. (Locally, Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is a co-sponsor as well, and should be thanked for that support.) Meanwhile, the Maryland Liberty PAC correctly notes that these devices comprise a large portion of “O’Malley’s War On Driving”:
Speed cameras are nothing more than the privatization of our due process rights and the contracting-out of law enforcement duties.
The Maryland Liberty PAC has an ongoing petition drive to dismantle the speed cameras once and for all; they also stress that pressure should be brought to bear on Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh to give the bill a hearing (none has been scheduled yet.)
If speed cameras were truly about safety, the violation wouldn’t be a civil offense but a criminal one. Yet they know that, with a criminal offense, one has to be able to face their accuser and the evidence wouldn’t be admissible (because the speed camera can’t be a witness like a patrol officer can.) So they made it a civil offense based on the much lower standard of “preponderance of the evidence.” My judgment is that speed cameras should be banned.
There are also local steps which need to be undertaken, says Sam Hale of the Maryland Society of Patriots. Among them are:
- Asking Wicomico and Worcester counties to nullify the “Septic Bill” and refuse to draw the counties into tiers,
- Contacting Salisbury’s City Council and asking them to withdraw their membership in ICLEI, a group promoting anti-liberty incursions on rights such as PlanMaryland and the septic bill as an extension of the United Nations,
- Asking Worcester County to join the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition.
So the liberty movement is well-represented here, but how about Washington, D.C.? Maybe not so much.
For example, take the debt ceiling. It was panned by both Americans for Limited Government and the Coalition to Reduce Spending. Bill Wilson of ALG reacted:
This is a partial repeal of representative government. Through the elimination of the debt ceiling, even just until May 19, the American people now have no say in the amount of debt the government contracts. The only say whatsoever representatives had on the some 60 percent of the $3.7 trillion budget that operates on autopilot, which includes Social Security, Medicare, and other forms of so-called ‘mandatory’ spending, was the periodic vote on increasing the debt ceiling.
“Now that it has been suspended, the debt ceiling may never be reinstated. All the Senate needs to do now come May 19 is again threaten default should the debt ceiling suspension not be indefinitely extended. Under those circumstances, House Republican leadership is likely to fold under even the slightest pressure.
Added Jonathan Bydlak of the Coalition to Reduce Spending:
Congress today again avoided its duty to be a responsible steward of the public trust. Stalling is not a serious solution to federal debt created by habitual deficit spending.
By delaying a vote on whether and at what cost the federal government should be allowed to borrow more money, House members chose to deny accountability to the public.
This move goes against the clear wishes of American voters. As a recent Rasmussen poll showed, 73% nationwide believe the federal government should cut spending in order to deal with the nation’s current economic problems.
The Coalition to Reduce Spending recognizes that choosing to increase the public debt is ultimately one of the most important decisions a legislator can make. It’s for that reason that this decision should never be pushed into the future haphazardly.
The only thing to like about the bill is that it holds Senators’ salaries hostage until they pass a budget, although our Senator Barbara Mikulski whined and cried poverty about the prospect. Well, all you need to do is your job.
Perhaps they can act on this measure which failed to get through the last Congress, something which could give the legislative branch a little control over regulators run amok. Ryan Young of the Competitive Enterprise Institute sums things up brilliantly:
There is too much regulation without representation in this country. In an average year, Congress will pass a little over 100 bills into law, while regulatory agencies will pass more than 3,500 new regulations.
It’s easy to see why members of Congress like agencies to do their job for them. If a regulation turns out to be unpopular, or more costly than expected, they can just shift the blame to, say, the EPA or FCC. It’s well past time for Congress to take its lawmaking responsibility seriously again. REINS is the first step in that process.
In general, there are those who favor a more militant approach, even with the belief we should learn from our opponents. I look at it this way: if conservative principles are as popular as we believe them to be, we should stick out our necks for their adoption on a daily basis. If not, it proves my point from yesterday about the need to educate, although we should be doing that regardless.
This lesson isn’t lost on professional golfer Phil Mickelson, who, as my friend Jim Pettit points out, is simply doing what’s best for his personal situation by contemplating a move out of high-tax California. I don’t think he’ll be looking to move to Maryland; instead states like Florida and Texas – which combine a more temperate climate with non-existent state income taxes – may be attractive. (Thousands of professional athletes live in Florida for that very reason.)
Another angle those who love liberty are pursuing is finding the right Presidential candidate for 2016. Those who favor Judge Andrew Napolitano, a group I wrote about late last year, are still actively seeking petition signers. But they updated their totals to say they have over 10,000 signers now, and the Facebook page now boasts 3,319 fans. Napolitano may well say no, but the backing behind him is slowly growing.
Finally, this story has a little local interest as well as a tie-in to a group I’ve supported. Move America Forward is holding their “Super Bowl Rally for the Troops”:
The Ravens fans have taken an early lead, but there’s still plenty of time for Niners fans to come back! Vote for which team you think will win by sponsoring a package full of goodies for the troops!
SUPERBOWL XLVII is only ten days away so time is running out to participate in our Super Bowl challenge to all of our pro-troops supporters out there. Whether you happen to be a 49ers fan, Ravens fan, or just a football fan, the whole mission at the end of the day is to support our TROOPS serving overseas. They are the real winners in this competition and they deserve our thanks and gratitude. (Emphasis in original.)
If the Ravens win this particular competition, additional items will be included for a fortunate group of troops from Maryland.
Ironically, MAF ran a similar competition last year in which Giants fans outpaced the Patriots faithful. It’s sort of a sad commentary that fans of a team named after our colonial forefathers couldn’t win this competition, and maybe that karma got them this season.
That’s plenty for now, but it probably won’t be long until my mailbox is full of interesting items once again.
As we approach the Christmas/New Year’s holiday week when news is slow, it may not be the best time to clean out my e-mail box of those items I could potentially stretch into short posts. But I tend to defy convention, so here goes.
Up in Cecil County the politics aren’t taking a holiday break. Two conservative groups are at odds over the Tier Map which was administratively approved by County Executive Tari Moore – the Cecil Campaign for Liberty considers any tier map as part of ”the most expansive taking of private property rights in Maryland state history.” But the Cecil County Patriots are on record as supporting the least restrictive map possible, warning further that not submitting a map would place the county under the most broad restrictions. (This is one early rendition of their map – note that over half the county is in Tier IV, the most restrictive tier.)
Unfortunately, the opposition we have isn’t dumb and they write laws in such a manner that localities in Maryland are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. But I’m curious how the state would react in this instance, quoting from SB236:
IF A LOCAL JURISDICTION DOES NOT ADOPT ALL OF THE TIERS AUTHORIZED UNDER THIS SECTION, THE LOCAL JURISDICTION SHALL DOCUMENT THE REASONS THE JURISDICTION IS NOT ADOPTING A PARTICULAR TIER.
Answer: We will NOT adopt Tiers III and IV. Reason: see Amendment V, United States Constitution. The law does not provide “just compensation.”
Someone really should remind Governor O’Malley and Senators Pinsky, Frosh, Madaleno, Montgomery, and Raskin (who have a COMBINED lifetime score of 32 - total, between all five of them, so an average score of 6.4 out of 100 on the monoblogue Accountability Project and who all hail from the I-95 corridor) that their home county is free to be as restrictive as it likes but counties are not just lines on a map. We may look like hicks, but we do tend to know what we’re talking about out here.
If they have to have Tier IV, the extent of it should be that of any undeveloped property owned by any Delegate, Senator, or local representative who supported this piece of garbage. Let them live with the consequences and spare us the misery.
Otherwise, you may have this sort of result (h/t Institute for Justice): an Orlando homeowner is facing fines of up to $500 per day because he chooses to have a garden in his front yard and an absentee neighbor (who rents out his house and lives in Puerto Rico) complained. But as writer Ari Bargil notes:
You know government has grown too big when it bans growing a garden in your own yard.
Interestingly enough, the Orlando homeowner has a chicken coop in his backyard but that apparently doesn’t run afoul (or is that afowl?) of city regulations.
On the Maryland economic front, my friends at Change Maryland have had quite a bit to say of late. First, Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan panned Governor O’Malley for not appointing a new Secretary of Transportation and continuing to push for a gas tax, with Hogan remarking:
Here we go again. We were successful in stopping the gas tax increase, and the sales tax on gasoline last session, but they are still trying to ram it through. And now O’Malley expects struggling Maryland families and small businesses to pay for his mistakes. They want us to forget about the hundreds of millions of dollars he robbed from transportation funds.
After raising taxes and fees 24 times and taking an additional $2.4 billion a year out of the pockets of taxpayers, we know O’Malley prefers raising taxes over leading, O’Malley must show leadership and take some responsibility on funding transportation, or he’s going to achieve the same dismal results as before with the failed gas tax schemes.
Over the last decade, both Bob Ehrlich and Martin O’Malley have collectively seized $1.1 billion from transportation to use in balancing the books. O’Malley isn’t planning on using a gas tax increase to pay back his $700 million share, though – he wants to expand the Red Line and Purple Line in suburban Washington, D.C.
Hogan was also critical of someone O’Malley did appoint, new economic development head Dominick Murray:
I am concerned that Mr. Murray’s marketing background in the media industry signals an intent to continue to focus more on press releases, slide shows and videos that only promote the governor’s national political aspirations.
Murray has a lot of work to do, as Maryland lost an additional 9,300 jobs in October, per numbers revised by the federal BLS. Non-adjusted statistics for November also suggest another 3,100 nonfarm jobs fell by the wayside, although government jobs rebounded by 900 to come off their lowest point since 2010 in October. Since O’Malley took office, though, total government employment in Maryland is up over 28,000. It continues a long-term upward trend which began in 2005. On the other hand, the only other industry with a similar upward profile is education and health services.
On a national level, unemployment among those with a high school education or less is “dismal,” according to a new study by the Center for Immigration Studies. They contend it won’t be helped with a policy of amnesty toward illegal aliens, which make up nearly half of a 27.7-million strong group of Americans who have but a high school education or less yet want to work. The high school graduate U-6 rate (which properly counts discouraged workers who have stopped looking) is over 18 percent; meanwhile just over 3 in 10 who have failed to complete high school are jobless by that standard.
While some of those who didn’t complete high school have extenuating circumstances, the far larger number have chosen their lot in life by not getting their diploma. Unfortunately, their bad choice is exacerbated by the illegal aliens here who are willing to work for less and/or under the table.
Bad choices have also been made by Republicans in Congress, argue two deficit hawks who contend economist Milton Friedman was right:
…the true burden of taxation is whatever government spends…Friedman would frequently remind Reagan and others during the early 1980s that reductions in marginal tax rates – which Friedman supported – were not real tax cuts if spending was not reduced.
Jonathan Bydlak and Corie Whalen, the two board members of the Coalition to Reduce Spending who wrote the piece, contend that Republicans who have not raised taxes but simultaneously failed to address overspending are violating the Taxpayer Protection Pledge made famous by Grover Norquist. And since the amount of revenue taken in by the government since the adoption of the Bush tax rates a decade ago has remained relatively constant when compared to spending, it seems the problem is on the spending side of the equation. Just restoring governmental spending to the level of the FY2008 budget would address most of the deficit.
Finally, it appears spending is on the minds of the Maryland Liberty PAC as they recently put out a call for candidates who would be compatible with their views on key areas of local, state, and national government – examples include not voting for tax increases or new fees, opposition to intrusive measures like red light cameras, abuse of eminent domain, and internet freedom, and economic issues such as right-to-work and nullification of Obamacare. Out of eight questions, I’d be willing to bet I’d honestly and truthfully answer all eight the correct way. But I think I’ll pass on the PAC money, since I run a very low-budget campaign consisting of the filing fee.
But if they don’t mind sharing the information, we could always use good Republican (and liberty-minded Democratic) candidates in these parts. I didn’t mind spreading their word, after all, even reminding Patrick McGrady that Central Committee members are elected in the June 24, 2014 primary and not on November 4 as their original note suggests.
Believe it or not, then, if memory from 2010 serves me correctly the first people to file for 2014 can do so on or about April 16, 2013. The day after tax day and less than a week after sine die ends the 90 Days of Terror known as the General Assembly session: how appropriate in Maryland.