The O’Malley/Brown job creation narrative took another hit last week as it was announced Maryland lost the third-highest number of jobs in the country, with a decline of 6,200 jobs in April. Sadly for President Obama and his steadfast ally in Government House, the announcement came on the same day Obama was touting his record of job creation – a real “inconvenient truth.”
And wouldn’t you know it, Change Maryland and its founder Larry Hogan – which much to the chagrin of Martin O’Malley and his heir apparent Anthony Brown is adding social media followers at a faster pace than O’Malley is creating good-paying jobs – had to point this out:
The President has had a rough week. Visiting Maryland to tout job creation on the same day a report shows Maryland lost the third highest number of jobs in the country is just another stroke of bad luck for this President…(b)ut it is tragic for Maryland’s struggling middle class families.
After nearly seven years of failed economic policies, it has become crystal clear that the O’Malley-Brown Administration just does not get it when it comes to jobs. Year after year, their jobs, jobs, jobs rhetoric is simply that – rhetoric. But their record stands in stark contrast. The fact of the matter is when it comes to jobs, our increased reliance on government to create jobs has left Maryland’s economy vulnerable to the ever changing political winds in Washington.
Now it’s not like I haven’t featured helpful suggestions in this space – some mine, some by others – to help relieve the state of its over-reliance on the “industry” we call the federal government, but so far they’ve fallen on deaf ears. Two of my favorites are energy extraction and Anirban Basu’s idea of eliminating state corporate taxes – a thought that probably brings Annapolis liberals to the verge of a coronary or a stroke.
What seems to go unrealized in this day and age of shrinking paychecks, stunted home values, and millions collecting checks from Uncle Sam without the production one would normally associate with “earning” a salary is that every dollar the public sector takes from a participant in the private-sector economy is a dollar the average Joe can’t direct to the highest and best use of the market. If Joe Sixpack wants to invest in home improvement but can’t because his property tax bill went up thanks to an EPA mandate to clean up Chesapeake Bay – even if our state didn’t create the largest share of the problem and other remedies go untried – that’s going to affect the home improvement supplier, which may lay off a worker or two and throw their financial world into a tailspin. Granted, a measly $100 or so won’t do that by itself but those hundreds turn into thousands and thousands into millions. Even if Jill Sixpack simply couldn’t afford the morning latte because the tax bill increased it eventually affects jobs in this consumer sending-driven economy.
Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown would have you believe that Maryland is a thriving state under their policies, and that the Free State weathered the recession better than its peers. Perhaps it did, but if losing 6,200 jobs qualifies as a recovery I would hate to see what a recession looks like.
A week or so back I referred to one of Delegate Michael McDermott’s summaries of the 2013 General Assembly session, and he’s come back with another installment today. In this one, he laments the economic effects of those “few pennies” we’ll be paying every day to the state in additional taxes and fees by reminding us that businesses will be paying them, too. McDermott concludes that:
As the government draws more money out of the economy through these new taxes and fees, taxpayers (and) consumers find themselves with fewer discretionary dollars. This always results in fewer dollars being put back into our local economy and every point of commerce suffers. When business slows, expansion is put on hold. When business suffers loss, people lose jobs.
All this seems to be basic common sense which is lost on those who inhabit the Maryland General Assembly and vote with the majority party. It somehow never seems to seep into their consciousness that business aren’t going to pay maybe $100 a year for the so-called “rain tax” or the promised no more than $2 a month for “green” energy, nor will the effects of ever-increasing gasoline taxes be minimal for them.
The problem they have is twofold: the Maryland economy is dynamic and the geography is static. From my house I can be in Delaware in 15 minutes and Virginia in about 40. It’s worth pointing out that just four of Maryland’s 23 counties aren’t on a state border (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Howard, and Talbot as well as Baltimore City) while several border two states and Washington County touches three. Certainly it’s not like larger states where traveling to a different jurisdiction to take advantage of their business climate involves the expenditure of several hours and a half-tank of gas.
So Maryland has to compete on a playing field which is far from level, and savvy consumers know just where to go to get the best deal. It’s no wonder that neighboring states have large shopping meccas close by Maryland’s borders.
Now this isn’t all bad news for Marylanders, as some cross state lines to work just as some who live in neighboring states make up Maryland’s too-slowly growing workforce. But as critics like McDermott and Larry Hogan of Change Maryland point out, we can do better.
And don’t think Mike isn’t seeing the political reality. Note this passage in his report:
I am not sure where the disconnect lies with legislators who see nothing wrong with this tax and spend approach at governing, but I am quite sure the public is fully able to connect the dots. I was recently at a meeting of local business owners and entrepreneurs when a senator told them that what they could “conceive…the government would help them achieve.” Sadly this was repeated so there was little doubt where he was coming from in his thoughts regarding the purpose and scope of government.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the Senator in question isn’t the person McDermott will be facing next year.
Recently Change Maryland had to do a mea culpa, because they found out they were incorrect.
Just weeks after putting out the word about Martin O’Malley and his 37 tax increases since taking office, the good-government advocacy group had to let people know they were just a little bit off – in the wrong way:
Previously, Change Maryland released a report that updated tax and fee increases following the 2013 session, which brought the total to 37 increases that remove $3.1 billion annually over and above the existing tax burden. These latest reports adds new fees for gun purchases, enacted in 2013, and two newly-discovered measures buried in omnibus legislation and not subject to normal legislative procedures.
So now we are up to a nice, round 40 tax and fee increases under the O’Malley regime. Aren’t we special?
Since I began with Change Maryland, I may as well continue with what their leader, Larry Hogan, had to say:
Nobody expected the total impact to be this staggering, not even me. Struggling Maryland families and small businesses simply cannot afford another four years of an O’Malley-Brown tax and spend binge.
Hogan continued by lamenting the ongoing nature of the problem:
This is not just an argument about big government. It’s about a government that is on auto-pilot to grow exponentially, beyond anything any of us have ever seen in our lifetimes and that comes directly at the expense of the private sector economy that we desperately need to diversify our employment base.
Undoubtedly, the question for the O’Malley/Brown team – and they are a team, since our lieutenant governor is the favored choice of Martin O’Malley – is whether Anthony Brown will try and run up the score some more. Would triple digits be possible over a 16-year reign of the O’Malley/Brown team? In a speech in Chestertown, Hogan used the occasion to blast the heir apparent, who’s announced his intention to snag the state’s top spot next year, from the stump.
(Side note: the odds are against Brown, as on three occasions since the office of lieutenant governor was re-created in 1970 the officeholder failed to win the office him/herself. Blair Lee III lost the 1978 Democratic primary, as did Melvin Steinberg in 1994. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend won her nomination, but lost to Republican Bob Ehrlich in 2002.)
Yet the more Hogan chooses to point out the foibles of the O’Malley/Brown team, the less of a chance there is he will enter the race himself. In a lot of ways, Larry has chosen to be this state’s version of Sarah Palin as he could potentially be a kingmaker as the leader of a bipartisan group closing in on 40,000 followers. If each can influence five voters, you have yourself a GOP primary winner in a year where it appears we will have two or three relatively strong candidates.
And then there’s always O’Malley’s own legacy and his dreams of running for President in 2016. Certainly he would find it a feather in his cap to get his LG elected as successor and cement his legacy. Being the media whore he is, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see Martin O’Malley take the tack suggested in this piece by Pete “DaTechGuy” Ingemi as MOM has to overcome the legacy of one Hillary Rodham Clinton. “I can see a certain Maryland governor doing this,” indeed.
Honestly, this one came out of left field for me, but several published reports indicate Anne Arundel County Delegate Ron George will formally announce his intent in June to run for governor in 2014, abandoning re-election to his House of Delegates seat in the effort.
It’s interesting to me that, in a state where I’m continually told by conventional wisdom that the Democratic primary will determine the next governor, so many Republicans are considering the race. Most of my readers already know the field by heart, but just as a reminder it most likely includes (in alphabetical order) 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, Harford County Executive David Craig, 2010 Congressional candidate and AFP Maryland leader Charles Lollar, and Frederick County Commission president Blaine Young. I’m becoming less and less convinced that early 2010 gubernatorial hopeful and Change Maryland leader Larry Hogan will make a run; in fact it wouldn’t shock me if at least two others of those mentioned above begged off the race.
There’s no question that George will be trying to make history as just the second governor in modern times to ascend from the House of Delegates to Government House, and the first to be elected – Gov. Marvin Mandel came into office in 1969 as the successor to Gov. Spiro Agnew, who became Vice-President under Richard Nixon. Mandel was elected by the legislature, as the office of Lieutenant Governor wasn’t created until 1970 in the wake of Agnew’s departure.
George hinted that his focus would be on economic issues, being quoted in the Capital as promising:
My plan is to really build a new Maryland – one that has true economic growth, not government-created jobs that don’t last long.
But is that the whole package? From a conservative’s standpoint, George is great on certain issues. But on the monoblogue Accountability Project, George only has a lifetime score of 73 and that puts him in the bottom third of Republican Delegates – one caveat being Republicans from that area tend to score a little lower as they cater to a more moderate district.
Evidence of that is easy to find, since his 2010 election website is still up. It includes accolades from well-known state Republicans Bob Ehrlich and Ellen Sauerbrey and praise from Reagan Attorney General Ed Meese, but also has a section devoted to “Democrats and Independents for Ron George,” including this from member Gil Renaut:
In the current “hyperpartisan” climate, he stands out as a delegate who can and does work across party lines for the public good.
But this site also poses a question which should give those up in arms about Agenda 21 and other environmental opportunism pause:
Did you know that Ron also supported and voted for The Clean Air Act, The Clean Cars Bill, The Chesapeake Bay Trust Fund, The Living Shoreline Protection Act, the Green and Growing Task Force, Performance Standards and Accountability that help Smart Growth, the Smart Green and Growing Commission, the Standing Bill and many, many more?
That is how Ron George was nicknamed the Green Elephant.
Aside from the nickname, I can pretty much guarantee I knew this, hence his fairly low score on the monoblogue Accountability Project. I recall, however, that this bid to curtail illegal immigration was one of his bills I wrote testimony on some years back.
So while he has some appeal to the center of the political spectrum and those people who equate “it’s for the Bay” with “it’s for the children”, is that enough to propel him to the GOP nomination? After all, in a statewide election the question generally is why vote for Democrat-lite when you can get the real thing?
And on a more political level, why not announce before the state Republican convention when all the activists are there to be catered to? Yes, we had a messy race for Chair but the distraction may have been helpful.
George is staking out a position alongside David Craig, as both are apparently trying to portray the pragmatic centrists as opposed to the more fiscally conservative Blaine Young, the brash outsider in Dan Bongino, and the more socially conservative Charles Lollar. The latter three seem to be seeking the hearts and minds of the pro-liberty wing of the Maryland GOP, so maybe George’s entrance is good news for them.
Much, however, depends on what other surprises await as the 2014 campaign slowly comes into focus.
I’ve actually sat on this piece of news for a few days, as it didn’t seem to attract a lot of notice anywhere else and I think I know why.
On Tuesday I received a message in my e-mail from the “Draft Charles Lollar” campaign telling me that:
I am honored and deeply humbled to be endorsed by Dr. Ben Carson regarding my consideration to run in the upcoming election to become the next Governor of Maryland. Dr. Carson is a great leader who exemplifies the American spirit. This is the same spirit that I intend to bring with me as we begin to share our message with Maryland’s voters now and all the way to Annapolis. – Charles
Great, outstanding, a nice “get” – but what did Dr. Carson actually say? You see, in most endorsements the person promoting the candidate will have a few words to say but in this case we only have the statement that Dr. Carson endorsed Charles. I don’t say this to call Charles Lollar or those working on his nascent and still unofficial campaign liars – don’t misunderstand – but perhaps they need to learn a little more basic technique in writing press releases. And maybe that’s why what would ordinarily draw attention didn’t do a whole lot for the campaign.
On the other hand, given Carson’s comments about gay marriage which led to him withdrawing as Johns Hopkins commencement speaker, the lack of attention may be good. Unfortunately, these comments on political correctness in general have detracted from the good work Carson does in his community and could reflect poorly on Lollar if we don’t seize the narrative.
Still, this is the clearest indication yet that the race for Governor may be between at least four major candidates. All four of these men had presences of various sizes at the recent Maryland GOP state convention, but of that quartet only Frederick County Commission President Blaine Young has used the words “for Governor” in his campaign. 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Dan Bongino, Harford County Executive David Craig, and Lollar, who made an abortive try for the state’s top job in 2010 before withdrawing and running for Congress instead, have been non-committal beyond an exploratory stage of sorts, although Craig’s campaign is planning a three-day tour of the state in June, according to his local “county point person.” I would presume this would serve as Craig’s official launch to the race.
On the other side of the fence, it’s worth pointing out that Larry Hogan and Change Maryland sat out this convention with the exception of providing a program sponsorship. With four strongly hinting at running for governor, the field may be a little crowded for Larry to jump into. The same goes for Michael Steele – yes, some would like him to run, but would anyone step aside for Steele after eight years away?
Yet with four reasonably strong potential candidates, it looks like the race for the state’s top job could be a scrap on both sides. For the first time in nearly two decades, the GOP has no odds-on choice for governor such as they had with Bob Ehrlich from 2002-10 and Ellen Sauerbrey in 1998. Even the 1994 GOP race only featured two strong candidates, meaning that unless things change between now and the filing deadline the nominee could win with far less than 50% of the GOP vote, leaving himself just weeks to form a united front among disappointed supporters of the other contestants. (Obviously this also depends on the tenor of the primary race, with the hope we don’t relive a situation like the 2008 First District or 2012 Sixth District Republican Congressional primaries, for example.)
It’s an interesting field, one where at this early stage I could see Young, Lollar, and Bongino going after the same conservative wing of the party and allowing the more moderate Craig to slip through. Unfortunately for Lollar, the Carson endorsement wasn’t as well-handled as it probably should have been, particularly since Charles isn’t officially in the race yet. Perhaps this was a misstep by an inexperienced state campaign, but Carson’s was one endorsement which should have been held back for a few weeks.
If you are one of those who follows conservative grassroots activism, it’s likely you may have heard about the New Fair Deal rally being held in Washington tomorrow afternoon to coincide with tax day. While it will certainly be a modest event by the standards of other TEA Party rallies such as the 9/12 rally in 2009 or various Glenn Beck-led gatherings since, organizers believe a few thousand will attend with many staying around after the speeches to buttonhole various members of Congress about this new legislative program aimed at reining in government.
But the better question is: what is the legislative program? The four planks can be summarized as follows:
- No corporate handouts
- A fair tax code
- Stop overspending
- Empower individuals
The eight Congressmen who will be authoring the legislation in question, some of whom are among the most libertarian Republican conservatives in Congress, are Reps. Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, Doug Lamborn of Colorado, Tom McClintock of California, Mike Pompeo of Kansas, Dr. Tom Price of Georgia, and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin. Mulvaney, Pompeo, and Price are among the speakers tomorrow at the event, which will also feature Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, Senator Mike Lee of Utah, activists Rev. C.L. Bryant, Deneen Borelli, Julie Borowski, Ana Puig, and Maryland’s own Dan Bongino. Borelli is featured in this video decribing some of the features of the New Fair Deal.
“The New Fair Deal is a four-part legislative package that ends corporate handouts, closes loopholes in a simple tax code, balances the budget, and empowers Americans with the choice to opt-out of Medicare and Social Security,” explained FreedomWorks president Matt Kibbe. “Individual freedom, economic empowerment and equal opportunity are the ultimate fair deal for Americans. No more pitting us against each other while politicians and big business pick winners and losers in the marketplace at the expense of everyday individuals,” he added.
It goes without saying, though, that the devil is in the details. For example, ending corporate subsidies is great for avoiding the next Solyndra or Ener1, but my friends at the American Petroleum Institute would argue that the tax package for oil exploration is vital to the industry’s success. They may have a point, so perhaps the best solution is to prioritize which subsidies would be axed first and which ones would have more of a transition. Being a fairly mature industry, it may take somewhat longer for the oil and natural gas companies to deal with these changes, as well as the sugar farmers who were targeted in the video. I could see a time window of three to five years for these industries, but green energy? Cut them off yesterday.
As far as a “fair tax code” I honestly don’t think there is such a thing, particularly with the proposal of a two-rate system as specified. I like the idea of a “skin in the game” tax where everyone has to pay at least 1 percent (for someone making $20,000 a year that’s $200 – not a back-breaker if you know it’s coming) but I disagree with the progressive rate change from 12% to 24% at $100,000. If we are to have a flat tax, it should be one rate regardless of income. Why would I take the overtime which would push me from a salary of $98,000 (and an $11,760 tax bill) to $101.000 only to have that and much more – since the tax bill would steeply jump to $24,240 – entirely eaten up by taxes? I understand the populist idea of the secretary paying less than the billionaire, but the solution proposed would be ripe for complication because of situations like the above. I’d rather work on repealing the Sixteenth Amendment and creating a consumption tax, which would be the most fair of all because one can control their level of consumption to the greatest extent.
Another area which suffers from being too broad is the concept of “overspending.” Even if you cut off all discretionary spending tomorrow we would still have a deficit. Yes, we do need to eliminate the concept of baseline budgeting posthaste but we also have to lose the mindset which makes people fear their budget will be cut if they don’t spend their full allocation. While thousands and thousands of federal workers are superfluous to the task of good government, we have to educate the public as to why they need to be let go – you know the media will be portraying them as victims just like they tried to make a huge case that sequestration would be devastating.
Of the four planks presented, though, I really like the idea of the last one as expressed – the power of determining your own retirement and health care needs. In just 14 years I will be eligible for Social Security, but to be quite honest I don’t expect a dime from it because the system will be bankrupt by then in my estimation. (My writing was intended to be my “retirement” but real life intruded a little more quickly than I imagined it would.) The same goes for Medicare. If I had the choice, I would tell the government to give me back the money I paid into Social Security and Medicare – let me decide how to invest it best. This legislation may well allow me that option, although I suspect it will be tailored more to those under 40 who still have plenty of time to weigh all their retirement choices.
(Remember, though, I am on record as saying “Social Security should be sunsetted.” Nothing they can propose would eliminate that stance.)
The key to any and all of these changes taking place, though, is to remember none of this happens overnight. As it stands right now, the earliest we can make lasting national change in the right direction is January of 2017. Moreover, these Congressional visionaries and any other allies we may pick up along the way will be standing for election twice before a new President is inaugurated – and if the Republicans nominate another milquetoast “go along to get along” Beltway moderate who doesn’t buy into this agenda, the timetable becomes even longer.
But there is an opportunity in the interim, though. What statement would it make if Maryland – one of the most liberal states in the country according to the conventional wisdom – suddenly elected a conservative governor and confounded the intent of the heretofore powerful liberals in charge by electing enough members of the General Assembly to foil their overt gerrymandering attempts? No doubt it’s the longest of long shots, but let the liberals think they have this state in the bag. Wouldn’t it be nice to watch them fume as a Governor Charles Lollar, Larry Hogan, Blaine Young, or Dan Bongino is inaugurated – this after the stunning ascension of Speaker of the House Neil Parrott and President of the Senate E.J. Pipkin? Those who survived the collective hara-kiri and cranial explosions throughout the liberal Annapolis community would probably be reduced to bickering among themselves and pointing fingers of blame.
Our side often points to Virginia as a well-run state, but I think there are even better examples to choose from. Certainly there would be a transition period, but why not adopt some of these ideas as well as other “best and brightest” practices to improve Maryland and create a destination state for the producers as opposed to the takers?
If this sort of transformation can occur in Maryland, I have no doubt Washington D.C. would be next in line.
I really wish this were an April Fool’s hoax, but instead it’s yet another cruel joke played on Maryland taxpayers who will now be forced to cough up over $3 billion a year to satisfy Martin O’Malley’s lust for spending.
Just this morning the taxpayer watchdog Change Maryland came out with its newly revised summary of O’Malley’s 37 – yes, 37 – tax and fee increases enacted during his tenure. Here’s the sad list.
Needless to say, Change Maryland head Larry Hogan had some biting criticism of the recent O’Malley move:
The Governor calls it the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act that will create jobs, end road congestion and create a 21st Century Transportation Network. I call it the Highway Robbery Act of 2013 – the 36th consecutive O’Malley tax hike that takes us to $3 billion removed annually from struggling Maryland families and small businesses which will cost us even more businesses, jobs and taxpayers.
Our top elected officials went to great lengths to avoid news coverage of the overwhelmingly unpopular gas tax by scheduling key announcements, committee votes and floor action on evenings and late Friday afternoons. The Governor led wind energy activists in chanting ‘give wind a chance,’ while the vast majority of Marylanders wish he would just give taxpayers a chance instead. Our top elected officials don’t know it yet, but they are sealing the deal for a tax revolt in Maryland.
Preferably that revolt will occur at the 2014 ballot box as many members of the free-spending majority party are relegated to the ash heap of history, replaced by common-sense conservatives who will give taxpayers a break and restore the state to a more business-friendly posture to promote real growth.
But it can’t be denied that the O’Malley administration has been good for Change Maryland’s business, as they note:
Change Maryland now has almost 35,000 members and has grown by nearly 10,000 since the most recent tax-raising legislative session began less than 90 days ago.
Bear in mind it was just under a year ago they were celebrating 12,000. Perhaps in a year’s time the cake as originally frosted will be correct.
Placed in terms we all can understand, though, Martin O’Malley’s $3.1 billion of annual tax increases – and this doesn’t count other increases in federal and local spending put into place since 2007 – are costing each and every Maryland man, woman, and child, black, white, Latino, Asian, legal, illegal, or anchor baby about 10 bucks a week or $500 a year. I don’t know about you, but to me that’s one Shorebirds game a week I couldn’t buy a ticket to. For others, as a lump sum, it might be that weekend getaway to Ocean City they cherish. Still others may see it as not being able to treat themselves to Italian ice a couple times a week – the point is, somewhere along the line the state deemed it wasn’t our money anymore, it was theirs.
Certainly some would argue this is the government we duly elected, and supposedly they share the same priorities we do. But if these moves were so broadly popular, as Change Maryland points out, why were they made at the end of the work week or in late-night votes? What were they trying to hide?
Of course no one is volunteering to pay more taxes than they have to, but we’re smart enough to know that there is a certain amount we have to chip in to keep the state functional in doing that which they are charged to do. But somewhere along the line we have crossed from a government performing essential functions to one trying for cradle-to-grave control over our lives, and that to me is a bridge too far.
Today I have two items which may not seem to be necessarily related, but in my mind make perfect sense as a cause and (future) effect. Let me start with that proverbial itch in Martin O’Malley’s back that he just can’t reach to scratch, Larry Hogan and Change Maryland:
Two outcomes of the Governor’s legislative agenda is (sic) to make gasoline and electricity more expensive. We have now seen 36 consecutive tax, fee and toll increases that will remove $3.1 billion out of the pockets of struggling Marylander’s per year, with these motor fuel taxes and the additional fees required of utility customers to support offshore wind.
Instead of developing a coherent transportation policy, our top elected officials took the easy way out by adding yet more of a tax burden to a state that has faced so many in recent years. They choreographed the proposal’s original announcement, committee hearings and final votes to take place on late Fridays and in the evenings to avoid news coverage in the waning days of this legislative session. This speaks volumes about just how unpopular more taxes are, and this may push Maryland to the tipping point. Taxpayers have finally had enough.
The second piece of the puzzle comes from interim state GOP head Diana Waterman:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maryland’s unemployment rate has almost doubled since Martin O’Malley became Governor. The Democrats in Annapolis have slowed economic growth by raising taxes over $1,500 per family with more on the way.
Maryland’s budgets have increased nearly 25% from $28.8 billion in 2007 to $36.8 billion in 2014. The Democrats say they are focused on “jobs” but they have not done a single thing to make Maryland more friendly to job creators. That’s why 6,500 small businesses have left our state and there are 8 fewer Fortune 500 Companies located within our borders. It is time for a change in Annapolis so we can get Maryland’s economy moving again!
I’ll set aside my thought that it was Change Maryland which trumpeted the 6,500 figure for lost businesses and concentrate more squarely on a more important theory: more than most other states, Maryland is held captive by a tyranny of the majority.
There are two classes of people who, in varying degrees, are either not affected by or prosper from a larger, more all-consuming government.
One is Maryland’s poor, which tend to congregate in the Democratic stronghold of Baltimore City but can be found in small enclaves all around the state. Billions of dollars’ worth of wealth has been transferred via the state coffers from the producers to the dependent, and although this gasoline tax will affect them adversely to some degree (as may the farebox increases for mass transit), on balance the tax hikes will be to their benefit once the money is transferred over to the General Fund. If you truly believe the majority party isn’t going to participate in this plunder – even with the laughably weak “lockbox” provision included in the gas tax legislation – you probably also believe that offshore wind is cheap and abundant energy.
The second group is all those people who actually work for the government, whether federal or state. Because of them, Maryland is one of the more prosperous states in the nation and by outward appearance she has weathered the recessionary storm better than practically anyone else. But that Potemkin village of prosperity only seems to extend to the outside of the Beltway and along portions of the I-95 corridor where enough voters live that they can combine with the group of poor voters I outlined above and run the remainder of the state into the dust. If you’re living fat and happy off the federal government, it’s really not going to matter all that much if you pay a buck or two more to fill up your Volvo; moreover, chances are that in your cocoon you won’t stop and think about how this will affect all the others who have to also pay this new freight.
But there’s the rest of us out here. And even if you’re one of those thinkers who is aware enough of what’s really going on but happen to live among the groups who prosper from the misery of the rest of us, you’re forced to take it in the shorts once again.
There is a day of reckoning that is coming. No, it’s not Election Day 2014, for even if we motivated all the Republicans and thoughtful independents in Maryland to come out to the polls, and even if we can get to what my latest interviewee Bill Campbell alluded - to “control the trajectory that Maryland is going to have economically” by electing a conservative governor and comptroller – we still would have to fight this battle on the federal level with a President who seems determined to ruin this country’s economy and perhaps with a Supreme Court willing to throw aside the words of the Founding Fathers as expressed in the plain language of the Constitution for their vision of a nation which is more “fair.”
Instead, that day comes when, proverbially, Atlas makes the decision to shrug. There’s a new study from the Mercatus Center detailing freedom in the 50 states, and one conclusion they drew was:
The more a state denies people their freedoms, increases their taxes or passes laws that make it hard for businesses to hire and fire, the more likely they are to leave.
Indeed, this is true. But what happens when there’s nowhere else to go?
As a state, Maryland may be the canary in the coal mine. But in the longer-term, we as a nation have a lot of work to do just to simply get pointed in the right direction – let alone reverse course. I know it’s a generational struggle and the other side isn’t going down without a fight.
There has to be an uprising of some sort. Note well that guns do not necessarily have to be involved, for the uprising could also be spiritual in nature, or it could even take form as a restoration of the honesty and work ethic for which Americans used to be known. At one time most of us were too proud to take “relief” but now the (so-called) “independence card” is viewed as an entitlement, if not a badge of honor which has been “earned.”
Whatever the case may be, the time between now and that day is getting shorter, and things are changing at an accelerated pace. Let us use the principles many of us share and the technology we have in this era to better things just as our forefathers did almost a quarter of a millennium ago. Remember, if a rising tide lifts all boats, a falling tide means some will run into the rocks they never saw.
I almost hate to be the bearer of this bad news, but hopefully the word will spread and be a wake-up call for a state where wallets are being plundered and freedoms eroded: Change Maryland is just now out with a new listing of taxes.
I actually had a chance to check out an advance copy of this scary reading, with the Change Maryland release excerpted below:
Change Maryland released today an updated list of tax, fee and toll increases enacted under the O’Malley Administration. This latest report shows 32 increases that remove $2.3 billion out of the economy annually and includes only measures that have been enacted. As final passage of increasing motor fuel taxes and offshore wind resulting in higher utility bills appear imminent, the list is a reminder of the ever-increasing amount struggling Marylanders are being asked to pay for the big-government ambitions of politicians.
Fully sourced using Department of Legislative Services analysis, executive branch budget documents and fiscal notes from bills, the list is the only comprehensive analysis of what Marylanders are paying in levies over and above existing taxes and fees since 2007.
“This will not be a slide in the Governor’s power point presentations,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan. We’re finding yet again, it’s time to pull the curtain back on this Administration. Elected officials and bureaucrats don’t want their tax, fee and toll increases to be public and understandable, so we did it for them in the interest of promoting fiscal responsibility and transparency.”
The group went on to detail a year-by-year, blow-by-blow rendering of all the additional taxes and fees we are subjected to, and added:
The General Assembly’s presiding officers and the Governor are making a unified push in 2013 to raise motor fuel taxes and to pay for offshore wind by increasing utility bills to customers. Change Maryland will footnote those proposals as they work through the legislative process and add those in another list to be released separately. The grassroots organization periodically updates this list based on newly-discovered measures often buried in legislation and counts separate revenue-raising components individually when they are rolled into omnibus legislation.
“It’s hard to believe but they’re not even done yet,” said Hogan.”The Governor and his enablers in the legislature are asking for even more tax increases in the next few weeks, This may very well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. One-party monopoly rule is just too expensive. We need balance and a healthy and competitive two party system. The taxpayers of Maryland have had enough.”
Bear in mind that the state’s budget has surged by nearly a third since Martin O’Malley took over in 2007; although he likes to speak about phantom “cuts” made in the state’s spending docket, the fact is that we spend more dollars now in 2013 than we did in 2007 when Governor O’Malley took over. The increases outstrip the state’s population growth and the rate of inflation.
Moreover, several conversations and speakers I’ve heard over the past few days allude to the fact that a significant portion (up to 40 percent) of Maryland’s budget comes from the federal government. The gentleman I spoke to for Ten Question Tuesday, in particular, has some eye-opening assessments of Maryland’s economy on tap – it may be a considerable struggle for the state to maintain its breakneck spending pace; meanwhile, Free State residents are staring down the barrel of tax and fee increases #33, #34, #35, and perhaps #36 as explained below in previous recent Change Maryland releases, beginning with Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan on offshore wind:
With a proposed motor fuel tax increase this year and several years of raising taxes on everything else, now is not the time to experiment on unproven energy sources with other people’s money. Once again, the priorities of our top elected officials are not aligned with regular, working people who overwhelmingly reject any further tax increases.
This offshore wind scheme requires a tax to make it possible. The private sector does not get to tax people to experiment with projects and with very few exceptions neither should government. This will be a huge waste – assuming anything gets built at all. Governor O’Malley has been focused on increasing the cost of electricity and gasoline for struggling Maryland families and small businesses. He has now accomplished half his goal, and is working hard to increase the cost of gas in Maryland to the highest in the region.
That’s increase number 33. But as Larry alluded to, the gasoline tax passed in the House of Delegates last week:
A proposal as unpopular as this one must be hidden from public view and carefully timed to avoid news cycles. In fact, this proposal is so unpopular that the Governor announced it in the evening, the first hearings were held on a Friday afternoon the same day as the death penalty vote, House passage is on a Friday afternoon, and final votes are taking place in the closing weeks of this legislative session.
Just as unpopular is Governor O’Malley’s record of raising taxes and fees. There are currently 32 enacted measures that remove $2.3 billion out of the economy annually. Marylanders are now faced with the prospect of paying another $800 million on top of the $2.3 billion a year we’re already paying in new taxes if this passes the Senate without substantive changes from the Governor’s proposal.
Hogan also bashed the gas tax for its effect on rural areas.
Committee leaders provided yet another platform for the big county executives, who time and again have pleaded for more revenues that help their urban areas. Missing from this were elected officials from rural parts of the state. Instead, we heard the tired argument that we need more transportation money to attract the FBI headquarters to Prince George’s County. Here we go again – relying on the federal government instead of putting in place policies that attract Fortune 500 companies and small businesses back to our state. Moreover, nobody at the FBI is conditioning the move on Maryland increasing gasoline taxes, and this argument is simply pathetic.
I know Larry lives somewhere on the Western Shore, but I’m glad to see he’s alert to the War on Rural Maryland those of us who choose to live out here have to deal with.
And, if you’re keeping score (I’m sure they are) the gasoline tax increase counts as three increases: not only will the gasoline tax increase, but there will be farebox increases for those who use mass transit and a $3.50 increase in vehicle registration fees. So there you have increases 34 through 36.
It would be one thing if Maryland spent its money wisely, but we really don’t. I was going to write that an interesting case study would be one figuring out what state spends the most per capita, but I found out to my pleasure someone beat me to it. It’s data three years old, but as you can see Maryland was higher than the norm then and it’s doubtful we’re closer now. Just bringing spending down to the nationwide per-person average would save Maryland taxpayers about $4 billion annually – wiping out the extent of O’Malley’s tax increases each year and, even better, allowing its citizens to direct economic growth to where the market leads it rather than have it foisted upon us.
Perhaps with a new Republican team at the top in Annapolis come 2015, we can rebuild the state’s economy to one not so dependent on the largess of Uncle Sam. When the federal bubble bursts, we don’t want to be the ones who have to clean up the mess.
I thought wind was free. So why will electric bills go up $1.50 or more a month to provide us with wind power?
That seems to be the direction Maryland is going after the Senate approved its version of offshore wind on a 30-15 vote, with Republicans providing most of the sanity. The same was true in the House, but this hot air and rhetoric still passed there 86-48. And as I read the proposed law, the $1.50 monthly limit only applies through June 30, 2016. It’s covered in Section 3, and as Section 10 states:
AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That Section 3 of this Act shall take effect June 1, 2013. It shall remain effective for a period of 3 years and 1 month and, at the end of June 30, 2016, with no further action required by the General Assembly, Section 3 of this Act shall be abrogated and of no force and effect.
A pricing schedule can always be changed, but the portfolio requirement that 2.5% of Maryland’s electricity be created by offshore wind isn’t part of that restriction. If history is any guide, the percentage will be increased in order to try and coerce the market into building this offshore boondoggle 10 to 30 miles off Ocean City.
In his usual “bull in a china shop” fashion, Delegate Pat McDonough blasted O’Malley’s scheme and made a little wager:
I know this story may be hard to believe, but the Governor wants to construct 40 wind turbines that are 80 stories high (think: Baltimore’s tallest building) and 20 miles out in the ocean. This has never been done before. The cost of this green pork scheme is currently calculated to be $2 billion. I believe that estimate is very shallow compared to the eventual real costs. Of course, the usual ATM machines, meaning the people of Maryland, will be mandated to pay for these monstrosities through another new surcharge. The surcharge will be about $2 per month for consumers and unlimited for the business community. I will purchase a free crab cake for every rate payer in the State if this project costs $2 billion or less.
Someone else can have my crab cake as I don’t care much for them – not that I expect dinner on McDonough anytime soon. A more reasoned criticism was delivered by experienced O’Malley needler Larry Hogan of Change Maryland:
It seems Martin O’Malley’s priority is to make electricity and motor fuels more expensive. He wants an increase in the gasoline tax while simultaneously pushing a wind energy policy that is not cost effective and guarantees that electricity will be more expensive for rate payers. The timing couldn’t be worse.
There are no assurances that this offshore wind proposal will not devolve into crony capitalism that reward friends of the governor and political donors.
While there may be political support for offshore wind among narrow special interest groups, 96% of Marylanders are opposed to higher taxes. And make no mistake, the Governor’s offshore wind proposal is simply a tax by another name.
This governor has raised taxes and fees 24 times, taking $2.4 billion out of the economy each year. That is likely soon to be at least 25 with top-elected officials including the Governor rigidly adhering to increasing the motor fuel tax and adding charges to consumers’ electric bills.
Actually, Larry, O’Malley’s priority seems to be that of making life itself more expensive.
It just boggles my mind that we have a governor who “can’t imagine” using proven resources and technology to drill for oil offshore or explore for natural gas under the hills of western Maryland yet wants to go into an area with limited experience and a lack of reliability. You know those howling winds we’ve had the last few days with our most recent winter storm some thought was a “second Sandy“? Wind turbines don’t work in those conditions, nor do they have a history of reliability. Who pays if one of these 400-foot behemoths tumbles over in the middle of a hurricane?
If a private investor thinks it’s a grand idea to put up a wind farm and capture the free energy thought to be blowing around out there over Davy Jones’ locker, I say knock yourself out. Just don’t make the rest of us pay for it.
If it were such a great idea, one would think they wouldn’t need the coercing force of law to make it so. Bluewater Wind failed to make it, and that should be the clue our illustrious governor buys.
You know, it seems like every time I see a release from Change Maryland they remind us exactly how many tax increases Martin O’Malley has inflicted on the state – the total is now 24, going on 25. Something tells me that they could probably provide the exact dollar amount raised by all these tax hikes and how far short of projections they came out to be – after all, if enough dollars were raised by tax hikes 1 through 24 we wouldn’t be discussing number 25, would we?
Anyway, here’s what Change Maryland’s Larry Hogan had to say about the latest drop in this Chinese water torture we commonly refer to as the tenure of one Governor Martin O’Malley:
The Governor complains that Maryland has crumbling roads and bridges and the worst traffic congestion in the country, but what he doesn’t tell you is that it’s his fault. There has been no comprehensive transportation strategy from the O’Malley administration. Over a billion dollars has been diverted from the Transportation Trust Fund, and the vast majority of the billions of dollars that has been spent on transportation have been wasted on expenses that are completely unrelated to fixing our road problems. Now he wants struggling Maryland families to pay for his mistakes and his lack of leadership.
Over the last 4 years, Governor O’Malley has spent over $1 billion in dedicated transportation funds for things completely unrelated to transportation – even the money left in the transportation budget was also spent in the wrong place. In his 2014 budget, O’Malley proposes to spend $1.1 billion – a whopping 46% of our state capital and operating transportation budget – on public transportation, even though only 8% of us use public transportation to commute.
What we need is a coherent transportation policy that makes roads a priority and realigns spending based on how Marylanders actually travel. We also need the Governor to restore all of the money he has diverted from the Transportation Trust Fund and immediately appoint a competent Secretary of Transportation. The last thing in the world Maryland needs is another tax increase.
Actually, I have to disagree with Larry on one point: there is a comprehensive transportation strategy going on with Martin O’Malley. It’s just not the one most people would consider.
Remember what happened when gas prices went up to $4 a gallon the first time, in 2008? People parked their cars and decided it was cheaper to use mass transit. While O’Malley can’t directly influence the price of oil because Maryland isn’t that large a piece of the overall energy market, he can work on the the perceived problem of traffic congestion in two ways: try to steer development to urban areas – as I’ll expound further on momentarily – and raise gas prices through taxation, not to fix the highways but to increase the footprint for and subsidy of mass transit. After all, the logical method of addressing problems in the traffic flow through adding capacity is so twentieth century, even though it works.
Several years ago the state assisted in the development of what was called a “Central Maryland TOD Strategy,” with TOD being the acronym for transit-oriented development. One of its strategies for encouraging this sort of “sustainable” development was the following:
The uncertainty and slow pace of financing for transit upgrades hampers the market for TOD. Regional transit financing tools, such as the FasTracks program in Denver, can accelerate the implementation of transit and TOD and build market momentum. These initiatives often face substantial political barriers, so a coordinated and effective regional outreach and messaging campaign is essential.
Guess what’s in the O’Malley gas tax proposal? A study on creating regional transit financing. Granted, the idea has some appeal because it would more than likely serve as a sort of user fee and hammer just those who live in the area served, but once that genie is out of the bottle it’s not going to be forced back in and we will see all sorts of new taxing districts, both inter- and intra-county. Imagine a higher flush tax for the septic-rich Eastern Shore, for example – in Salisbury Mayor Jim Ireton is proposing something along this line to come up with the city’s supposed nine-figure share of enacting the EPA’s Watershed Implementation Plan.
I’ve gone a little far afield in discussing this release, but one other goal mentioned in the Central Maryland TOD report was construction of the Red Line in Baltimore, and indeed that’s one of the prospective uses for the money raised by the gas tax, which, by the way, will automatically increase each year at the rate of inflation. No more messy votes for people like me to scour and make known.
That lack of accountability out of Annapolis is something else which happens with depressing regularity. How about making some changes to Maryland in 2014?
On Monday night the Wicomico County Republican Club held its monthly meeting with gubernatorial candidate Blaine Young as the guest. Young spoke for about a half-hour on a number of topics, mainly relating to events in Frederick and surrounding Frederick County, a place where rapid growth over the last several years has come from those he jokingly described as “refugees from Montgomery County.”
Blaine outlined his position as President of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, although that position will soon be abolished as Frederick County will join a number of other Maryland counties which have adopted a County Executive form of government. In fact, just like Wicomico County, Frederick will have a similarly-comprised seven-member County Council as well beginning in 2014.
In speaking to those gathered, though, Young made it clear his biggest influence after completing a brief previous political career as an alderman in the city of Frederick was that of becoming a small business owner. “It woke me up and opened my eyes,” he said. Blaine is also a radio host, a daily enterprise he claimed the local papers and liberals hate. But his overall stable of business support between 120 and 140 people, stated Young.
But Blaine made the case that he took the appointment to the Commission in 2010 and subsequently decided to run for a full term because his predecessors “liked to spend money.” Instead, the slate he led into office is “a very property-rights oriented commission” which “started slashing away” at a $48 million deficit and turned it into a $29 million surplus. They did so by cooperating with the local Chamber of Commerce to adopt over 200 of their suggestions, eliminating taxes and rescinding “frivolous” fees. The number of county employees had also declined by 400 during his tenure, Young added.
(continued at the Watchdog Wire…)