Champions or chumps?

Apparently the Maryland State Education Association has some worries about the prospects of two of our local candidates. Almost six months out from the elections and look what I got in the mail yesterday:

Given that, out of over 150 MSEA-endorsed candidates across the state, the body only “recommended” five Republicans (including Christopher Adams locally) one can come to the conclusion the MSEA is pretty much a shill group for liberals. Although Chris is a fine candidate, the fact that the MSEA endorsed a Wicomico Republican could perhaps be traced to the ongoing fight about disassociation by the local bargaining unit. Nor was an MSEA mailing put out on his behalf, at least not that I’m aware of.

There are a couple things I can tell from this mailer: one is that it came from Board of Election records based on the fact it has my full name like my voter registration does. And it’s bipartisan, as a number of Republicans I know have reported receiving it; most likely it went to the truly consistent voters. Something tells me that various groups are going to try and convince voters that Mathias and Conway are practically the second and third comings of Ronald Reagan, but with a softer side – that’s why the MSEA is stressing how these two are backing education. That is, though, if you consider throwing money at the issue as backing education.

For example, let’s consider that first claim about “record investments in our schools.” In Conway’s case, let’s not forget that he was a prime mover back in 2012 behind legislation to circumvent Wicomico County’s revenue cap in order to increase the county’s share of education funding. (Conway was a co-sponsor of a similar House bill.) This had the potential of leaving the county $14 million short in their FY2013 budget, and directly led to an income tax increase reluctantly passed by our County Council. Norm voted for both versions of the bill in the House. (Mathias was absent when the Senate bill was voted on.) Those “record investments” had to come from somewhere and a large share came from the pockets of those in District 38 here in Wicomico County. Overturning the will of county voters? Way to be “standing up for Wicomico County,” Norm.

And then we have the aspect of pre-kindergarten. While the state’s goal seems to be cradle-to-grave control, the bill in question only expands pre-kindergarten to those who meet certain income guidelines, at an annual cost of no less than $4.3 million. Moreover, there is no guarantee that any local children would be impacted – but it provides 160 more potential MSEA union members because the bill mandates an average 1 teacher to 10 student ratio. Of course, both Conway and Mathias voted for the bill – what’s a little $4.3 million mandate in the grand scheme of things?

While it’s an apples-to-oranges comparison to some extent, the question of the effectiveness of Head Start also leads to questioning whether a formalized school setting does much good for four-year-olds. I guess we’ll spend lots of taxpayer dollars to find out.

Scrutiny is also due regarding the “larger voice in how new curriculum is implemented,” a claim based on passage of HB1164. It doesn’t matter how loud we speak, because money is talking louder – and there’s going to be a lot of it needed to enact Common Core standards and testing. This is from the fiscal note for HB1164:

Finally, the full cost to administer PARCC is still unknown. In July 2013, PARCC announced that the summative math and reading tests would cost $29.50 per student. This is a little less than the $32 per student Maryland currently spends on assessments, but it does not reflect several other formative tests PARCC is developing that Maryland may select or the technology infrastructure required in every school to handle the capacity and network requirements to administer the computer-based assessments. Many schools do not have sufficient technology infrastructure to meet these requirements. MSDE is in the process of assessing the technology readiness of Maryland’s schools. The local school systems identified over $100 million in needed technology improvements to implement PARCC online. MSDE has contracted with Education Superhighway, a consulting firm, to evaluate the technology gap to implement PARCC online by the 2016-2017 school year. Several states, most recently Georgia and Oklahoma, have recently left the PARCC consortium over cost concerns. There are also long-term budget implications for maintenance and operational costs of assessment administration upon the termination of federal RTTT grant funds to the State and to PARCC. (Emphasis mine.)

In other words, we are once again buying a pig in a poke. Note also that the phrase “Common Core” was excised from the bill after first reading because its reputation precedes it now.

Basically what this bill did was allow Martin O’Malley (and his House and Senate minions) to designate a number of “yes men” who will invariably come to the conclusion that we need more money to throw at the problem. But in reading the bill I fail to see how we in Wicomico County will get a “larger voice,” even if one of those appointed happens to be, say, a Norm Conway or Jim Mathias. It won’t help.

The mailer urges us to call Senator Mathias and Delegate Conway to “thank them for their leadership on education issues and their work to keep our public schools #1 in the country.” It’s a way of skirting the election law since they’re not openly advocating a vote on their behalf – nothing new here, as conservatives use the same method.

But how about calling them and asking why they really aren’t supporting Maryland’s school-aged children? Why didn’t they advocate for parent empowerment bills which didn’t even sniff a real committee vote (it was withdrawn in 2012) in three consecutive sessions this term? Ask them if money shouldn’t be following the child regardless of where a parent decides to send them to school, or teach them at home? And while Senator Mathias has been of assistance in the matter, we all should ask Norm Conway why he won’t stand up for true accountability and support the right of Wicomico County voters to select their own Board of Education?

Ask yourself: are they protecting the schools as the mailer says, or protecting the children by allowing parents to do their job? There truly is a difference.

Reaction to O’Malley’s last State of the State

Three of those gentlemen who would like to deliver the next State of the State address in 2015 put out remarks in reaction to the current occupant of Government House and what he had to say yesterday afternoon. These are in alphabetical order, by the way, not necessarily in order of preference.

David Craig called the O’Malley era a “sad legacy” in his brief statement, one which focused on the failure to implement the state health insurance exchange but the success he had in implementing higher taxes and fees:

The O’Malley-Brown years leave a sad legacy for those interested in basic government competence, fiscal responsibility and individual freedom.

While Governor O’Malley acknowledged the failure of his Administration and Lt. Gov. Brown to implement Obamacare, there are important facts missing among the many statistics he likes to choose. The Administration has a long way to go on providing transparency on health care including the number of how many consumers are obtaining actual coverage, the number of people dropped from private plans and the total cost.

We have heard for several years now the growing amount of money in so-called ‘cuts’ to the budget, when in fact the budget has grown $10 billion during the O’Malley and Brown terms. Over 70 tax, fee and toll increases are hurting the economy, reducing employment compared to other states in the region and is taking more money for more government.

Similarly, Delegate Ron George attacked O’Malley’s economic record, calling it a “burden on job creation”:

Never has a governor so boldly claimed budget cuts, economic growth and a shrinking executive branch in the face of such clear evidence against. Small businesses have seen their taxes rise tremendously under the O’Malley/Brown administration. Now in 2014, he is burdening job creators with the rain tax, implementation of Obamacare and a forced wage increase.

The O’Malley/Brown administration has seen the relocation of thousands of small businesses and tens of thousands of taxpayers due to a hostile state government. Our mom and pop shops, who employ the majority of our workers, are already struggling to stay open. We must focus on expanding opportunities for entrepreneurs and technical training for our unemployed to protect and grow our middle class for generations to come.

More bluntly, Larry Hogan called O’Malley’s tenure one of “nothing more than lip service” to working Marylanders:

Year after year, this governor has provided nothing more than lip service to hundreds of thousands of hard working Maryland families who look to their governor for leadership. Today was no different. We heard nothing about how the O’Malley-Brown administration plans to turn our economy around, nothing about attracting job creators to Maryland, and no apology to the tens of thousands of Marylanders who have not been able to participate in Maryland’s healthcare exchange.

Instead, what Governor O’Malley delivered today was pure fiction. The Governor continued his perennial claim of spending cuts when the simple fact is the O’Malley-Brown administration has increased spending by 33 percent: from $29.5 billion in their first year to $39.2 billion proposed in their final year.

O’Malley talked a lot about the middle class but, under this administration, the middle class has never felt more pain. The O’Malley-Brown administration paid for their excessive spending on the backs of the middle class. Forty consecutive tax and fee increases – record sales tax increases, the massive gas tax increase, and higher fees on nearly everything – have hit the middle class pocket book the hardest. Their taxes have gone up, their jobs have disappeared, and they now pay more than ever to heat their homes, commute to work, and feed their families.

Marylanders deserve better.

These themes and more were woven into the “official” Republican response, which came this year from Senate Minority Leader David Brinkley.

But all of them – with the exception of Ron George, who briefly touched on a couple ideas he had – did a great job of identifying the problem, yet didn’t pose any possible solutions. Having the longest space in the official response, Brinkley did well speaking to the issue with O’Malley’s signature initiative this year of raising the minimum wage, but what is really needed are some actual business people testifying that if the minimum wage goes up, they’ll have to reduce staff and raise prices to consumers. What’s not generally mentioned is that the process of raising the minimum is envisioned as a multi-step program, as the $10.10 per hour wouldn’t take effect until July 1, 2016. (As the bill is written, the wage would step up in 95-cent annual increments beginning July 1, 2014. However, after that point the intention is to index the minimum to inflation so it would automatically go up each year at a slightly faster pace – the bill rounds it up to the nearest penny.)

The other initiative items O’Malley touched upon in his remarks were “advancing” universal pre-kindergarten across the state and revamping domestic violence laws, both of which also happen to be key platform planks in his lieutenant governor’s campaign. My question on pre-K, though, is twofold: what sort of “investment” are we talking about and is it going to be worth it? Studies of the effects of Head Start on young students show that the advantages gained in such a classroom environment evaporate quickly, at best by the time the child reaches third grade but perhaps even after first grade. But it sure would create a lot of union jobs.

Most disappointing – although I can’t say I’m surprised after seven years of this mismanagement at the state level – are the two most fundamental misunderstandings uttered by our state’s chief executive.

Here’s the first one:

We’ve lost sight of how our economy works when it is working well.

Prosperity doesn’t trickle down from the top.

It never has.

It’s built from the middle out — and from the middle up.

It was O’Malley’s Democratic fellow, President John F. Kennedy, who popularized the phrase “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Using the ocean as an analogy, O’Malley’s argument would seem to be that the ocean rises when the streams which feed it increase their inward flow. Indeed, this is true to some extent, but remember those streams are replenished by the rain which falls from above, as it also does over the ocean.

Obviously there are some people in the world who would be happy with a middle-class existence. But I haven’t seen the lottery yet which succeeded on the promise of $50,000 a year – people aspire to wealth, although obviously with the caveat of not having to do more than purchase a ticket to secure it. The odds are vastly better that someone who works hard to enact his entrepreneurial ideas will become wealthy, dragging many of those who simply aspire to be middle-class upward with him or her through being employed in the enterprise.

Unfortunately, the path to becoming middle-class seems now to be most readily available through government. I have a friend who has been an entrepreneur; unfortunately, his ventures haven’t been as successful as he would like. His new job is with a state agency – yes, the pay is decent but the problem his conscience wrestles with is one of being a taker rather than a creator. There are many fine federal, state, and local government workers out there but all of them share one thing in common: they’re paid by revenues mainly collected from the private sector. The O’Malley legacy is one of absolutely brutalizing the private sector producers, who can’t trickle anything once the state is through with them.

Here’s the second issue – stop me if you’ve heard this one before:

Seven years later, we are not just One Maryland. By many measures, we are Number One Maryland.

And by many other important measures, we are number 24 or 41 or 44 Maryland. But my contention is that the state is not One Maryland, but really at least four: the western panhandle, which combines rugged beauty with the potential to tap significant energy reserves; the I-95 corridor where most people live, a study in contrasts between rich and poor, educated and streetwise, and all shades in between; southern Maryland, which is the quickly evolving bedroom community and playground for those who work in government; and the Eastern Shore, where agriculture and tourism have to co-exist, doing so more or less peacefully. Making decisions for one region tends to adversely affect the other ones.

But I think “One Maryland” to Martin O’Malley is his code to continue the top-down, Annapolis-knows-best leadership style for which his administration has been known. We’ve had the septic bill, the rain tax, educational maintenance of effort requirements, and dozens of other instances where counties serves as little more than lines on a map because their authority is folded under the Annapolis bureaucracy.

I understand the Republicans only had a limited time to respond, but there was so much we left on the table in replying to Martin O’Malley’s message. I’m looking forward to Republicans laying out their plan for Maryland, since I’m confident conservative leadership can really move this state forward.

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  • 2018 Election

    Election Day is November 6 for all of us. With the Maryland primary by us and a shorter widget, I’ll add the Delaware statewide federal offices (Congress and U.S. Senate) to the mix once their July 10 filing deadline is passed. Their primary is September 6.

    Maryland

    Governor

    Larry Hogan (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Shawn Quinn (Libertarian) – Facebook

    Ben Jealous (D) – Facebook Twitter

    Ian Schlakman (Green) Facebook Twitter

     

    U.S. Senate

    Tony Campbell (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Ben Cardin (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Arvin Vohra (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    There are three independent candidates currently listed as seeking nomination via petition: Steve Gladstone, Michael Puskar, and Neal Simon. All have to have the requisite number of signatures in to the state BoE by August 6.

     

    U.S. Congress -1st District

    Andy Harris (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Jenica Martin (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    Jesse Colvin (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    State Senate – District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R – incumbent) – Facebook

    Holly Wright (D) – Facebook

     

    Delegate – District 37A

    Frank Cooke (R) – Facebook

    Sheree Sample-Hughes (D – incumbent) – Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 37B (elect 2)

    Chris Adams (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Johnny Mautz (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Dan O’Hare (D) – Facebook

     

    State Senate – District 38

    Mary Beth Carozza (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Jim Mathias (D – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38A

    Charles Otto (R – incumbent)

    Kirkland Hall, Sr. (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38B

    Carl Anderton, Jr. (R – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38C

    Wayne Hartman (R) – Facebook

     

    Delaware

     

    U.S. Senate

     

    Republican:

    Rob ArlettFacebook Twitter

    Roque de la FuenteFacebook Twitter

    Gene Truono, Jr. –  Facebook

     

    Libertarian (no primary, advances to General):

    Nadine Frost – Facebook

     

    Democrat:

    Tom Carper (incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Kerri Evelyn HarrisFacebook Twitter

     

    Green (no primary, advances to General):

    Demitri Theodoropoulos

     

     

    Congress (at-large):

     

    Republican:

    Lee MurphyFacebook Twitter

    Scott Walker

     

    Democrat (no primary, advances to General):

    Lisa Blunt Rochester (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

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