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.
I was writing something the other day as a possible addition to another venue, and in doing the research kept the link on my bookmark bar for future reference. Well, as it turns out I didn’t need the extra research for the other piece but I wanted to make my point on the subject. So here are more of my thoughts on the prospect of an additional Maryland gasoline tax – something I originally visited in January.
The two pieces I found were comparisons – one being the current gasoline tax table provided by the Tax Foundation which shows Maryland’s gasoline tax rate is currently tied for 29th among the 50 states. The second is an older comparison table that I found, and the reason I wanted it was to determine where Maryland’s gasoline tax ranked among its peers when it was adopted in 1992. (I couldn’t find 1992, but figured 1994 was close enough.)
It’s quite telling to me that back in 1994 our state had one of the highest gasoline tax rates, with only a handful of states charging more: Connecticut, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, and West Virginia. Worse yet, only Montana, Nevada, Rhode Island, and West Virginia charged more tax on diesel fuel. In 1994 our taxes were a full 30% higher than the national average, but because states have began to add various other fees and local tariffs we remain above the average insofar as excise tax is concerned but slightly below the mean in overall taxation per gallon. Apparently 20 years is long enough and we have to break out of the pack and lead the country once again.
Since several states now add various amounts of sales tax to the price of gasoline at the pump, it’s difficult to accurately say just where Maryland would rank if gasoline prices were significantly higher or lower than they are today should they adopt Governor O’Malley’s idea of an additional sales tax phased in over three years. But it’s obvious we would be paying more at the pump regardless of the price – even if Newt Gingrich could get gasoline back down to $2.50 per gallon that’s still an extra 15 cents per gallon, or around $2-3 per fillup depending on tank size. At $4 per gallon the fee goes up to perhaps $4-5 for every tankful.
(Note that there’s also a number of alternative plans being floated around for a straight per-gallon excise tax increase, which would make the impact more easily gauged. Adding 15 cents per gallon, as one proposal advocates, would put us just a tick behind North Carolina as the highest-taxing state in terms of excise tax.)
Regardless of what proposal to increase fuel tax is adopted, when combined with the additional tolls being charged by the Maryland Transportation Authority at their facilities (including the Bay Bridge) the cost of getting around via car will certainly jump. By next summer driving across the state from Cumberland to Ocean City and back on a 12-gallon tankful of gas each way may well cost $15 extra in taxes and tolls alone from the price in 2011 – before the new tolls were adopted for the Bay Bridge and other MTA facilities.
The stated reason for the increases are quite simple: the state claims it doesn’t have enough money for road and bridge construction. Yet the MTA toll increases spared the Inter-County Connector and gasoline taxes tend to come down harder on rural residents who have to drive farther to work and shopping. In sum, they tend to serve as a wealth transfer from rural to urban dwellers, particularly in the Washington metro area because the ICC tolls did not go up. Moreover, the tendency for gasoline taxes to be spent on mass transit provides a further shift in prosperity from rural to urban; one particularly galling when a mostly empty train or bus goes by.
The main reason the state “needs” this tax increase, though, is to patch over the holes created by several administrations by raiding the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF). It’s an art which has been perfected by Martin O’Malley because he wasted the $1 billion-plus raised by a series of 2007 tax increases Democrats rammed through the General Assembly on a program of further spending rather than simply addressing the vital functions the state is supposed to provide. So now he and Annapolis Democrats are coming back to the people of the state with hat in hand begging for more, and promising this time they’ll “protect” the TTF. Well, I want the protection first, and a number of bills in the General Assembly deal with this. Unfortunately, Delegate Norm “Five Dollar” Conway and Senator Edward Kasemeyer don’t seem to have much desire to move these bills. But I’ll bet they’ll move that gas tax along in a hurry.
It’s quite likely that over the next few years our gas prices will either be going up at an accelerated rate or not dropping as quickly as they could because the state of Maryland will take a larger bite from our wallet through the gas tax. Maryland doesn’t seem to want to be a national leader in anything except loony liberalism and high taxation, and the controversy over highway funding provides another perfect example.
This morning most of my usual rundown of items that, as always, don’t merit a full post but perhaps 1-3 paragraphs, concern the goings-on here in the great state of Maryland. (Note: additional update at bottom.)
I’ve heard so much over the last week about the gas tax: first it was off the table in favor of an income tax hike, and now it’s just being backed up to the end of the General Assembly session. The Senate Republican slate is still pressing the anti-gas tax website, though, also making the point that the Transportation Trust Fund is about the least trustworthy option for placing extra revenue.
And gas prices aren’t just a state issue. The Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative Congressional Republicans, raises a valid argument:
Oil production on private and state-owned land – land beyond the federal government’s grip – grew 14% last year. At the exact same time, production on federal land fell 11%. Gas prices have nearly doubled since Obama’s inauguration, and energy analysts predict that more Americans than ever before will pay $5.00 per gallon this year.
The President’s response to soaring gas prices is to shrug his shoulders and say, “There’s not much we can do.” And his Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has actually called for raising gas prices to European levels. Italians currently pay about $9.00 per gallon!
This isn’t the energy policy Americans deserve. Aggressively increasing our energy production will help lower gas prices and create more jobs. To do it, we must unlock more areas for exploration, cut through the red tape that slows production, and green light common sense projects like the Keystone XL pipeline.
The smart and responsible path to American energy security is clear, and the Republican Study Committee’s Jobs Through Growth Act shows the way. We quite literally cannot afford to wait. (Emphasis mine.)
Read that first sentence again – oil exploration on private land grew, but public lands waned. And the Democrats’ response? They want to once again raid the Strategic Petroleum Reserve rather than admitting their culpability in holding up production for a decade or more – oil which could have already been on the market.
I’m a strong believer in the concept of “highest and best use” when it comes to land, although I adapt it somewhat to consider the resource value. Furthermore, I feel that recreational usage, preservation, and energy extraction need not be mutually exclusive over large tracts of land. It wouldn’t be any worse to see an oil well or fracking operation than to have a wind turbine hovering hundreds of feet in the air, either offshore or land-based, or a field full of solar panels.
As an example of how energy is becoming a national campaign issue, even in local races, I can direct you to Second District Congressional candidate Larry Smith, who both put forth his energy plan and challenged opponent Dutch Ruppersberger to” support the Keystone XL pipeline” and “stand up to President Obama and the special interest groups in Washington. It is time for him to fight for the people of his district and begin taking constructive measures to help end the pain at the pump.”
It’s good that Smith is another Maryland Republican who is taking the fight to the Democrat rather than his primary opponents. We can leave that for the other side, even when they’re correct in pointing it out.
Another race where this is occurring is the U.S. Senate race, where both the leading contenders are hammering the opponent. Dan Bongino recently called Ben Cardin the “milquetoast senator.” Bongino continued, “I like to say that Maryland is missing two senators because they just vote the party line. No reason for Maryland to get any national interest because there is no diversity of political thought.”
Richard Douglas called Maryland “desperate for leaders” and blasted the state’s junior Senator for being out of touch:
For most Americans, longevity brings wisdom. In Congress, longevity brings isolation. Isolation from the people invites tyranny. Such isolation is visible in Baghdad’s fortified ‘Green Zone,’ whose original architect was Saddam Hussein, not the American soldier. America must not tolerate creation of a Green Zone around Congress by politicians-for-life. A Senate leader who is truly concerned about the interests of his state and nation knows this. Like General Washington, he understands the critical value to the nation of a Farewell Address. He leaves on a warhorse, not a gurney.
Ben Cardin has held elected office since 1967. His time is up.
Indeed, it is time for a change, and these two gentlemen lead a group which would do a far better job representing the true interests of Marylanders.
And Free Staters could be well served without the need for tax increases, simply by adopting a more austere budget than the one proposed by Governor O’Malley. But it certainly wouldn’t be bare-bones, says Delegate Justin Ready.
Negotiations are taking place to avoid what liberal interest groups are calling a doomsday budget – one that would reduce approximately $500 million from Governor O’Malley’s proposed $36 Billion budget. A reduction of 1.4% out of the largest projected budget in Maryland history does not sound like doomsday to me, it sounds like a very good idea to get our state’s finances back on track.
It’s important to note that a cut of $500-$700 million out of Gov. O’Malley’s proposed FY2013 budget would still leave Maryland’s state government spending more than in last year’s budget. That’s not an unreasonable request to make of our government in a time when families have seen their budgets reduced dramatically.
So we would STILL spend more, but that’s not good enough for Annapolis liberals. They seem to want the whole enchilada, middle class (and everyone else not on the government teat) be damned.
But before I get to my new links, I wanted to add a quick news update: Mitt Romney won the Washington caucuses, although in truth it doesn’t mean much because the hard work of picking delegates to the national convention comes later on. Of course, I’m waiting for the Ron Paul cult to tell me that he’ll end up with all the delegates despite the fact he finished a distant second.
But there’s a simple truth at play: even if Paul got EVERY delegate from EVERY caucus, he would still be far short of the number needed for nomination. And getting 10 percent of the primary vote in a particular state isn’t going to get it.
I have one new link to share. She’s a California-based conservative who is most famous for the message below.
And to close, another sad note of passing. Fellow Maryland blogger T.J. Grogg (The Grogg Report) passed away last week. She was 68.
Update: I had to add this in because Robert Stacy McCain just destroys Sandra Fluke and her $3,000 for birth control argument.
More of the small stuff you love! Let’s begin with this.
Up in the Second Congressional District, GOP candidate Larry Smith is challenging his four rivals to eight hour-long debates on various issues. But considering he has more to gain than two of his rivals (who serve in the Maryland General Assembly) that’s probably a pipe dream – not to mention they would likely be in session several nights a week.
But the key complaint Smith has is simpler: “This election should not be decided on who has the most insider endorsements, but rather who would be the best representative of the voters of the district.” All that is true, but if these debates were to come to pass I would hope that a conservative runs them, rather than the debacles we have seen with the GOP Presidential debates and their “gotcha” questions.
I wish Mr. Smith the best of luck in going to Washington.