There’s no doubt the importance of the 2014 elections in Maryland can’t be overstated. At stake will be the very direction of the state: will it continue to re-elect the same failed liberal leadership that’s been bleeding jobs (and may continue to do so) and can’t seem to balance a budget, or will it try the GOP alternative that at least promises to reduce the state’s onerous personal tax burden, depending on whether the victor is David Craig, Ron George, Larry Hogan, or Charles Lollar? And will the GOP get to those magical numbers of 48 Delegates and 19 Senators which will allow it to be a viable minority party?
To address the latter point, it’s worth mentioning that the GOP has conceded 46 House seats and 14 Senate seats to the Democrats because they couldn’t find a willing candidate. Most of these vacancies are in what I call the 10, 20, and 40 districts, which in the state’s numbering system cover areas around Washington, D.C. and inner-city Baltimore – basically the counties and Baltimore City which haven’t quite figured out yet that it would be in their best interest to divest themselves from big government and voted for Martin O’Malley and Barack Obama. Most of the areas which backed Bob Ehrlich and Mitt Romney lie in the districts with single digits 1 through 9 or in the 30s. (For reference, here on the Eastern Shore we have districts 36, 37, and 38.) In the latter areas, Democrats conceded five House seats and three in the Senate, so at play are a total of 90 House seats and 30 Senate seats. In order to get to 48 and 19, respectively, the MDGOP has to win 43 out of 90 races in the House and 16 of 30 in the Senate.
We obviously won’t know those results until November, and they will go a long way in determining the fate of the Free State. They will also go a long way in determining who will lead the party over the next
four two years, and I think Diana Waterman is working hard to overcome her early missteps – so would she be in the mix for a full four-year term starting this November? (Corrected: I forgot we changed the bylaws a couple years ago to a two-year term starting in 2014, to match the national party.)
Certainly many have been impressed with her response to the ill-considered HB1513 on behalf of the state’s Central Committees, which Joe Steffen elaborated on yesterday. But she’s also been careful to reiterate that Central Committees cannot endorse candidates in contested primaries (although individual members can) and that our terms run until the election is over. (This year’s Fall Convention doubles as the quadrennial organizational meeting for the party, when new members are officially sworn in.)
And she also reminded us:
I’m sure you’re getting tired of hearing this but our number one job is to get Republicans elected. This is our time – the stage is almost set (Primary first to determine who will be facing off against the Democrat). The only way we will be successful is by working together. We are outnumbered. We must find a way to pull together – even if don’t see eye to eye with the candidate or some of their volunteers. And I expect all of us to run clean campaigns so that they day after the Primary we can stand together and show our complete support for our ballot. I promise you, no matter who the candidate is, even if they were not your candidate, that you will have more in common with them than you will the Democrat on the other side of the ballot. I am not asking you to yield on any of your principles but to remember, even if the candidate who won the Primary is too conservative or too moderate for you – they are better than the Democrats who have a strangle hold on everything in our State. For starters, the Democrat who wins in the Legislature will case their first vote for Mike Miller or Mike Busch. And it just goes downhill from there!
Precisely. So the question is whether the grassroots and activists will follow, or take their ball and stay home on election day if their chosen candidate doesn’t win. Remember, based on the polls we’ve had so far, a majority of voters will not have their first choice be the nominee for governor; unlike other states, we don’t have a runoff to ensure majority support.
That healing process has to start June 25, because I know from experience that the other side sucks it up and gets behind whoever they pick, generally having their arguments behind closed doors.
But if Diana Waterman can pull off these electoral miracles with very little money and the more than 2-to-1 registration disadvantage with which we’re currently handicapped, the only races we may have would be for the vice-Chair positions. I can’t see the Republican winner wanting to put “their guy” in as the party chair after success like that. She’s mended some fences over her term, and standing up for the Central Committees may allow her to climb out of the hole she dug early on.
Tonight’s gathering wasn’t exactly the one we had planned, but it turned out all right. Considering our outgoing first vice-President Marc Kilmer was placed in charge by the late arrival of president Jackie Wellfonder and that our speaker, District 38B candidate Carl Anderton Jr., was late due to mayoral duties in Delmar, the agenda was reshuffled a few times but we got through in one of the speedier meetings we’ve had recently.
Yet we began the meeting in much the same way many previous meetings have commenced, with the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. And while I don’t read the minutes anymore (because they’re posted on the website), we still had the Treasurer’s Report to file.
But because of the absences, we actually led off with Dave Parker’s Central Committee report. He assessed the election as “shaping up rather nicely” as he reported on the candidates who had filed, with a couple last-minute updates from those in attendance. Parker also had some lighter fare as he recited a number of observations based on the thought that “you might be living in a country run by idiots.”
He invited all local Republican candidates to our next Central Committee meeting on March 3, and updated us on the Lincoln Day Dinner where we are still working with our desired speaker on a date – however, if only a midweek event is possible we may have to change the venue.
A number of candidates (or their surrogates) gave updates and reports.
John Hall, who is running for a full term in County Council District 4, noted that “next year will be a very difficult year” financially for the county, and that needed future school projects may have to wait. Hall was appointed to fill out the unexpired term of the late Bob Caldwell in 2011.
Mary Beth Carozza spoke about being an advocate for several causes in Annapolis, particularly against the “chicken tax.” And while she was still out knocking on a lot of doors, she was still finding she needed to educate voters about the new district setup and the June primary.
Larry Dodd, who’s in the ring for County Council District 3, gave a shortened stump speech highlighting his experience and time at the Board of Education. If elected he woould work to reduce crime and make sure farmer’s rights are protected, along with making sure government lives within its means.
This was important because the next to speak was Dodd’s recently-filed primary opponent, Tom Taylor. After reaching over and shaking Dodd’s hand, Taylor stated his case that the GOP should have a choice and that he was committed to fiscal conservatism and “better government through being smaller.”
County Executive hopeful Bob Culver told those gathered that “this was the best time we have to take Rick (Pollitt, current County Executive) out of office.,,it’s time for a change.” He called on us to give him a strong primary showing.
On behalf of District 37B candidate Christopher Adams, Marc Kilmer said Adams was busy meeting voters, but was also testifying in Annapolis on a number of business bills. Kilmer then went on to discuss his own camapign, with an April fundraiser in the works.
Fellow District 37B hopeful Johnny Mautz Jr. had a surrogate as well in Shawn Jester. Shawn passed along word that we were invited to a Mautz campaign event March 2 in Cambridge, from 4 to 6 p.m.
Dr. Rene Desmarais, who was a little late but is also a District 37B contender, assessed his campaign as “going great” and raising a lot of money. He invited us to an event March 12 in Fruitland. He actually spoke after our featured speaker, who came in about a half-hour late.
But Carl Anderton, Jr. had a good excuse as he was at a meeting involving the two commissions which run their respective sides of Delmar. (Part lies in Maryland and part in Delaware; however, they strive to coordinate efforts as one entity where possible.)
He led off with his meeting with the governor as head of the Maryland Municipal League. catching Martin O’Malley by surprise when he told him about the proposed “chicken tax” and its potentially devastating effect on the Eastern Shore. That led to the O’Malley “read my lips” veto threat a few days later. And when Carl confronted House sponsor Delegate Shane Robinson with the fact that 40% of Eastern Shore jobs have some reliance on the poultry industry, Delegate Robinson backed off, saying that he “just wanted to have a conversation” about the idea.
Yet this played into a significant part of Carl’s campaign: the premise that we have great educational institutions locally but no jobs to keep the graduates here. Even the potential explosive growth at the Wallops Island space complex just across the Virginia line may be squandered by Maryland’s poor business climate. Anderton’s was a “we need to get back to basics” approach, charging that part of the Eastern Shore delegation was working against us. Not only could we not attract business, continued Carl, but we can no longer attract retirees either because of our punitive income and estate taxes. “It’s time for a whole lifestyle change,” concluded Carl.
We finally got around to a little business once Carl finished, most importantly the election of officers. For 2014, they will be almost the same group as last year’s, with one exception.
- President: Jackie Wellfonder
- First Vice-President: Shawn Jester
- Second Vice-President: Larry Dodd
- Third Vice-President: Sean Fahey
- Fourth Vice-President: Cathy Keim
- Treasurer: Deb Okerblom
- Secretary: Michael Swartz
Jester is the newcomer, replacing Marc Kilmer.
We also made and passed motions to secure a table at the Salisbury Festival and potentially one at Pork in the Park as well. There’s also the prospect of needing a headquarters for this fall’s election, and some members are already chomping at the bit to secure a location – unfortunately, we have several of our old ones to choose from because they are still vacant after all this time.
All told, we were through in less than an hour, but we accomplished quite a bit. It’s also worth noting that a man who’s perhaps one of Maryland’s longest-serving elected officials announced his retirement tonight. After close to a half-century on the Wicomico County Republican Central Committee, Blan Harcum will not seek another term. We applauded him for his efforts tonight.
To be honest, I’m not sure if I was sent this to provoke a comment or if I just happen to be on a list that gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur doesn’t use all that often. I think most observers know I have an interest in energy issues, and this definitely falls into one of them. You just have to ask yourself why Mizeur counts herself among the Democrats are so insistent on denying the opportunity for shovel-ready jobs and investment – I thought that was what they were all about.
First of all, this is what Mizeur had to say about the proposed Cove Point LNG export facility.
(Yesterday), Delegate Heather Mizeur (D-Montgomery), candidate for governor, called on Governor O’Malley to join her in opposition to the Dominion Resources liquefied natural gas (LNG) export facility at Cove Point in Calvert County. She made the announcement during a speech at the Stop Cove Point Rally in downtown Baltimore City earlier today.
“I am calling on Gov. O’Malley to take a stand with us today to reject Cove Point,” Mizeur told the audience. “You cannot leave a legacy on addressing climate change and be silent on Cove Point. It’s time for Gov. O’Malley to break the silence and join us in saying no to Cove Point.”
The rally, which was attended by 500 people, was organized by climate, health and anti-fracking activists from across the state, and was one of the largest environmental rallies ever in Baltimore City. It came as the state Public Service Commission begins official hearings on the project.
Mizeur is currently the only gubernatorial candidate to state her opposition to the project. When she announced her opposition in December, both Lieutenant Governor Brown and Attorney General Gansler – the two other Democratic candidates in the race for governor – expressed a desire to build the project without environmental damage, but failed to explain how such a plan would be possible.
Dominion Resources, a Virginia-based energy company, is pursuing the construction of a $3.8 billion facility to serve as a collection point for fracked natural gas from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region, where cargo tankers would then ship it throughout the world.
But the Cove Point facility would release 3.3 million tons of carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases into the air annually, making it a serious setback to achieving the state’s goals on fighting climate change, including a plan for a 25% reduction of greenhouse gases by 2020.
Mizeur has also called on Dominion Resources to invest $3.8 billion – the construction cost of the proposed facility – in the state’s renewable energy sector. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, clean energy investments create more permanent jobs than exporting fracked gas.
Obviously Mizeur is an adherent to the religion of manmade climate change, a belief system which fails to address why none of the climate models have predicted the lack of warming this century. The fact that they managed to get just 500 people to a climate change rally shows how small the cadre of believers really is – a good Second Amendment or TEA Party rally can rustle up similar numbers without really trying. If this is “one of the largest environmental protests in state history” then we really are letting a tiny minority dictate policy.
But let’s say these guys are really serious – I suppose living in a state foolish enough to believe that artificially limiting its carbon emissions will have an effect on our overall global climate will do that to you. Even if the point source of 3.3 million tons is correct, it doesn’t take into account the reduction in emissions at destination points abroad. Natural gas is cleaner burning than coal, and until we figured out that fracking was a way to supercharge the moribund domestic natural gas market it was a fossil fuel environmentalists weren’t uncomfortable with. To show how the market has changed, the Cove Point facility was originally built in the 1970s as an import facility because the domestic natural gas market was thought to be in an irreversible decline.
On the other hand, the point source investment of $3.8 billion will have a positive effect on the regional and state economies. Last year, in announcing its filing, Dominion claimed the project will create up to 4,000 jobs during the construction phase and perhaps over 14,000 jobs overall, not to mention billions in royalty payments. Because most of the supply would come from regional producers, the entire mid-Atlantic area would benefit (except Maryland and New York, which currently have bans on fracking.) The facility would also provide a needed boost to our export tally to address a persistent American trade deficit, as the LNG is already contracted out to distributors in Japan and India.
Finally, Mizeur complains that the $3.8 billion Dominion is willing to invest in the project could be better spent in the renewable energy sector. Does the name “Solyndra” ring a bell? Despite its best efforts to create a market for offshore wind, companies aren’t willing to make the investment in that area – remember Bluewater Wind? In the area of solar energy, it took billions in taxpayer-guaranteed loans – and mandated renewable energy portfolios such as the one Maryland is saddled with – to get that market off the ground, yet it still produces but a tiny fraction of our electricity needs at a cost several times the going rate for electricity produced from coal or natural gas.
And it’s funny that Mizeur worries about the cost of natural gas going up due to exports, but had no problem with raising the gasoline tax on a perpetual basis. So much for supporting hard-working Marylanders.
So the choices are either zero or $3.8 billion; that’s reality. We can take advantage of proven resources we already have or listen to alarmists whose real goal is to foster dependence on government under the guise of saving the planet. It’s just too bad our little sandbar is energy-poor, unless you deign to call chicken manure an energy gold mine, and even the proponents concede its not as efficient as natural gas.
Do you remember a guy named Ron George? You know, he’s this guy who actually jumped into the gubernatorial race back in June and had steadily plodded through the campaign, in part because he’s serving in the House of Delegates as is Democratic hopeful Heather Mizeur. In the straw poll I wrote about yesterday, George was second to Charles Lollar with 24% of the vote, beating both Larry Hogan and David Craig, but in the internecine sniping over the last couple days between supporters of two of those aforementioned camps you’d have thought Ron had dropped out of the running.
But on the heels of his call for a special counsel to investigate the Maryland Health Exchange Board, George today revealed more information through his research. The statement (below) is accusatory, but George backs it up by putting the pieces of the puzzle together.
The Maryland Health Exchange Board should never have been granted special procurement powers which resulted in the rewarding of political allies. The administration continued to favor a vendor who has a flawed history with Maryland and deep fundraising relationships to both Governor O’Malley and Lt. Governor Brown. We need a special counsel with the authority to investigate the procurement practices of the Health Exchange Board.
It appears the administration was in favor of rewarding their political supporters despite serious legal concerns relating to this same vendor’s work with state foster children and a troubling history collecting child support payments in Baltimore. The problem with one-party control is the people in power get to make the rules even when they are inappropriate and can lead to waste, fraud and corruption. I demand a full and thorough investigation into the contracts approved by the Health Exchange Board and their adherence to transparent and impartial government.
This is the same vein that Larry Hogan’s Change Maryland mined with his own accusations of pay-to-play which came out last month. Seems like we have a pretty corrupt set of people running Annapolis.
One thing which needs to be addressed when the Republicans take over state government is the procurement procedure. It’s certainly the conservative ideal that as many government functions as possible be transferred to the private sector, and generally this is accomplished through a bidding process with the lowest and best bid which meets the specifications prevailing. Most people associate the process with construction projects, but much of government – including the contract for customer service call centers George refers to – is done this way. On the surface, it’s a good idea to allow a private company with some expertise in the field to replicate their service for government rather than hire a group of workers to duplicate efforts needlessly.
Yet there are flaws in this approach which make it exploitable, and I believe what George wants investigated is how the process of selecting Maximus came to be. For example, were the specifications written in such a way to make Maximus into the only company capable of doing the contracted work? Much as the 2005 Fair Share Health Care Act was written to punish just one company – Walmart – the rules and specifications for awarding a job can be tailored to make it so just one bidder can feasibly secure the work. (If you forgot about what Fair Share was, it was an early topic of conversation in my blogging career. Check out this blast from the past.)
Perhaps more sinister yet would be the idea of getting insider information as the process was going along. In my architectural days, we had to be scrupulously careful that any changes made – whether clarifications of questions asked by bidders, revisions by the client, or the occasional error or omission on our end – were transmitted to all bidders to make sure no one received an unfair advantage. But if someone has a thumb on the scale, they may get a little bit of advance notice on changes or otherwise gain a leg up on the competition.
As it stands, though, it appears that $325,000 investment by Maximus paid off with a $36.5 million return. Of course, there’s nothing illegal about donating money to a political candidate and many companies play the field by donating to both Republicans and Democrats. (There was an anecdote I heard about the Maryland GOP accidentally getting both checks from a corporate donor, noting the GOP amount was far smaller than the Democratic one.) Just a look at a website like Open Secrets or Follow the Money will show most corporations embrace the practice.
So Republicans will have to walk a fine line when they take over in Annapolis. It’s almost impossible not to benefit a business which made a political donation, particularly if they shower both sides with campaign cash, but there needs to be some transparency in the process and a way to write specifications to maximize participation rather than funnel business to one or two well-connected bidders. Reducing the size and scope of government should be the primary goal of conservatives, but levelling the playing field for those who wish to provide needed services from the private sector should be a close second priority.
There is an older lady I’m familiar with from various political functions who is a David Craig supporter. During this campaign, since Craig was the first to announce, she would ask “has anyone else announced yet?” And once Craig selected Jeannie Haddaway as his running mate, she would then ask “Well, does so-and-so have a running mate? You need one to file.”
Well, lady, the answer to the latter question is now “yes” in Larry Hogan’s case. As part of his delayed gala announcement he’s selected former Ehrlich Administration official Boyd Rutherford as his ticketmate.
There’s no question that this will lead to the portrayal of Larry Hogan as the lost second term of Bob Ehrlich, since both members of the Hogan/Rutherford team have served in his administration as secretaries. After leaving the Ehrlich administration at the behest of President George W. Bush in 2006, Rutherford has tried his hand at some other enterprises.
This certainly presents a study in contrasts with some of the other tickets: Anthony Brown, whose background is mostly legislative aside from serving as Martin O’Malley’s caddy for the last eight years, selected a county executive with a large campaign warchest. Doug Gansler, who came up through the legal ranks, picked a legislator, and Heather Mizeur, a Delegate, selected someone outside of politics entirely, an activist minister. Fellow Republican David Craig, a career politician, looked to a youthful but experienced Delegate.
Rutherford described his role simply:
Accordingly, my pledge to you is simple: When Governor Hogan assigns this Lieutenant Governor a policy initiative to implement, I will question and I will monitor, and I will safeguard the spending of your tax dollars every waking hour.
That statement had to be a dig at Anthony Brown, who trumpeted his heavy involvement in the Maryland Health Connection until it flopped like a dying flounder. Suddenly he wasn’t as responsible.
Also interesting to me is the fact that Hogan is now beginning to flesh out his campaign and his positions. Obviously he has his priorities in order, although I don’t understand the emphasis on “middle class.” I like to think of people as apriring to get beyond middle class.
This also puts the pressure on the other two in the race to find their lieutenant governor candidates. With less than a month before the filing deadline, and with a significantly weaker financial standing than the others in the race, Ron George and Charles Lollar will need to convince someone to join their campaign.
So six months or so after I thought he should have entered, the evolution of Change Maryland to Larry Hogan campaign team is complete. And while Hogan enters as the candidate with the most hype, the question is whether there’s more substance than sizzle.
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.
Back when Change Maryland released the first teaser for this pay-to-play report sent out to media outlets today, I guessed that the release would precede the official announcement of Larry Hogan’s intentions by a couple days, in order to extend the news cycle surrounding hie entry into the race. But instead it came out today, just two days before the beginning of the General Assembly session and nowhere near Hogan’s yet-to-be-scheduled formal announcement.
And honestly, aside from the documentation of what Change Maryland terms a “deliberate, coordinated effort by this administration to to circumvent the intent of the law” and the influence it bought, the 15-page report on “alleged unethical relationships” begs the question: what can we do about it? Their lone attempt to address the situation notes:
Job creators looking to establish their business in the mid-Atlantic region want a stable and predictable business climate. They want to conduct their business without the heavy hand of politicians shaking them down for hundreds of thousands in ethically questionable political donations.
For the sake of transparency and good governance, we believe these allegations seriously warrant further investigation.
All this is correct as far as it goes, but probably the earliest we could have some sort of formal investigation would be 2015, after O’Malley is safely out of office – and only if a Republican wins the governorship. Even then, the cacophany of “this is just old news, nothing to see here, let’s just move forward” will be shrill coming from the current majority party.
On the other hand, I will say I got a little more direction from Hogan’s remarks accompanying the release of the document.
Our research reveals a disturbing pattern from this administration that is at the very least unethical and inappropriate. The people of Maryland deserve to know the truth about these donations and the state decisions that may have been influenced. Did the Governor solicit large contributions to help further his national aspirations and reward those donors with huge state contracts and favorable decisions?
Allowing a ‘pay-to-play’ culture of corruption to take a stronghold in our state government threatens every business and individual in Maryland. Even the perception of this practice prevents an honest and fair bidding process for all job creators who may wish to contract with the state. It allows complicit politicians to hijack millions, and even billions in taxpayer dollars that could serve a greater purpose, both in the government and in the wallets of struggling Maryland families.
Unfortunately, this culture of corruption is enabled when you have a political monopoly with no checks and balances. For almost eight years, this administration has run amuck without any accountability, and it’s Maryland’s working families who have paid the price. This is just the tip of the iceberg – we believe these allegations seriously warrant further investigation. (Emphasis mine.)
Hey, now there’s something to sink our teeth into! It seems some other party used the “culture of corruption” mantra to take over Congress after 12 years of minority status, so why can’t Republicans try and chip into 150 years of being on the losing side in this state? It can’t hurt.
The trick will be explaining just how this affects the average Marylander who knows instinctively that the state’s machine politics is rife with decay and corruption, but feels powerless to affect it. I’m just one vote, he may say.
That’s not necessarily true, though. When I get e-mail from the 9-12 Delaware Patriots, it ends with the tagline “you are not just one, you are one more.” If Change Maryland really has 73,000 activists who are clamoring for an end to the pay-to-play mentality in this state, the issue will be there for 2014. It will be up to candidate Larry Hogan to show leadership in the direction he wants to take us.
It’s far past time to clean up the state and end the Maryland culture of corruption.
Yesterday I looked at how 2014 looks in Wicomico County, but much – too much, as I see it – of their decision-making is truly made in Annapolis. And with current governor Martin O’Malley attempting to burnish his credentials for a position inside Hillary Clinton’s administration – oh wait, he’s supposedly running himself, isn’t he? – it’s important to him that he establish himself with the progressive crowd.
What this means for us is that no tax increase is off the table, but it’s more likely we will see renewed efforts at green energy, gun control, and salvaging the failed Obamacare rollout in Maryland – but if worse comes to worse, it’s Anthony Brown who will be thrown under the bus. In the decision between a Maryland legacy and a White House bid, well, no lieutenant governor has succeeded his boss anyway.
Brown is probably the conventional wisdom favorite to succeed O’Malley and become Maryland’s first black governor; of course there are other main contenders on both sides. Attorney General Doug Gansler seems to be the Democrats’ backup plan but has endured a rocky start to his campaign; meanwhile Delegate Heather Mizeur seems to be the one establishing a number of truly far-left issues in the campaign – witness her idea for marijuana legalization.
On the Republican side, three top contenders seem to be out to appeal most to the conservative crowd, with a fourth joining the field in January. Harford County Executive David Craig obviously has the most well-rounded political resume, but Delegate Ron George represents a more populous area around Annapolis. Charles Lollar is running the most populist campaign, but he may receive a run for his money once the social media-savvy Larry Hogan formally enters the race next month. His Change Maryland Facebook page claims over 70,000 supporters of all political stripes – in a four-way Republican race, 70,000 votes might be enough.
There are only two other statewide races this year, since there’s no Senate race this cycle. With Attorney General Gansler abandoning his post to try for governor, there are four Democratic members of the General Assembly out to succeed him – Aisha Braveboy, Jon Cardin, Bill Frick, and Brian Frosh all seek the seat, and all but Cardin have officially filed. No one has yet filed on the GOP side, but 2012 U.S. Senate candidate Richard Douglas seems to be leaning toward a run, allowing the Republicans to avoid the ignominy of whiffing on a statewide race for the second cycle in a row.
Things are shaping up as a rematch of 2010 in the Comptroller’s race, as Republican William Campbell is again challenging incumbent Peter Franchot.
With so many members of the General Assembly attempting to move up to higher offices, it creates a cascading effect in the various General Assembly races. While the GOP is probably not going to see a General Assembly majority in the 2015-18 cycle – and has the headwind of being redistricted in such a manner to try and cut their minority – being on the wrong side of a lot of issues may make it tricky for Democrats to not lose seats. Republicans have a goal of picking up seven Senate seats, giving them 19 and allowing them to filibuster, and wouldn’t be unhappy with picking up the four House seats required to possibly bypass committee votes on key issues.
As I noted above, though, the key issues will be revealed once O’Malley introduces his legislative package to the General Assembly in mid-January, shortly before his annual State of the State address. Last year he got his gas tax increase to build the Red Line and Purple Line, authorization for offshore wind, and his onerous gun restrictions in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, so this year’s agenda will probably pivot back to measures he believes will help the state’s economy but in reality will probably redistribute even more wealth from the productive to the slothful, growing government at an even faster pace. Many of those dollars will address perceived shortcomings in education and health care.
That seems to be how O’Malley’s last package of revenue enhancements has worked, because the state once again is facing a structural deficit despite rosy predictions to the contrary. Old chestnuts like increasing the cigarette tax or combined reporting of business income will probably jostle for primary position with new initiatives like a mileage tax, additional penalties for cell phone usage, or a higher toll for being caught by speed cameras.
It’s somewhat difficult to predict the direction of the General Assembly before it begins, as items not on the radar in early January become bills introduced late in the session, some of which pass muster. The gasoline tax in its adopted form was one of those last year, since conventional wisdom predicted a straight per-gallon increase rather than the adoption of a partial sales tax which will increase regularly. Another dynamic which will affect timing is having the filing deadline for the 2014 ballot come during session – surely some will wait and see what their path to re-election looks like before introducing certain controversial bills. In previous elections the filing deadline occurred well after the session was over.
Once we get beyond the session in April, the primary campaign will ramp up immediately because of the new experience of a June primary. The Democrats tried to change this eight years ago, fearing a bruising primary fight between Doug Duncan and Martin O’Malley, but succeeded this time because of changes in federal law requiring longer lead times for overseas military voters. Instead of pushing the primary back a couple weeks to comply, though, they decided on a full 2 1/2 months.
At this point there are three main contenders on the Democratic side, and I think that number will stay the same – my thought is either Dutch Ruppersberger will pass up the race (more likely) or, if Dutch gets in, the damaged goods of Doug Gansler will drop out. Obviously there will be more than three on the ballot but some fall under the auspices of perennial candidates who I think are just working on that line in their obituary where it says so-and-so ran for governor five times.
For the GOP, the same is true. In their case, I don’t think there’s enough money out there for four main contenders and whoever raised the least in 2013 is probably the one who exits the race after Larry Hogan makes it formal. In Hogan’s 2010 gubernatorial bid he lent his campaign $325,000 so presumably Hogan has the personal wherewithal to use as seed money; perhaps the dropout will agree to be the running mate of another contender.
It’s interesting, though, that the problems Maryland faces – at least the ones not of their own making, a category in which I’d include the overregulation of local county and municipal governments – are very similar to those faced right here in Wicomico County. Maryland has the “benefit” of being the host state for thousands of federal government worker bees, but little industry to speak of. It’s notable the campaigns are now paying lip service to the concept of re-establishing a manufacturing base, but the process will take at least a couple terms of office and will certainly be at odds with the stated goals of some among the Radical Green who desire a pristine Chesapeake Bay. Development and a reasonably clean Bay can co-exist, but if you want circa-1600 conditions that won’t happen.
And because there are so many who depend on government for their livelihood as workers – or survival as dependents – the concept of “One Maryland” is laughable on its face. The needs of Baltimore City or Somerset County residents don’t often coincide with the desires of your average denizen of Takoma Park or Chevy Chase, but supposedly they are all “One Maryland.” I think there are at least four Marylands – the energy-rich areas of the state’s panhandle, the I-95/I-270 corridors stretching from Harford County on the north to the Beltway suburbs hard by the District of Columbia and back towards Frederick, the bedroom suburbs of southern Maryland which are rapidly changing in political posture, and the Eastern Shore, where agriculture and tourism coexist, but in an occasional state of hostility. One can’t even say that their needs are similar because jobs are plentiful around D.C. but tougher to come by on the Eastern Shore and in Baltimore proper.
It’s not likely one man (or woman) can unite these areas, but the question is which coalitions will hold sway. Finding the right combination will be the key to success for the state in 2014.
Damn, I can’t wait for this report to come out. Almost makes me wish Larry Hogan would drop this governor’s business and focus on getting more of this information out because too many will dismiss it as partisan opposition research:
Change Maryland has released new information that seems to reveal the appearance of a “pay-to-play” system within the O’Malley-Brown Administration where contractors received significant benefits from the state either before or after their donations to the Democratic Governors Association during Governor O’Malley’s tenure as its chairman.
“This additional data further suggests a disturbing pattern of behavior that, at the very least, is unethical and inappropriate,” said Larry Hogan, Chairman of Change Maryland. “I think the public has a right to know the truth about these practices. Did the governor and/or others in his administration solicit large contributions from contractors, then reciprocate by rewarding those donors with huge state contracts, contract extensions, or other special favors or decisions in return?” he added.
Obviously this has serious implications and gives the appearance of the potential for decisions being influenced by millions of dollars in “donations.” Recognizing the inappropriate and unethical nature of these relationships, state law currently prohibits state contractors from making contributions to an elected official’s campaign account. This evidence indicates the possibility of a deliberate, coordinated effort by this administration to circumvent the intent of the law by soliciting huge, unlimited contributions to a federal, rather than state, account.
The report released today by Change Maryland shows that healthcare services company Express Scripts received a $2.3 billion contract despite serious concerns about the company’s legal issues in Maryland and 28 other states. In 2008, the company paid over $9.3 billion in settlement costs to these states.
From March 2011 to February 2012, the Maryland Board of Public Works was deciding whether to approve the lucrative contract to Express Scripts to provide prescription drug services to state employees. In March 2011, two of the three members voted to postpone a decision out of concerns about the company’s legal issues and several flaws in the procurement process. Governor O’Malley was the lone vote to move forward with the contract.
During this same time, Medco – a company looking to merge with Express Scripts – donated a combined $225,000 to the DGA. In fact, their first contribution came just six days after Governor O’Malley cast the lone vote to move forward with the drug contract.
In late January 2012, the Board of Public Works again voted to delay the contract award, drawing significant criticism from Governor O’Malley at the time who complained about the endless delays. One month later, the BPW reversed course, awarding the contract to Express Scripts in a two to one vote. On March 27, 2012, Medco made their second and final donation to the DGA: $125,000. Medco and Express Scripts received final Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approval for their merger on April 2, 2012.
“Maryland’s working families deserve better from their elected leaders,” Hogan said. “This is what happens when you have an arrogant monopoly that feels they can get away with anything. What Maryland desperately needs is a healthy and competitive two party system, open and honest debate, and some real checks and balances to keep some of these outrageous abuses from taking place.”
In addition to this most recent research, Change Maryland released other questionable contributions from state contractors to the DGA.
Update: I was informed by a representative of Express Scripts that the correct settlement figure is $9.8 million (not billion.) This is incorrect in the original Change Maryland release, so I left the release as is and opted to clarify here.
Hogan’s group seems to be taking the Chinese water torture approach, leaking information on this report a drop at a time to both make the opposition wonder what else he’s got and keep up interest in the runup to the release.
This series seems to leave me torn as well. I’m an advocate for unfettered political contributions, even at the risk of these apparent pay-to-play contributions. But I also want full and relatively instant disclosure, and even though these are federal releases with a more aggressive reporting schedule than state accounts – at least in non-election years – there’s still a significant lag time involved.
The allegations also raise another embarrassing question: where was the state’s major media in reporting this? Didn’t anyone wonder why the vote changed? Certainly Comptroller Peter Franchot had his reasons for maintaining his vote against the issue; the vote which changed was treasurer Nancy Kopp – interesting, because hers is not an elected post. (The transcript of that meeting is painful to read because the state really seemed to drop the ball on a $2.3 billion contract, dropping a Maryland-based provider for the aforementioned Express Scripts.)
What I’m afraid of is that this Change Maryland report will be both the tip of the iceberg and dismissed as “old news” because Martin O’Malley isn’t running for anything in Maryland and Anthony Brown will escape culpability because Larry Hogan is now a political opponent instead of an honest broker.
We need to clean out the swamp, it’s true, but in order to clean it we have to secure the tools to do so first. I think it would also be a good idea for Change Maryland to reveal where it gets its funding, just to show leadership. That’s my two cents.
Today the state’s Spending Affordability Committee allowed Maryland to increase its debt load another $75 million and to grow the state’s budget by 4 percent, both over Republican objections. This comes from the House Republican Caucus Facebook page, a note which will likely be prominent in an upcoming release:
Today Republican leaders in the House & Senate voted unanimously AGAINST supporting dramatic increases in state spending & debt.
Ultimately the Spending Affordability Committee passed a resolution to support allowing state debt to increase by another $75 million and spending in the state budget to increase by 4%. “After nearly 80 increases in taxes, tolls, and fees over the last seven years it is irresponsible to lay the foundations for yet another tax increase”, said Delegate Addie Eckardt of the Appropriations Committee. “Voting to expand our debt is basically voting to increase Maryland’s property tax; maybe not today, but certainly in the not-so-distant future.”
With structural deficits widening and lackluster growth in Maryland’s economy, Republicans also supported a measure for zero growth in the State’s operating budget.
While the state struggles with the aforementioned structural deficit – predicted to be nearly a half-billion dollars despite gleeful assurances we had eliminated it, both after the 2007 special session and after another series of tax hikes last year – the decision by the Spending Affordability Committee means that spending can increase as much as $1.5 billion next year, based on last year’s $37.3 billion state budget. Needless to say, the slow growth in the state’s economy will likely force the O’Malley/Brown administration and Democrats in the General Assembly to conjure up new sources of revenue.
It’s also likely the Republicans in the General Assembly will put together their own budget alternative which holds the line on spending, only to be ignored as they always are. A 2% across-the-board cut in this year’s budget would have saved Maryland taxpyers around $750 million. With that savings, for example, the sales tax could have reverted back to 5%, as it brings in $4.3 billion annually.
Eckardt, who represents a portion of Wicomico County as well as parts of Caroline, Dorchester, and Talbot counties in the General Assembly, isn’t the only local member of the SAC. Democrat Norm Conway is also an ex officio member based on his being Chair of the Appropriations Committee, and I’m told all the Democrats voted for this budget busting.
While the budget is created by Governor Martin O’Malley, it’s considered one of the most executive-heavy budgets in the country because of the lack of power the General Assembly has in changing it. Thus the emphasis on winning back the governor’s seat next year.
Since Martin O’Malley introduced his first budget one day after taking office in 2007 (the FY2008 budget) the FY2015 budget he’ll introduce early next year will be his last. Whether a dose of sanity is present for the FY2016 budget will be up to voters next November.
It (almost) all comes down to this.
Perhaps the most important – and controversial – issue in Maryland is money. How much of it will the state take from your wallet?
We’ve heard the litany for the last couple years: all the tax increases, all the new tolls, and dozens of other new ways the state parts you from your cash. I don’t know about the rest of you, but if I went out and earned it, I consider it mine until I decide what to spend it on.
So let’s see what the three candidates in the race so far have to say about the situation.
David Craig: As Governor, I will repeal, reduce or eliminate any tax or fee that is impeding job growth – rain tax, business taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, and fuel taxes for starters. I will eliminate the tax on pensions.
Under the Maryland Constitution, the Governor controls the budget. As governor, I will use this authority to make actual cuts to the budget, and I will end the practice of attempting to fool voters into thinking spending is being reduced when it’s not. Such budget games enable politicians to carry out their real agenda which is to grow their government with your money. As for taxes, fees and tolls, those that are the most damaging to individuals and our economy will be reduced or eliminated.
As Governor, I will support withholding funds for departments and agencies that have recurring problems uncovered in state legislative audits. (campaign website)
Harford County Executive David Craig today called on the Maryland General Assembly to repeal the so-called rain tax in the next legislative session. (press release, July 1, 2013)
monoblogue: But is there any chance we’re going to see some of that stuff rolled back if you’re elected?
Craig: I will look at all of them. But if somebody says “which tax first?” I’m going to look at all of them. There are certain taxes that probably haven’t been on the table that people said, would you ever get rid of this? If the state says that we’re going to make – we have a Public Service Commission to keep your BG&E rate as low as possible, why do we tax it? Why do we tax it? If we got rid of that, it gets rid of $5 on your BG&E bill every – well, it would save you 60 bucks. And guess what? You’re probably going to spend it somewhere else.
The gas tax – I do tell people I have to be cautious to (not) say I’m going to get rid of this tax or lower this right away because – I’ll have to use the septic tax for an example – when Ehrlich was governor the septics were all done through PAYGO, so he didn’t have capital projects. This governor turned it to bonding, so if I’m stuck with paying off a bond I’ve got to do that first before I can get rid of the tax. (monoblogue interview)
Ron George: Lower the Corporate Income Tax Rate by 2% to 6.25% in 2015 and lower it .25% in 2016 and 2017 until it rests at 5.75 percent, creating an incentive for businesses to come and to stay in Maryland.
An across the board 10% income tax cut. This puts more money in the pockets of working families and helps many small businesses to grow the economy.
Encourage Baltimore City in the reducing of their property tax rates.
Repeal the Gas Tax and the Rain Tax, challenging the EPA in court if necessary.
Allow Maryland residents to receive a 20% sale tax credit on all individual items bought for over $100.00 in Maryland when they file for their tax returns and supply a proof of purchase, thus creating an incentive for Marylanders to buy Maryland goods. (campaign site)
George advocated tax cuts over tax credits, claiming that the latter is the Democrats’ way “to make you dependent.”
“You play their game, and you get a tax credit,” George said. “They’re picking winners and losers.” (Southern Maryland News, June 26, 2013)
The photo to the left is him beaming after signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a document put out as a vow between the candidate and the taxpayer, through Americans for Tax Reform. (monoblogue, June 21, 2013)
“I agree with Comptroller Franchot that we cannot afford more bond lending,” George remarked. “O’Malley is shifting today’s debt onto our children. He cannot fund the budget with existing revenue so he has backfilled the budget with bond bills.”
Del. George also noted that it was the O’Malley/Brown administration who extended our debt service from 5 years to 15 years thus creating ever increasing future structural deficits. (press release, September 26, 2013)
Charles Lollar: One solution he advocated was a taxpayer’s bill of rights (or TABOR law) like Colorado adopted some years ago. Simply put, a TABOR law means annual spending can only be increased by the sum of percentage of population growth plus the rate of inflation. (WCRC meeting, August 26, 2013)
Referring to the state of Maryland, Charles warned “we can’t afford our lifestyle,” claiming that $9.2 billion of a $35 billion state budget comes from various federal grants and stimulus money. We bring in only $26 billion of a $35 billion expense tab, said Lollar. (Wicomico County LDD, March 23, 2013)
I will immediately create an attractive business environment by proposing:
Reduction of the state sales and use tax from 6%, requested by and enacted for the O’Malley Administration, back to 5%.
Repeal the Rain Tax (the “Impervious Surfaces Tax,” requested and signed into law by Governor O’Malley), which imposes a “storm water management fee” upon Maryland landowners in ten counties to collect and treat pollutants in storm water and release it to the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries.
EPA’s decree was imposed on New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, District of Columbia and Maryland. Yet, only Maryland has instituted a levy on its property owners to meet EPA’s standards.
Repeal the new 24 cent per gallon added tax, which substantially increases the costs of transportation to all Marylanders and injures the ability of those who rely on water and land transportation to operate their businesses and employ others. The new O’Malley Administration tax has been added on top of all other gasoline taxes Marylanders must pay.
Repeal the Death Tax (the “Estate or Inheritance Tax”) which essentially “robs the dead” by stealing the fruits of one’s lifetime labor upon death by taxing once again your assets, already taxed during your lifetime through income and other taxes. State and federal death taxes have a dreadful impact upon many Marylanders and family owned business and farms, causing substantial financial pain to, and often the livelihoods of, family survivors forced to sell the family farm or business to pay these taxes. (campaign website)
“I would do something a whole lot different. We would start from where we were last year, go backwards 3 percent from there – let that be a bottom-line dollar figure – and then go right back to our state department leaders and say…show me or justify why it needs to be more than that prior to this budget going forward.”
“I don’t just want to balance the budget, gentlemen, I want to send refund checks back home to the citizens here in the state of Maryland.” (blogger interview, June 24, 2013)
“If someone with the fiscal experience that I have can step in there and write us a budget that puts us on track to a balanced budget, with no dependency on federal dollars, then I think I’ve done enough for the state of Maryland.”
“…if we pass a tax payer’s bill of rights and we mandate that your state government cannot grow any faster then the cost of living and CPI (consumer price index), then if your paychecks don’t grow more than one percent, neither should your state government. If we had that law passed, we would have sent checks home to every legalized, tax paying citizen in Maryland for the past eight years.”(interview, Raging Against the Rhetoric, July 2013)
Lollar would institute a Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, so that government spending and taxes would not outpace the inflation rate. He would amend the state constitution to require a referendum in order to increase taxes at a faster rate than inflation. (Real Clear Markets, September 3, 2013)
Lollar, who lost a 2010 race against Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md., 5th) and is hoping for better results with his run for governor in next year’s election, said the state budget should start out with “what you have,” not “what you want,” as he said the current governor and Democratic-controlled General Assembly has done year after year.
“That policy is terrible,” he said, adding that the state budget is growing faster than Maryland residents’ paychecks. (SoMDNews, November 1, 2013)
If you’re looking for help on the other side of the aisle, well, good luck.
One key goal of Anthony Brown’s business ideas is “enabl(ing) state and local government to adequately fund our shared priorities.” After the 70 or 80 tax increases we’ve endured over the last seven years, one would think the funding is already more than adequate.
And while Doug Gansler doesn’t address these issues directly, Heather Mizeur is looking to yet another “sin tax” by legalizing and taxing marijuana; meanwhile, she’s also itching to tax the state’s producers. While she claims the overall effect would be “revenue neutral,” we lost money the last time this was tried.
So when I look at the candidates, I have to wonder who I think would hold the line. David Craig has a realistic view of the situation, but my fear is that we will see too much of the “look at all of them” and not enough of the repeal or eliminate. The governor has the whip hand based on his control of the budget, so it should be treated that way. The thing which worries me is that the budget will go down, but there will be the real temptation to keep the taxes to build up the “rainy day fund” or some other excuse. Out of 15 points, I can give him 11.
Ron George has the right ideas, although once again the pacing is a little slower than I’d like. While I didn’t mention it in this go-round, the auditing would be a help with the budget. It would be interesting, though, to see what his budget priorities were.
But I found it odd that he talked about tax cuts over tax credits, but proposed one for the Maryland-made goods. Honestly, that’s not going to be a great incentive for business to move here or people to buy here because it’s more paperwork they have to remember. I’d rather just cut the sales tax. So for Ron it’s 12.5 of 15 points.
The best thing any of the three main candidates have come up with is the idea of a TABOR, which Charles Lollar proposed. Its appeal is basic: there would be a spending cap for the state. Priorities would have to be set, and choices made, rather than the seemingly common belief that tax dollars will endlessly be provided. Now whether he could eliminate the entirety of the $9 billion we receive from the federal government is, to be quite honest, very questionable, but certainly getting a TABOR passed would help keep spending to a point where it’s manageable.
But the financial arena is where a populist approach works best. It’s not perfect because there are still some vague areas which need to be explored further, but this is perhaps Lollar’s strongest area and he receives 14 of 15 points.
I’m not quite done yet, though. The final part will deal with some of the intangibles I found.
Yes, I’m going to talk jobs. Some may ask why it’s only the second-most important factor and that’s because we all work to build our own wealth and maximizing control of that wealth is key. But the best way to amass wealth is through your own toil, so why not have a governor who creates the conditions to create employment?
I add the aspect of transportation into this category becaise I believe having a comprehensive and effective system of moving goods to market while allowing people the maximum freedom of movement is also important in creating employment.
And while some who dismissed this cause have already made their endorsement decision, I’m still working it out. Fourteen points are at stake here in my 100-point competition, so away we go…
David Craig: Economic development will be a central focus of my Administration. As Lt. Governor, Jeannie Haddaway, and my cabinet secretaries will review every regulation harming job growth.
After we fix our tax code, our state’s economic development office will refocus on its mission of bringing jobs to Maryland – recruiting everything from warehouses, to corporate headquarters, to science labs. Our focus will be to maintain, build, and attract businesses new and old. (campaign website)
Reducing the individual income tax is a priority because of the importance of start-up and early stage companies that are often organized as pass-through entities. Regulations are often conflicting and duplicative among federal, state and local governments and will be the initial focus of a broader effort to overhaul the process. (Press release, October 4, 2013)
Asked about business, Craig intended to hold quarterly business roundtables. Because it affected local businesses in advance of consumers, we knew about the recession back in 2008, said Craig, and Harford County made budgetary decisions in a proactive fashion based on that knowledge. (WCRC meeting, July 22, 2013)
And Craig raised questions about whether the Red Line, a light-rail project in Baltimore, should be built. (Washington Post, May 31, 2013)
Ron George: Grow the tax base in Baltimore, allowing other jurisdictions to keep their money home for infrastructure and education needs. Remove burdensome regulations.
Bring back large corporate manufacturing companies to Baltimore to create entry level and mid-level jobs. Attract the import and export industry to make use of our newly expanded Port and BWI.
Bring back mid size and small manufacturing firms to the Eastern Shore, Western Maryland, and Southern Maryland small cities, towns and rural cross-roads where property taxes are lower and homes for workers more affordable.
Assist small cities such as Chestertown that have revenue saved toward broadband and other incentives, by giving them the rest of the cost they need on a pay-back basis, thus allowing these municipalities to attract small retail, IT and other businesses to areas that are more affordable to live in.
Create a true lock-box for the Transportation Trust Fund that no legislative body can draw from for other needs so all interested parties can have predictability.
Put all gas taxes toward state road and bridge creation and improvements. (note the aforementioned repeal of the 2013 gas increases and its required forced automatic increases.) (campaign website)
“Maryland needs regional plans, for business, for economic development and for education,” said George.
He said a state grant with a payback provision makes sense, because if it spurs a local economy, it increases the tax base. If private firms aren’t stepping up, “you need a grant to close that hole,” he said. The state “awards a lot of grants we never see a payback on. The money is gone.”
At the Port of Baltimore, the city has a chance to attract import-export businesses because of improvements there. A new generation of larger cargo ships will be able to call. “They could attract import-export businesses, but they’re not doing that now,” he said.
At the same time, there must be “a different approach for the Eastern Shore, for Kent County.” (Kent County News, August 22, 2013)
To conclude the initial portion of his remarks, Ron noted he was the Maryland Business for Responsive Government’s legislator of the year, in part for his work in capping the state’s boat excise tax, and promised that, if elected, “I will make sure (rural areas of Maryland) get their fair share.” (WCRC meeting, September 23, 2013)
Charles Lollar: Charles will promote the rebirth of construction and industry jobs through private-public investment that Maryland desperately needs – now. Charles will inspire companies to grow by creating the necessary economic and regulatory climate for companies to do so, but without hurting the state’s natural environment.
He wants to reduce the need for prisons by lowering the crime rate by creating avenues to rewarding jobs as industry and construction firms thrive and by increasing the influences of community based non-profits. (campaign website, “Platform”)
Fix a broken system that is blocking access to opportunities with over-regulation and excessive taxes. Review all unnecessary taxes and regulations and eliminate the Rain Tax. (campaign website, “Jobs and Economy”)
Lollar is opposed to the Purple Line, a $2.2 billion 16-mile rail project that even the richest Maryland residents are not prepared to pay for. It can only be built with substantial federal and state subsidies, as yet unappropriated: $900 million from Uncle Sam, $400 million from Maryland, and the rest from who knows where. The Purple Line is disliked by some residents because it would displace a popular walking and bike trail, but supported by developers because they think it would enhance the value of commercial property. Instead, Lollar favors small buses, which have high per-person pick-up rates. (Real Clear Markets, September 3, 2013)
“We have something to prove. From the day I get sworn in as your governor here in Maryland, that sign that says ‘Governor Martin O’Malley’ will come down. It won’t be replaced with ‘Governor Charles Lollar,’ it will be replaced with a tagline that says ‘Maryland is open for business.’” (SUTV interview, November 13, 2013)
So let’s look at the other side. Anthony Brown has a business plan, but it leans heavily on “forg(ing) a stronger partnership between the public and private sectors.” Under “Tax Liability” it’s worth noting a priority is that it “enables state and local government to adequately fund our shared priorities.” So taxes aren’t going down anytime soon under a Brown administration. There’s a lot of “ensuring” in his plans, which is a weasel word meaning “mandating.”
Doug Gansler is marginally better, but the problem with his approach is that it has to be the right business in the right location, with a heavy reliance on tax incentives, creating a dependence on government and their gaming of the market. Why not provide the incentives of a great location and encouraging regulatory regime instead of picking winners?
Meanwhile, Heather Mizeur would absolutely devastate job creation in the state by raising the minimum wage, instituting mandatory paid sick leave, and putting combined reporting into effect. In terms of transportation, it’s also telling that she places “investments” in public transportation – a manner of getting from place to place with the least amount of freedom – on a higher priority than fixing roads and bridges. This is exactly backwards.
So how do the Republicans rate?
In looking at what David Craig is saying, I can’t find fault with his approach. Economic development on a state level shouldn’t be about only bringing certain, politically correct businesses. And certainly a pruning of regulations is long overdue.
While there’s been some question about Harford County’sjob creation methods, they are all within the toolbox of incentives allowed by the state.
But I’m a little leery about whether David would be swayed by politics and keep the Red Line. I really wish I knew a little more about his transportation plans, but his manufacturing plan seemed to indicate he had a pretty decent idea about how Maryland could grow. I’ll grant him 9 of 14 points.
There are two broad pieces I really like about Ron George‘s plan: it scraps the whole “One Maryland” concept put in place by the current administration, and it emphasizes manufacturing in smaller towns and cities in rural areas. My hope is that Ron takes the money he locks away for the TTF and follows through on road and bridge improvements to improve truck access.
The only quibble I might have is the grant process because if there’s a payback provision, isn’t it a loan? The other problem I have is a seeming overemphasis on Baltimore City, which is vital but not all-important. Regardless, based on the confidence business has in his voting record, I give Ron 12 of 14 points.
Once again, though, I have an issue with some items Charles Lollar supports.
First of all, the aspect of public-private partnerships that Charles is expressing his interest in usually means tolls or fees collected by the private entity, which sort of blunts the appeal of the “desperately needed” investment. Ironically, the Purple Line Lollar opposes is one such PPP. The state will pay the winning private entity back over time, so where is their risk? Chances are the performance standards won’t be too difficult to attain, depending on the political payoff to the governor at the time.
The next is my wonderment at how one can cut regulations down to size, “but without hurting the state’s natural environment.” Does that mean the Chesapeake Bay Foundation has first right of refusal? Why even put in those weasel words?
Obviously I’m for eliminating the rain tax (as are all the GOP contenders) but I’m disappointed at how vague Charles is about what he would do – for example, what defines an “unnecessary” tax? I think the corporate tax is unnecessary because it makes up a small percentage of the state budget, but would you have the courage to eliminate it?
You may replace the signs at the borders to say Maryland is “open for business” – by the way, I drove into Virginia yesterday and their signs already make that proclamation – but for someone who was charged at one time with running a “Commission for Citizens Tax Relief” this seems like only lip service. Maybe my menory is faulty, but I thought Charles had gone through the budget line by line to suggest cuts once upon a time. I would expect more in-depth issue analysis.
For these and other reasons, I can only give Charles half the points – 7 of 14.
The final main component is taxation, which is worth 15 points. I also have a post’s worth of intangibles, which can add or subtract up to 3 points.
At that point I can assess which candidate is my favorite – at least until Larry Hogan starts spelling out his issue positions so I can compare them.