Regulatory reform comes to Maryland

July 10, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics, State of Conservatism · Comments Off on Regulatory reform comes to Maryland 

I harbor no illusions that my post from the other day regarding the declining optimism of Maryland business owners goaded him into action, but today Governor Hogan announced the formation of a Regulatory Review Commission (RRC), charged over the next three years with “(f)ixing our burdensome antiquated, broken and out-of-control regulatory environment in Maryland.” The ten members of the RRC are volunteering their time to “focus like a laser beam on these issues”, said Hogan.

It’s interesting that the Democrats are claiming the Augustine Commission (which was created in the waning months of Martin O’Malley’s second term) was intended to address these issues and saying Hogan shouldn’t need three years to address the problem. How soon they forget that Larry’s Change Maryland organization was convening business summits over the last three years to gain the business perspective, not to mention the fact it was their administration which put out a number of these job-strangling regulations in the first place.

To me it’s just sour grapes. Ask yourself: had Anthony Brown won, would curtailing regulations be a priority? Thought not. The Augustine Commission report would have been filed and ignored.

But I hope the RRC has the latitude to go beyond just regulations and into other areas like taxation and, more importantly, looking into where other states succeed. Take a state like Texas, where hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created (as a net gain over jobs lost, not as a one-for-one swap) over the last decade. What attracts these entrepreneurs and leaders, and what assets can Maryland use to emulate their gains? Granted, a good portion of the Lone Star State’s gain came from abundant energy resources that Maryland can’t match, but there are other areas we may be able to do as well or better if we make that a goal. Unfortunately, over the last eight years our state took its cues from states like California and New York, places where capital and population have been fleeing.

Another question is just how cooperative these Democrats, who are already trying to take credit for the little bit done in 2015, will be to the RRC’s agenda as they submit their findings.

Take the “rain tax” as an example – a Democrat introduced the vastly watered-down bill that eventually passed, so they will surely henceforth try and take credit for ending the “rain tax.” But the mandate for affected counties to have a watershed protection and restoration fund did not go away (page 4 here) – it’s just up to the county to fill it, and most will likely retain some version of the “rain tax.” The actual repeal of the “rain tax” on this Hogan-sponsored bill was killed in committee by the Democrats therein on a straight party-line vote. (I used that vote as one of the committee votes on the monoblogue Accountability Project.) So it’s a fairly safe bet the Democrats are only paying lip service to the issue of regulations now because to them more is better – that’s how they’ve run Annapolis for most of the decade I’ve lived here and probably my whole life before that.

So the RRC can’t just exist in a vacuum. Now that Larry Hogan has experienced the way Democrats in the General Assembly basically gave the finger to his mandate, he will need in the coming months and years to take a page from the Reagan handbook and go straight to the people. Democrats may claim the last election was about “divided government” but the motivation was clearly behind a more conservative direction for the state.

While I would have preferred a more rapid formation for the RRC, this is a definite feather in the cap for Larry Hogan. Let’s hope that it’s not just for show but instead gives us an agenda even the Democrats can’t stop.

Maryland enters the fray

Yesterday we had the spectacle of Martin O’Malley using the Baltimore skyline as a backdrop for the announcement we figured would eventually come the moment the 2010 Maryland gubernatorial election was called for him. Color me unsurprised that he’s running for president in 2016.

But Baltimore’s recent events created even more baggage for O’Malley, who led Maryland through a recession that is still lingering for those portions of the state not within commuting distance of Washington, D.C. That forgotten region includes the city of Baltimore, where the unemployment rate is usually among the highest in the state. In general, Maryland’s better-than-average jobless rate is a result of the federal workforce – take that away and you might have numbers more in tune with struggling states like West Virginia or Nevada.

Granted, if you look at politics through a liberal lens you may see a lot to like with O’Malley. With a friendly and compliant General Assembly backing practically every move, in his first term O’Malley won his prized environmental initiatives with bills like the Clean Cars Act and EmPOWER Maryland utility mandates, increased sales and income taxes while expanding Medicaid, and legalized casino gambling. In his second term he doubled down with the passage of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants and same-sex marriage, beating back spirited efforts at the ballot box to rescind them in 2012. He also championed wind power and a scheme to help with EPA compliance in cleaning up Chesapeake Bay.

That last initiative, officially called the “Stormwater Management – Watershed Protection and Restoration Program,” eventually was boiled down to two words: “rain tax.” It, along with his mismanagement of the state’s Obamacare insurance exchange, proved the demise of Anthony Brown’s campaign to replace O’Malley from his lieutenant governor’s chair, and coupled with this spring’s Baltimore riots may perhaps have become the legacy of Martin O’Malley.

In comparison to his Democratic opponents for the Presidential nomination, though, he and Lincoln Chafee (who is planning to announce his entry next week) are the only two with executive experience, and O’Malley the only one to win re-election. On the GOP side you can cite a number of two-term governors (among them Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, and Bobby Jindal as a partial list) but in terms of governing experience on the Democratic side O’Malley is above the rest.

Yet a record works both ways, and Maryland is arguably the most liberal state in the country. The advocacy group Change Maryland began pointing out the O’Malley economic record shortly after its founding in 2011, and state conservatives can quickly rattle off the key facts: 6,500 businesses lost, 31,000 residents leaving the state with $1.7 billion in net income out-migration, and – most importantly – 40 tax increases. That won’t play in Peoria.

For those of us who have been bruised and battered by a recession without a recovery, Martin O’Malley’ paean to populism rings hollow. He may talk about how crooked Wall Street is, but his prescriptions for the problems with Main Street will only enrich those who stroll along Pennsylvania Avenue.

As a meme making the rounds this weekend implies, those former residents of Maryland who fled the state’s punitive taxation and regulation during the O’Malley years won’t have anywhere to go if he becomes president. While Larry Hogan hasn’t necessarily been the answer here, job creation has bounced back since he took over and he has worked to address the state’s structural deficit without the usual O’Malley answer of a tax increase. Why should America dig itself a deeper hole with Martin O’Malley?

Meanwhile, last night on the other side of the Transpeninsular Line residents of Delaware were stunned to learn of the passing of Beau Biden.

From a political aspect, though, and despite his health issues, the younger Biden was the odds-on favorite to be the Democrats’ nominee for Delaware governor next year after an eight-year run as the state’s Attorney General. Now the race on the Democratic side has opened up and those who were quietly considering a run due to Biden’s condition may step out of the woodwork after an appropriate mourning period. The most likely candidates may be Congressman John Carney, who ran in 2008 only to lose to current term-limited Governor Jack Markell, and New Castle County Executive Thomas Gordon.

Whether this loss will affect Joe Biden’s 2016 plans is unknown; however, he hadn’t planned to announce anyway until late summer at the earliest.

Democrats ignore voters, keep rain tax in place

According to published reports, Annapolis Democrats ignored the will of the voters and opted to maintain the state’s dreaded “rain tax.” More formally, the House Environment and Transportation Committee rejected HB481 by a 14-7 vote – all 14 Democrats on the committee voted to kill the bill, while all seven Republicans voted to send the bill to the floor.

Because it was a party line vote, it’s easy to note who voted for and against:

In favor of maintaining the rain tax were Delegates Barve, Beidle, Carr, Fraser-Hidalgo, Frush, Gilchrist, Healey, Holmes, Knotts, Lafferty, Lam, McCray, Shane Robinson, and Stein. Twelve of the fourteen represent some part of Baltimore, Montgomery, or Prince George’s counties, with one from Baltimore City and one from Anne Arundel County. Basically they represent the I-95 corridor.

Voting properly to kill it off were Delegates Anderton, Cassilly, Flanagan, Jacobs, O’Donnell, Otto, and Szeliga. Three of these represent the Eastern Shore, two have districts in Harford County, one comes from Howard County, and the other from southern Maryland. (Anderton and Otto represent portions of the Lower Shore.)

Governor Hogan is quoted in the WBAL story by Robert Lang as stating:

No issue resonates as strongly and no tax is as universally detested as the rain tax. Passing a law that forces only a handful of counties to raise taxes on their citizens – against their will – is wrong, unfair, and it needs to end.

Marylanders have spoken loudly and clearly on this issue. The overwhelming majority of voters across the state are strongly opposed to it, and some counties have already taken steps to repeal this burdensome tax. Considering the surge of opposition to the current law, I am confident that the General Assembly will still move forward with a repeal of the Rain Tax.

Apparently there is another measure in the General Assembly which will weaken the rain tax but not suspend it entirely. But this is a blow to a relatively robust Hogan agenda, and shows once again the entitlement mentality Democrats in the General Assembly have as none of them broke ranks to vote in favor of repeal. This despite the fact all fourteen Democrats represent counties which are forced to pay it.

On the other hand, just three of the seven Republicans represent “rain tax” counties, although two communities which have adopted a similar tax, Salisbury and Berlin, lie within the districts of Delegates Anderton and Otto, respectively.

While the Change Maryland group vows “the fight is not over,” it’s fairly likely that no bill repealing the rain tax will be passed this year. And now that we got yet another reminder of how bipartisanship works in Annapolis – it’s a one-way street because only Republicans are expected to be bipartisan, such as on the so-called “death with dignity” bill – perhaps it’s time for Republicans to consider Maryland’s answer to the “nuclear option” and begin to petition administration bills to the House floor.

You see, it’s only political junkies like me who pay much attention to committee votes, and chances are that most people have no idea which committees their particular member of the General Assembly sit on. In most cases, Democrats who control committees determine which bills will get votes and which ones will stay in their desk drawer after a hearing. The more damaging a bill could be to their special interests or to vulnerable members, the greater chance a bill never sees the light of day. Yes, fourteen Democrats had to take a hit on this one but being a Democrat on the Environment and Transportation Committee probably means approval from Radical Green groups like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation or League of Conservation Voters so they are probably safe from voter wrath in three years.

But if Republicans band together and use their power to petition bills to the floor, things get a little more uncomfortable for the Democrats because they can’t as easily control the process. Seeing this key piece of Hogan’s agenda being defeated, along with the bush-league antics surrounding the Democrats’ reaction to the State of the State address, tells me that it’s time to embarrass the other side into action. Don’t let Democrats get away with painting Larry Hogan as a do-nothing governor without putting them on the spot and making them go on the record.

The Democrats’ house of cards starts a-tumblin’

February 8, 2015 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on The Democrats’ house of cards starts a-tumblin’ 

I hope you enjoyed my fellow contributor yesterday; I’ve had mostly positive reviews. But I’m back in the saddle and look forward to Cathy’s next post.

You may have seen this piece in the Baltimore Sun by Michael Dresser; a tome which claims that much of Larry Hogan’s agenda is DOA. In it, House Speaker Michael Busch is quoted as saying, “No matter how many times (House Republicans) stood up, you couldn’t count to 71.”

Well, I wouldn’t expect many Democrats to stand up, and truth be told most of the Democrats who might have are working elsewhere now because their electorates decided conservative-lite wasn’t good enough. Granted, 50 is not 71, but it’s better than 43 or 37 where we have been the last two terms.

In an enhanced edition of tit-for-tat, Senate Democrats decided to play political games with several of Hogan’s appointees. Ironically enough, two of the five appointees being held up were Democrats, although both had previously served under Bob Ehrlich. But it goes to show you: when you reach out the hand of bipartisanship to Democrats, many will rip off the arm and beat you with it every time. Once again, they are proving that their interest is in maintaining power and not helping the working family by granting a little bit of tax relief at the gas pump and in the property tax bill. And all the caterwauling about the budget Hogan produced reminds me of the 2012 budget fight where the budget “only” went up $700 million instead of the $1.2 billion they desired.

In short, Maryland Democrats are ignoring the election results and acting like Anthony Brown was elected instead of Larry Hogan. So it’s time to remind them just who they work for.

If you want a review of the State of the State speech Democrats are upset about, I briefly outlined his eleven points in the wake of the speech last week. To me, it sounds like the Democrats are having a cow about Hogan’s plans for repealing the “rain tax” and giving a tax break to specific retirees, and dumping the Phosphorus Management Tool regulations at the last possible minute. So we know what to push the recalcitrant legislators to do as the squeaky wheels get the grease.

Two people I really haven’t heard much from in the wake of the State of the State address are the local Eastern Shore Democratic delegation, namely Delegate Sheree Sample-Hughes and Senator Jim Mathias. Given the counties they represent went heavily for Larry Hogan, I would expect them to be Democratic leaders in getting his agenda passed. While the extent will vary, the ideas Hogan promoted will benefit their districts as well. They need to be the leaders in getting the Hogan agenda to 71 and 24 in the House and Senate, respectively.

It’s what the state voted for, so let’s get this done.

Ambitious agenda? No, a vapid response

February 5, 2015 · Posted in Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on Ambitious agenda? No, a vapid response 

I was somewhat remiss last night in not mentioning the Democrat response to Larry Hogan’s State of the State address. Delivered by Delegate Anne Kaiser, I was expecting more of a robust set of disagreements but a pledge to work toward a better state in a bipartisan manner.

Then I remembered we were talking about Maryland Democrats here. Party Chair Yvette Lewis exhibited their true attitude in a pithy statement:

Today, Marylanders expected to hear from Governor Hogan a clearly stated vision for our State’s future. Instead, we got another campaign speech, even though the campaign for Governor ended almost three months ago. With cuts to education, and higher tuition being forced on our students, the Governor should look for ways to lessen the load on the middle class, instead of balancing his budget on their backs.

Governor Hogan’s campaign speech today does not reflect the actions he has taken or has told us he will take in the future. He said our students deserve a “world class education”, yet he cut $143 million from education. He said he knows that nitrogen and phosphorus run-off is the cause of the bay’s pollution, but he overturned an executive order on the Phosphorus Management tool that would decrease nitrogen and phosphorus runoff, and announced he will try to get rid of the storm water management fee. Simply put, the rhetoric doesn’t match the record.

Voters chose him to “Change Maryland”, but it looks like we, the taxpayers, are getting short changed instead.

Well, let’s see here. I would say Hogan’s vision is one of prosperity based on the tried and true approach where helping business succeed makes a state more prosperous. It’s embodied in a phrase attributed to a Democratic President, John F. Kennedy: “a rising tide lifts all the boats.” If you heard this as a campaign speech, given the opportunity Hogan wished to take in introducing himself and comparing and contrasting his agenda to the failed one of the last eight years, well, be my guest. But you’d be wrong.

Now, about those “cuts to education.” I admit I have a public school education, but I think I did pretty well in math. So when I look at the FY2016 budget and I see that the two figures under the FY2016 column for Elementary and Secondary Education and Higher Education are both larger than those same two figures under FY2015, I wonder where the “cut” is.

Expressed in millions of dollars, it’s FY2016 (7,513 + 5.954) – FY2015 (7,451 + 5,855) = 161.

I will grant it’s not a huge increase like you may think education deserves – but we were running a deficit here, Mrs. Lewis, mainly because the last governor and member of your party spent money like it was going out of style. Now the adults are in charge, so increases are more modest – if you call $161 million modest, that is – but they are paid for without raising taxes. (I know you hate that, but those of us in the hinterlands think it’s a refreshing change.)

And speaking as a person who would like a balanced approach to improving the Chesapeake Bay, why is it you wish to penalize the farmers who are doing their part while dismissing the upstream participants from responsibility? Oh, and the term is not “storm water management fee,” it’s “rain tax.” Own it, because it was your idea.

So the fact that Hogan is spending only a few hundred million dollars more this year than last is considered “short changing” Marylanders speaks volumes about the fact the other side is still in shock that the natural order of things was disturbed and a Republican became governor. In their entire responses, it was all about spending more money. Can’t Democrats come up with a solution which doesn’t involve more money out of our pockets or more government?

Democrats always claim to be the party of the working man, but too many Marylanders aren’t working and aren’t keeping ahead in this state’s moribund economy. In November, voters decided a new approach was necessary and it’s clear by their responses that Democrats haven’t been getting with the program.

The state of our state: an ambitious agenda

Now that the shoe is on the other foot for the first time in eight years, thousands were interested in how newly-inaugurated Governor Larry Hogan assessed the state of our state. And it didn’t take long for him to assess that:

But while our assets are many, and our people are strong and hopeful, their state is simply not as strong as it could be – or as it should be.

Yet in reading through the speech, I didn’t see it as a negative in any way. Instead, Hogan proposed a number of solutions which, instead of spending money or growing government, generally worked in the opposite direction. Breaking the laundry list into eleven parts, it’s easy to summarize the Hogan plan for year one:

  • Analyzing and enacting portions of the upcoming Augustine Commission report on business competitiveness. The idea here is to make Maryland more business-friendly and hopefully wean the state’s economy off a long-term dependence on federal government jobs.
  • Restructure government to be more efficient and effective, using the new faces placed at many of the Cabinet-level departments.
  • Legislation repealing the “rain tax.” This may get some serious opposition from the environmentalist groups who believe this is a fair way to pay for Bay restoration efforts, even though the fees were set by county and only affected ten of 24 county-level jurisdictions.
  • Legislation proposed to exempt military, police, fire, and other first responder pensions from state income taxes. Eventually Hogan would like this to cover all retirement income. It’s an effort to improve Maryland’s dismal standing and reputation as a place not to retire.
  • Legislation to exempt the first $10,000 of personal property from taxation, a move Hogan claims would eliminate the tax for half of Maryland businesses.
  • Legislation to repeal the automatic gasoline tax increases baked into the Transportation Infrastructure Investment Act of 2013.
  • Restoring the local share of Highway User Revenues, a sore spot among the state’s rural counties in particular.
  • On education, strengthening the charter school laws. More controversial will be the oft-tried BOAST tax credit, which gives a tax credit to those who contribute to parochial or private schools. Hogan noted previous iterations have passed the Senate only to fail in the House.
  • Hogan has already shelved the Phosphorus Management Tool, and called for farmers and environmentalists to work on a better, more equitable solution. He also promised to address the “long-ignored impact of upstream polluters,” including the problems at Conowingo Dam.
  • An executive order to deal with the heroin epidemic. Lieutenant Governor Boyd Rutherford has been tasked with this issue.
  • Reinstating the Fair Campaign Financing Act fund by bringing back the checkoff on the tax returns, and also establishing a commission to examine the state’s redistricting process via executive order. If I have the time, I’d love to serve on that one because we really do need to reform the system.

Certainly it’s not the strongly conservative agenda some may prefer, but I would consider it a good first step. Much of the reform will have to go through the General Assembly, and perhaps the strategy is that of picking off just enough Democrats on various issues to build an ever-shifting coalition with the Republicans. The fifty Republicans in the House and 14 in the Senate would be joined by one group of Democrats who consider education reform a must, but may not agree with Hogan’s approach to cleaning up the Bay. Yet some Democrats may like that idea, but won’t budge on changing the gas tax – and so on and so forth. Just as long as Larry gets 71 votes in the House and 24 in the Senate, the means do not matter.

Because of the nature of how our state’s political process, the honeymoon for Hogan was barely existent. He had to have a budget mere hours after taking office, and some legislation he probably wouldn’t support was already being discussed in the General Assembly. Obviously Larry was working in a shadow government of sorts as he awaited inauguration, but once he took the reins that horse quickly accelerated to full gallop.

So while it’s not necessarily less government, at least Larry is working on making things more efficient and streamlined. Hopefully we can get it to such a level that it wouldn’t be missed when the reductions occur. That’s the next logical step.

A look ahead: 2015 in Wicomico County

The more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s telling that most of the issues I wrote about last year at this time are still with us.

And as I suspected when the pixels were placed in late 2013, we have a majority of “new” Council members and, as it turns out, a new County Executive in Bob Culver. That new broom is already in the process of sweeping clean as the county’s former public information officer was relieved of her duties and the longtime Parks and Recreation director suddenly opted for retirement.

Yet almost all of the issues I alluded to last year are still with us. One thing which may assist the county in moving forward, though, is that the County Executive and County Council will be working from the same political playbook, with elections now a relatively safe four years away. Maintaining the 6-1 Republican majority on County Council will mean that there should be few issues, although one might argue that the support certain GOP members gave to the former Democratic County Executive Rick Pollitt could make some votes interesting.

The three main issues of 2013 could be resolved at the state level, though, with a little help from a Republican governor. For example, a more farmer-friendly tier map which places less land off-limits to development may be doable with a less stringent Maryland Department of Planning, one which grants more leeway to county desires and less emphasis on the despised PlanMaryland guidelines. As a corollary to that, the “rain tax” may not get to Wicomico County, although the city of Salisbury approved its version late last month. This could provide some tension between city and county as those who would want access to city water and sewer may balk at the additional fees.

On the other hand, the quest for an elected school board will certainly get a boost since the three largest obstacles are all out of the way: Rick Pollitt, Norm Conway, and Rudy Cane all have left (or will leave) office. With the resident delegation now boasting two Republicans to one Democrat – all of whom are freshmen – electing a school board may occur as soon as 2016.

In short, the biggest issue facing Wicomico County in 2015 will be what it does (or can do) to arrest a lengthy slide in employment. Year-over-year employment in Wicomico County has declined all 11 months this year and in 18 of the previous 22 months, with the most recent peak in employment being 50,369 in July 2012. (As a rule employment in this county fluctuates by a few thousand each year, peaking in July.) And while the unemployment rate is down for 2014, the number is somewhat deceptive because a lot of that positive change came as a result of a labor force that averages 847 fewer workers while average employment is down 380. Job one of the Culver administration is to make Wicomico County a more business-friendly environment, although having a governor who also wants to decrease red tape at the state level will help. Still, the solution for our needs may be as simple as attracting business out of high-overhead urban areas across the bridge to relocate here.

There is also the prospect of a revitalized downtown Salisbury to help attract new residents. Salisbury will one of six county municipalities to hold elections for municipal office in 2015, with Salisbury’s situation this year being rather unique: a charter change put in place a few years back will allow all municipal offices to be contested in one election this year, rather than the staggered terms common to most towns and cities. They are also adopting a five-district system, the boundaries of which leave three current City Council members in one district. According to the Maryland Manual, the other municipalities holding elections next year are Delmar (3 seats in November), Hebron (3 seats in April), Mardela Springs (2 seats in August), Pittsville (2 seats in November), and Willards (2 seats in May.) Fruitland and Sharptown will have their next elections in 2016.

With the new administration coming in, along with a revamped County Council, it won’t take long to find out whether the management style of Bob Culver will feature the leadership our county needs to recover and compete. Tomorrow I will turn my attention to the state of Maryland, including what role a bevy of new local elected officials might play.

A tone-deaf city government

November 25, 2014 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Campaign 2015 - Salisbury, Delmarva items, Maryland Politics, Politics · Comments Off on A tone-deaf city government 

It took several months longer than anticipated – and we don’t yet know exactly what the toll will be – but last night 80 percent of Salisbury City Council gave 100 percent of local property owners another tax to pay by approving a stormwater utility on a 4-0 vote, with newly-appointed Jack Heath being absent.

Council President Jake Day “doesn’t expect” the fee to be more than $20 a year for homeowners, and expects to raise $1.25 million annually from the “rain tax” – and yes, I think the moniker is appropriate given the business fee will be determined by the amount of runoff they produce. According to the latest Census data, though, there are 13,401 housing units in Salisbury so my public school math tells me that businesses are going to pay almost 80% of the total, to the tune of almost $1 million annually.

Interestingly enough, I was quoted in the Daily Times story from last Thursday from a post I wrote in February when the idea came up, and I think the point is still valid: we don’t know what impact there will be from this tax hike on the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay. It seems to me that the timing isn’t very good on this one, particularly as the state and county are working to make these entities more business-friendly and new taxes tend to work in the opposite direction.

I was curious about something, so I took a look at the city’s latest budget that was adopted in May. In it, Mayor Jim Ireton points out that “(t)his budget shows levels of monetary surplus at incredibly healthy levels for both the City’s General Fund and the City’s Water and Sewer Utility.” But it also is using some of the proceeds from the wastewater treatment plant settlement on sewer infrastructure, so why do they need this new tax now? Granted, it’s also stated in the budget that ratepayers get a 2.5% break on water and sewer rates this year, but the extra $20 fee will likely eat that savings up and then some.

The budget also makes the case that the $100 a month, give or take, that a residential property owner pays in property taxes provides a cornucopia of services, a palette which includes stormwater management. So we’re already paying for the service with our property taxes, but instead of adding the penny or two that would cover the additional services the city wants to create a new special fund. Currently the Water and Sewer Fund comprises roughly 1/3 of a city budget which runs about $50 million, with property taxes chipping in about $22 million toward the General Fund. With the city of Salisbury increasing the tax rate regularly, it’s doubtful we’ll see a corresponding decrease in property taxes to offset the new fee.

And while I’m not an expert on the city charter by any means, my question is why can’t the purview of the Water and Sewer Utility (which has a large surplus) be simply expanded to stormwater? Generally infrastructure improvements to the stormwater system involve changes to the remaining utilities as well, so the same work may well come out of two (or three) different funds given the city’s idea. It may be more efficient and less taxing on the city’s residents to amend the charter to add stormwater to the existing water and sewer utility.

So let’s review: the fee would cover something which is already supposed to be paid for, in an amount we haven’t quite determined yet, to achieve projects for which we don’t know the scope but are supposed to address a problem Salisbury contributes little to and is only compelled to deal with because the state refuses to stick up for itself and tell the EPA and Chesapeake Bay Foundation to go pound sand. What could go wrong?

Just remember all this come Election Day next year.

Update 11/26: I actually stumbled upon this as I was researching some items for my next post today, but it’s worth pointing out that Salisbury has justified its adoption of a stormwater utility by saying the town of Berlin has one in place.

The same group, called the Environmental Finance Center – which is part of the University of Maryland but serves as a regional hub for an existing EPA program – did studies to justify the need for Berlin (2012) and Salisbury (2013). The results were pretty much the same, although the suggested fee was higher in Berlin than it was in Salisbury, where they recommended a $40 annual fee for homeowners. Notably, the Salisbury report also recommends fee increases after a period of years – see the chart on page 15. So the problem won’t ever be solved and the program will run an annual surplus that likely won’t be rebated to taxpayers. Moreover, unlike a property tax from which religious-based entities have traditionally been exempt, they have to pay the fee as well.

Also, the fingerprints of the notoriously Radical Green folks of the Town Creek Foundation are on these reports. It’s a group which believes:

We think that true sustainability and resilience – in an increasingly unstable, crisis-prone world – will depend on fundamental transformations of the systems (including the value systems) by which everyday life is organized. These include the systems by which we make and consume energy, food, and materials, and the systems by which we make and enforce social decisions.

We’ve already seen the results of a national “fundamental transformation” over the last six years, and many millions would like to transform back to where we were. But a tone-deaf government just wants to take more out of our pockets rather than prioritize existing resources.

The truth about ‘Liberal Jim’

For several years I’ve done the monoblogue Accountability Project for this very purpose – disseminating the truth about how members of the Maryland General Assembly really vote when the rubber meets the road. There are few races with as clear-cut of a difference as the 38th District Senate race between incumbent Democrat Jim Mathias, whose mAP score as a Delegate from 2007-10 was a 15 (out of 100) and Senate lifetime score from 2011-14 has been 28 (out of 100) and Republican Delegate Mike McDermott, who replaced Mathias in the General Assembly and has a lifetime rating of 84.5 of 100. (The 2014 version of the monoblogue Accountability Project is here.)

But what does this mean in terms of issues? I went back and researched the common votes taken by both men. Since 2012, I have set up the mAP to use bills which received votes in both the House of Delegates and Senate – out of 25 votes, 22 of these would be common. (The other three were committee votes for the respective bodies.) So 66 votes over the last three years’ worth of sessions were placed in front of both men.

In 2011 I hadn’t changed the rules yet, so while I had standardized the number of votes at 25, only 9 were common. Yet of those 9 common votes, Mathias and McDermott only voted the same on two. In total, out of 75 possible votes, Mathias and McDermott differed a total of 45 times while agreeing on 27 occasions. (Mathias was absent for three votes in that time period.)

Eleven of those 45 votes of disagreement were budgetary. Year after year, Mathias has been a rubber stamp for the annual spending and debt increases put in by the state. It’s not just the operating budget but the creation of more and more state debt and all the legerdemain that goes into each year’s BRFA. The only agreement between the two: Mathias voted against the original 2012 BRFA.

But in 2011, Mathias also voted to force home care providers into paying union dues, which created an unearned estimated benefit to Big Labor of over $430,000, the crony socialism of the InvestMaryland Act where the state ate its seed corn of future receipts, state law conformity with Obamacare, and the gerrymandered Congressional districts which took effect for 2012.

Mathias also had a hand in some dreadful 2012 legislation, voting for the state health exchange that’s only enrolled about 1/3 of the expected number of people at a wasted cost of over $125 million. Some guy named Anthony Brown was taking credit for that until it tanked. On a related front, Jim also voted to establish so-called “health enterprise zones,” which was something requested by minority legislators. Wouldn’t it make more sense to lift all boats?

But that’s far from all of it. Remember that “flush tax”? Mathias voted to double it. Jim also voted to burden the nascent state natural gas industry with the presumption of guilt in well contamination, mandate expensive fire sprinkler systems in new homes, adding thousands to the cost, and punished cellular customers with an expansion of the USTF surcharge. And again, Mathias did a favor to unions by expanding their reach among state employees.

And remember the “doomsday budget”? In that 2012 special session, Mathias voted for the measure that transferred teacher pensions to the counties and forced Wicomico County to raise its income tax and maximize its property tax increase to stay eligible for a $14 million lower maintenance of effort payment. Thanks for the higher taxes, Jim.

2013 was the year with the most departure between the two, as they differed on 15 of 22 votes. Several of these were bills dealing with the state’s implementation of Obamacare – including Medicaid expansion which is purportedly covered by federal funds (for now) – but there were other differences. Mathias supported provisions permitting voting by mail and, beginning in 2016, same-day registration during early voting. Both are invitations to voter fraud.

Mathias also voted in favor of the $18 annual surcharge residential customers start paying if offshore wind becomes a reality. (This may be hundreds of dollars annually for commercial customers and thousands annually for industrial users.) Jim also allowed the Maryland Stadium Authority to fund the construction of schools in Baltimore City. I’m not sure what sort of precedent that sets, but is Somerset County any wealthier of an area? Why is Baltimore City getting this new source of debt?

Nor were Jim’s union friends left out. In 2013 he voted to enact so-called “service fees” at five state universities and statewide for public school employees.

But the most interesting vote was on the Transportation Trust Fund “lockbox.” While it’s supposedly in place to prevent the annual raid of the TTF by a governor who can’t suppress his appetite for spending, the key to unlock is laughably weak: a 3/5 majority of both houses of the General Assembly. At this point Democrats by themselves could allow the transfer with 13 House votes and 6 Senate votes to spare. Those lucky Democrats, likely in swing district’s like Jim’s, would have the pass to go against their party while knowing passage is safely in the bag. I sense that Mike McDermott knew this when he properly voted no.

(That Constitutional Amendment is on the 2014 ballot as Issue 1, and I would encourage a vote AGAINST it. Make the General Assembly come up with a real lockbox – either a blanket prohibition or a 3/4 majority, which would require at least some Republicans to buy in – 106 House votes and 36 in the Senate.)

This year’s agenda was somewhat less ambitious, but there were still major differences. Mathias dodged a bullet when the bridge-eligible assistance program he voted for proved to not be too expensive (although there was no final expense tally at the point this was updated) but he also kept adding more Obamacare provisions to state law while paying for a needle exchange program in Baltimore city.

On the educational front, Mathias supported a pre-K expansion which will be of dubious benefit (except to public school unions) and supported a workgroup of yes-men studying how to better implement Common Core, which they don’t call Common Core anymore. And not only did he once again support a bloated budget, he tacked on a $10 additional fee for pesticide registration. Granted, it’s an aggregate of about $130,000 a year but it’s yet another burden for businesses.

Aside from the budget bills, though, the supporters of Jim Mathias would probably point to the bills both voted for as evidence of his moderate stance.

In 2011, both voted against the supplemental 3% alcohol tax and in-state tuition for illegal aliens. 2012 brought several points of agreement: voting against a prohibition of arsenic in livestock feed, enactment of same-sex marriage, the “rain tax,” the Septic Bill (with a caveat as I’ll get to momentarily), and even requiring helmets for moped riders. In the first Special Session that year both voted against the income tax increase.

When I revisited the Septic Bill, though, I noticed there were two Third Reading Senate votes – one for the Senate bill and one including some changes from the House version which passed, which had to be voted on again as amendments to the Senate version. Oddly enough, on the first iteration Jim voted yes but on the final product he was a no vote. Apparently Jim was for tier maps before he was against them?

Anyway, 2013 brought a lot of disagreement but Mathias and McDermott voted alike on some key issues: the gas tax increase, death penalty repeal, driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, and the SB281 gun bill all drew their opposition. Credit Mathias with unsuccessfully trying to place a sunset date on the gun law. This year they both fought the minimum wage increase as well as prevailing wage applicability, helped to decrease the estate tax (a rare win for conservatives) and the “bathroom bill.”

One thing I noticed in my research, though, is that Mathias rarely offers any floor amendments, whereas McDermott has several per term. Obviously that stage seems to me the one point where Republicans get in their say, giving Democrats more opportunities to be on the record as opposing common sense.

So while it’s true that Jim will “stand up to his own party” on some limited instances where tax increases are too obvious, he gives the game away by voting for each budget. I suppose the question is who is really fighting for the district, and in part two of this post I’ll look into where McDermott is fighting the other side.

A dose of economic reality

Bear in mind the following words are written by a Democrat in Maryland. It’s an extremely long blockquote of an entire release but I thought readers deserved full context.

We convene today to write down our already cautious revenue projections for Fiscal Years 2015 and 2016 by more than $405 million. Far more important than what a $405 million shortfall means for the state budget is the painful reality that it indicates for the budgets of Maryland families and small businesses.

We’re writing down individual income tax receipts – the largest individual source of state revenue – by over $350 million, between the shortfall in individual income tax receipts carried over from Fiscal 2014 and our write down of expected revenues for Fiscal Year 2015.  Six years removed from the economic collapse, and far too many families and small businesses are still waiting for the recovery they keep hearing about.

We can classify a year or two outside the ordinary as simply abnormal. But more than a half decade later, we need to accept that sluggish growth and challenging economic conditions have become our new normal. It feels like we sit at these meetings every quarter, hopeful and determined that ‘next year will be the year’ when the recovery takes hold and is felt broadly throughout the economy. Yet, another year has passed, and ordinary families and small businesses haven’t even recovered to where they were before the financial collapse, much less made up for the wages they’ve lost over the past six years. We need to recognize that hope is not an economic strategy.

The same challenging conditions I’ve discussed in past meetings haven’t substantively improved. Wages and salaries are essentially stagnant. Local, independent businesses are struggling to meet payroll, cover their costs and turn a profit. Working families have cut back their spending because they just don’t have the money, they’re scared of losing their jobs, or, in many cases, both.

In a consumer-driven economy, it should come as no surprise that when consumers are struggling, businesses inevitably feel that pain, particularly in an environment where margins have often already been trimmed down to the bone. Add that to Maryland’s unemployment rate – traditionally a major strength – not keeping pace with improvements seen in the country as a whole.

Maryland’s 6.4 percent unemployment rate is higher than the national rate of 6.1 percent – something we’ve only experienced twice in the past three and a half decades – during the tech boom of the late 1990s and the 1980 recession. In terms of wages – the oxygen working families need to survive – Maryland’s average wage growth was just 0.4 percent in the first quarter of 2014, far below the rate of inflation for the same period.

Essentially, workers perceive that their take-home pay is headed in the wrong direction and the purchasing power for Maryland families is, in reality, diminishing. The housing market has failed to rebound in a sustained and meaningful way, particularly with Maryland second worst in the nation in home foreclosure rates.

Combined, these economic indicators led to a Maryland economy that didn’t grow at all last year – with a 0 percent GDP growth for 2013. As we know, an economy that isn’t growing is actually retracting. This all means uncertainty for families and businesses. They are unsure about their prospects and, as a result, unwilling to make the purchases and investments our consumer-driven economy needs to grow. As great a state as we are and as robust an economic system as we have, uncertainty serves as a serious deterrent to economic growth.

Whether it’s sequestration, unpredictability in the tax and regulatory environment or an inability to make long-term federal budgeting decisions, most of the uncertainty is based on political problems and decisions, as opposed to global economic conditions. While the federal government has always been and certainly remains a major economic advantage, our over reliance on the public sector carries significant risks. We can embrace our proximity to Washington as a strength without depending on it as our sole basis for economic stability.

We simply can’t assume that we’re around the corner from returning to the way it was, and back to the decisions we could afford to make in Maryland as a result. The fact remains that we’ll only see the economic growth we’re accustomed to when we get the private sector economy growing. We can only make that happen if we provide a sense of predictability for Maryland families and small businesses.

As state policymakers, we need to be smart in how we spend taxpayer dollars, recognizing that to invest in the things we need, we have to forego many of the things we simply want. We have to be more forward-looking about how we borrow money as a state.  We simply can’t sustain our current patterns of debt accumulation without provoking actions that could do further harm to an already fragile economy — amplifying the significant fiscal and economic challenges we already face.

As we all know, a sustained economic recovery is going to come down to jobs, both here in Maryland and throughout the nation. As long as we see continued weakness in wages and job growth, consumers will inevitably pull back, causing businesses to struggle and the economy to underperform.

We simply cannot create any unnecessary road blocks that would make employers reluctant to invest, grow and hire. But if we maintain a cautious mindset and provide a sense of predictability to Maryland families and small businesses, our economic bones are strong enough and our people are resilient enough to withstand this write down and the economic challenges it represents. (All emphasis mine.)

That’s the entirety of a press release put out by state Comptroller Peter Franchot as the Board of Revenue Estimates calculated our state would yet again be short on revenues to the tune of $405 million, or slightly over 1% of the current budget.

But let’s read between the lines, in the passages I highlighted.

(W)e need to accept that sluggish growth and challenging economic conditions have become our new normal.

No we don’t. What we need to do is realize our policy prescriptions over the last eight years or so have done little to help the local economy. States are succeeding in this country, whether it’s through ambitious exploitation of energy resources like North Dakota or smart, pro-business policy such as the sort Texas seems to use. (Heck, Rick Perry even encouraged Maryland businesses to relocate to his state.) To attain growth, it has to be encouraged and the only thing we’re encouraging the growth of in this state is government.

The same challenging conditions I’ve discussed in past meetings haven’t substantively improved. 

Peter Franchot became Comptroller in the same 2006 election we elected Martin O’Malley as governor. Perhaps that should give an indication as to why these conditions persist.

Essentially, workers perceive that their take-home pay is headed in the wrong direction and the purchasing power for Maryland families is, in reality, diminishing.

This is reflective of national conditions, since real household income has declined since reaching a peak anywhere from 7 to 15 years ago, depending on income quintile. And with wage-earners having to string together a series of part-time jobs to make ends meet thanks to the impact of Obamacare and a higher cost of living, the budgets of Maryland families are indeed stretched to the breaking point.

(M)ost of the (economic) uncertainty is based on political problems and decisions, as opposed to global economic conditions.

Families continue to wait for the other shoe to drop. Spend over $100 million on a botched website? Don’t worry, we’ll make up the shortfall by figuring out some new revenue stream. This is the state that experimented with the “tech” tax some years ago before the computer business threatened to bolt, so they decided to tax millionaires instead – and watched many move out of state. Even taxing rain to supposedly help clean up Chesapeake Bay has become a boondoggle as different counties decided on different approaches, while a select few counties (including Wicomico) figure they are next on the firing line to be stuck with the “rain tax” like 10 other Maryland counties.

While the federal government has always been and certainly remains a major economic advantage, our over reliance on the public sector carries significant risks. We can embrace our proximity to Washington as a strength without depending on it as our sole basis for economic stability.

This is a very prescient statement, but Franchot is only looking at it in terms of tax revenue from federal workers. Surely he’s less inclined to speak out about the fact that it’s actually Uncle Sam – not income tax receipts – that is the largest source of state revenue. I know the unsuccessful campaign of Charles Lollar made overtures about slaying that beast, but it’s just as bad to be dependent on the federal government for operating revenue as it is to make it as much as a significant economic driver as it tends to be for the Capital region. Meanwhile, jobs which create real value – whether it’s extracting natural gas in Garrett County, making steel in Baltimore, or growing chickens on a rural Somerset County farm – get short shrift from an administration which has tried to thwart that sort of growth at every turn.

Whether Peter Franchot wants to admit it or not, the damning economic statement made by a Comptroller who still endorsed the candidate who most represents this failed status quo in Anthony Brown makes the case that a new broom needs to sweep Maryland politics clean. If you haven’t heard about GOP candidate for Comptroller William Campbell, it’s time you did.

And Anthony Brown? I’m sure he knows that Franchot is pretty much correct in this assessment, which is why he’s trying to paint Larry Hogan as a Republican extremist (there is no such thing) and not talk about his own accomplishments or plans. “More of the same” just won’t sell for a large number of Maryland’s working families.

In defense of Haddaway-Riccio

On Thursday Red Maryland noted that David Craig’s LG candidate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio voted five years ago for the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009. Although it’s a bit of a stretch to say she “put the VMT tax on the table,” she was one of a handful of Republicans who voted for the measure.

And even though Red Maryland has already expressed its support for Craig’s opponent Larry Hogan, the Craig campaign felt compelled to put out talking points rebutting the piece by Mark Newgent. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to defend this law within these quarters.

#1 – The VMT tax was proposed by the O’Malley Administration and was the result of an O’Malley Executive Order, not legislation.

Indeed, we have not seen a VMT tax come to fruition as legislation, although we have had, over the last two sessions, a bill to prohibit collection of such a tax introduced and heard in the General Assembly.

#2 – The legislation Delegate Jeannie Haddaway voted in favor of (as did other Republicans) ensured that other states do their fair share to improve air quality standards so that Maryland citizens – and Maryland utility companies – do not bear the full burden in the effort to clean the air (especially since our airshed goes all the way out to Ohio). Air pollution costs MD millions of dollars each year (it accounts for one-third of the acid deposition in the bay, crop damage, health care, etc).

Maryland was actually ranked highest in the country for deaths related to air pollution.

In reading the bill, I see no assurances of the kind. Much of it was based on future legislation. Moreover, we can’t guarantee any other state does its “fair share” just as they can’t guarantee we do things for them. This legislation wasn’t part of a compact, so Ohio can do as it wishes in their part of the “airshed.”

#3 – This was good legislation for Maryland taxpayers. The legislation resulted in tens of millions of dollars in ratepayer relief for ratepayers that would be reflected on their utility bills until the O’Malley/Brown administration took the money and put it in the General Fund.

But we don’t know that, as such reductions were not explicitly spelled out in the bill or the fiscal note. It did mandate that changes not adversely affect certain electric ratepayers (or manufacturing) but that was something the state would judge, not those affected.

#4 – Who are democrats and independents that care about the environment and the economy going to vote for in the General Election? A team that can balance the environment with our economic needs or a real estate developer that has developed 35,000 acres and doesn’t care about the environment?

You’re talking to the wrong person if you want to go on an anti-development screed, because there’s nothing wrong with development. If a state or region doesn’t grow economically, it dies. However, while it’s possible Hogan does care about the environment, his agenda has never been formally spelled out. In a subsequent conversation Newgent stated Hogan wanted to address the sediment behind the Conowingo Dam, which will assist in restoring the Bay’s water quality, but we still don’t know where he stands on other aspects of environmental policy such as pulling out of RGGI, or what Chesapeake Bay measures he would cease or continue. Actually, I hope Craig revisits some of the legislation that’s already passed as he said he would.

#5 – Maryland’s economy depends on clean air and water. Farmers and watermen depend on a clean environment, our tourism industry depends on a clean environment. Delegate Haddaway has successfully balanced jobs and the environment; she has consistently earned high scores for her environmental record while still maintaining a 100% business rating (MBRG).

I don’t doubt that because where Jeannie usually falls short on the monoblogue Accountability Project is in the realm of environmental votes like the vote being discussed here. It’s why her lifetime rating is only in the 70s. Government tends to forget the earth does a very good job of healing itself.

So I really don’t buy the talking points. But I also have to consider the source of this slam on Haddaway, and remember: the assertion was that Haddaway’s vote “put the VMT tax on the table.” That cause-and-effect doesn’t compute, because in this term no bill has been introduced to enact a VMT levy. nor did Haddaway write the state’s master transportation plan. Unfortunately, neither VMT prohibition bill ever got past the hearing stage so we don’t have a recorded vote (although she was not a co-sponsor.) Even without the legislation or the master plan, though, it’s likely the greedy Maryland tax collectors would be among the first to seek a VMT whether the GGRA was passed or not. By this token, Haddaway should be given credit for voting against the “rain tax” that some Republicans backed.

Yet this post of mine may never have happened without a patented parting shot from the guys at Red Maryland:

Now this brings us to our friend Michael Swartz, who, in his endorsement of David Craig, wrote that picking Haddaway-Riccio “sealed it” and made “the difference” in his endorsement.

This is curious given Swartz is such a critic (and rightfully so) of the very policies Haddwway-Riccio  not only voted for, but sponsored.

It’s true that I disagreed with the vote, but when I weighed all the evidence I still came out with the Craig team on top. This would be true of any legislator, and had I been here in the initial days of the Ehrlich administration I may not have agreed with all of Larry Hogan’s appointments. As I’ve noted on my Facebook page, Larry was praised by Red Maryland for selecting “the most bipartisan, most inclusive, and most diverse administration in Maryland history.” As I asked there, what about conservative? Being “bipartisan” only seems to work one way in this state.

And unfortunately there was a lack of context in what Newgent quoted, since the reason Haddaway sealed it and made the difference was that Ron George picked a weaker LG candidate. At that point Hogan/Rutherford wasn’t even in the running.

But a particular reason I selected Craig/Haddaway over Larry Hogan was the vague platform Larry’s put out thus far. And the Red Maryland bloggers aren’t helping in that cause – instead, they seem to focus on attacking everyone else in the race. In many cases, it’s legitimate criticism of the others, but they seem to turn a blind eye to actually educating voters on the merits of the candidate they support through discussion of his proposed policies. “Jobs, middle class families, and restoring our economy” are nice catchphrases, but how will you get there?

I did a little reading through Red Maryland just to see what light they have shed on Hogan. Since January they’ve done a total of 17 posts on Larry, ones I found by typing “Larry Hogan” in the search box. A number of those posts were radio show promos, but here’s what else came up:

  • May 21 and 22 posts about the “coordinated effort,” as Ron George and David Craig questioned the connection between Change Maryland and Hogan’s campaign, a legitimate query which RM called “desperate times” from George and Craig.
  • A series of posts May 12 concerning a poll that the authors claimed was evidence Larry could “compete if not win on November 4.”
  • A May 5 article claiming that, “Most candidates have talked solely about reducing taxes, though Larry Hogan…has also focused on the need to reduce spending.” Yet David Craig notes under “Taxes and Fiscal Responsibility” that he will “use this (budgeting) authority (as Governor) to make actual cuts to the budget.” Ron George is a little more vague, but points out he would be “cutting any waste found by these (independent) audits” and would level funding “whenever the economy slows.” The assertion is only correct about Charles Lollar. On May 1, they also promoted Hogan’s “reduce-spending first strategy” as a discussion topic for their radio show.
  • Other articles dealt with milestones like Hogan’s fundraising, first television ad, and initial web advertisement. Hogan was also peripherally mentioned in the Media Matters and Baltimore Sun controversies.

And what did we learn about the others? In 13 posts about David Craig and/or Jeannie Haddaway, they noted the aforementioned VMT tax, her wobbly stance on bond bills, her support of film tax credits which helped her district, and property tax rates in Harford County under Craig. Most of the 13 could be construed as negative. They grudgingly praised Craig’s idea to eliminate the income tax, although the focus of that piece was to hammer Charles Lollar (more on him in a bit.)

Ron George merited just six posts, with just a couple being negative – mainly he was a peripheral mention in a larger Hogan context, although in the controversy over film tax credits Ron got a much larger role when the RM crew railed against fellow blogger Joe Steffen. They did give Ron the chance to clarify his position on the film tax credit issue, but did not on the “desperate times” posts.

And while Hogan had 17 posts, Charles Lollar rated 15, with nearly all of them severely negative towards him. Indeed, Charles was caught in a number of contradictions (as I also noted in my endorsement post) but the venom toward Lollar was palpable. You’d have thought Charles was Anthony Brown, who received 18 posts in the same time frame – in that case, the negativity was more justified.

In all, Red Maryland has done 235 posts (as of this writing) in 2014. As I noted, just 17 promoted Larry Hogan in some way, with 22 others (by my count) talking about other gubernatorial candidates. I will grant I rarely listen to the RM radio network so I don’t know what conversation has come up there, yet it seems that the majority of Red Maryland‘s time is spent painting their non-endorsed candidates in a negative light. And that’s fine because politics ain’t beanbag.

Yet one has to ask: does that help the overall cause for Republicans in Maryland? I’m not saying by any means we should just parrot the talking points, because each candidate has areas which need improvement. When people ask me, I can honestly tell them good things about the four Republican gubernatorial candidates as well as places where we may disagree. Perhaps the RM crew can do the same, but their stance on Hogan seems to be one of “trust us, you’ll like him and we need the change.” I don’t dislike Larry but I do dislike trying someone unproven, and even many who endorse him don’t know all Hogan stands for. They just equate leadership of a development company and a popular social media group – which has brought a number of good issues to the forefront – with being able to run the state. I don’t.

And look what Red Maryland has reaped from this approach, which makes this post seem prophetic. Obviously their promotional appeal fell on deaf ears: there are no candidates advertising on their website or radio network, which only attracts a few hundred listeners a week as shows have dropped off for other outlets or simply faded away over the last several months.

Just as a contrast, this post will be number 191 on the year for me, so the comparison is relatively apples-to-apples. By my count, I have written about Larry Hogan the most (59 posts), with Ron George meriting 45, David Craig 44, and Charles Lollar 36. (Obviously many posts feature more than one candidate.) Many have been critical, but my goal has been to enlighten voters and let them decide. It also helped me out because I was truly undecided on the governor’s race right about up to the time I wrote my endorsement. While I don’t have a radio show (nor any plans to begin one) I do have a solid cadre of local candidates who wanted to advertise here.

If you assume the polls are correct and Larry Hogan wins the primary, I’m assuring you he’ll get my vote in November. It’s the baseline level of support any Republican should give a GOP candidate. But the question is how much support will those who backed other candidates give to Hogan? In some respects, Red Maryland has burned quite a few bridges in the last few months by dropping any pretense of objectivity and becoming Larry Hogan’s attack dog, and that could spill over to other races they involved themselves in, such as the Hough-Brinkley race in Senate District 4 or the free-for-all in House District 31B.

These tactics could shift those races. Already I hear a number of people who say they’ll sit out November if Hogan wins, and that’s not good for any of us. I encourage those people to reconsider, or at the very least find some local races to get involved in.

I probably don’t speak for everyone, but I think I speak for a lot of people when I say Red Maryland has let us all down as “Maryland’s premier conservative source.” Endorsing Larry Hogan before he even formally announced was their right, but their actions since haven’t endeared them to many conservatives around the state.

“Thanks for everything you guys have been doing…you’ve been doing a terrific job.” – Larry Hogan on Red Maryland Radio, June 13, 2014.

Lots of guv news

It worked out that something came to my attention from all four gubernatorial candidates in the last few hours to couple days, so I decided to go through them in polling order.

This mean’s Larry Hogan‘s comments about our state’s moribund economy lead things off. In response to a U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis report that Maryland’s state GDP did not budge over the last year, Hogan said:

Today, the Federal Government confirmed what Marylanders have long known:  Our economy is dead in the water.  The tax and spend policies and mismanagement of the Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown years have destroyed jobs and are driving residents and employers out of state.  It’s time to end one-party rule and get Maryland’s economy moving again.

The state’s economy was all but stagnant in 2013, essentially unchanged from 2012. Only the District of Columbia and Alaska did worse, as both of those went into a statewide recession. And while it can be argued that the government shutdown had a negative impact on the region – as noted, the District of Columbia lost economic ground and Virginia only eked out 0.1% growth – it just points out the need for Maryland to diversify its economy and not just be the home for government workers along the I-95 corridor.

Meanwhile, David Craig attempted to shore up support in western Maryland by announcing an endorsement from former Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, who called Craig:

…the only candidate for governor that has a record of accomplishment. He has cut taxes, cut the size of the government, and vigorously opposed gun control legislation as a member of the General Assembly, which has earned him an “A” rating from the NRA. No other candidate has fought for our conservative values like him. No other candidate has the experience to lead our state like he does. I am proud to endorse David Craig for Governor, he will be our voice in Annapolis.

Bartlett has gained a lot of respect from voters in that region of the state over the years, so this isn’t a bad thing to have in your pocket. Of course, it’s not going to make up all of the ground David needs to gain on Larry Hogan, but it helps shore up a portion of the state which is somewhat up for grabs as it has no favorite son in the race.

The Charles Lollar camp took heart in Dave Brat’s Virginia win on Tuesday night:

You just saw it in Virginia: Eric Cantor outspent his opponent by 40-to-1 and was defeated in a landslide in yesterday’s primary.

Why? Because Cantor was out of touch with the Republican base, and because Dave Brat’s volunteers were passionate – just as you are!

Don’t let Establishment Republicans in Maryland steal your victory from you for a few dollars.

They’ve also touted endorsements from several minority groups:

I was thrilled last night at the reception I was given at the First Baptist Church of Glenarden, one of the largest churches in Prince Georges County.

And this came right after Ken and I were endorsed by the Business & Clergy Partnership of Prince Georges County, a group that represents 300 predominantly black churches and small businesses.

Now the latter becomes interesting after I found this item. Perhaps the Prince George’s group is making an endorsement in both primaries, but the Maryland branch endorsed Doug Gansler first. Charles may do well in Prince George’s County, but unless he was handing out lots of voter registration change cards prior to the June 3 deadline, there may not be a Lollar on the November ballot for whom to vote.

And then we come to Ron George, who is definitely pulling out all the stops here. He’s also jumped on the Dave Brat bandwagon by making a late issue of illegal immigration by pledging to restore a lawful presence requirement for driver’s licenses. Said Ron:

Maryland cannot afford to once again be giving driver’s licenses to those unlawfully present in the state. The current two-tier system offers no protections. A driver’s license is the recognized ID card throughout the United States. The second tier may help to keep someone out of federal buildings, but it does nothing to protect Marylanders from criminals and others who are unlawfully present.

A terrorist or even a sexual predator on the national registry can come here under a new name, and we do not check their status. Our proximity to Washington, D.C., as well as our airports, harbor, tunnels and bridges means Maryland needs a governor who will lead. The George/Aloi Administration will get Maryland back to lawfully present secure driver’s licenses and observe the federal and state rule of law.

I don’t quite get the last sentence (perhaps he needed the quotation marks as written below) but the idea is sound. Ron also provides some helpful background:

Ron George won a three year fight for “Lawfully Present, Secure Driver’s Licenses” in 2009, but O’Malley, Busch and Miller overturned it in 2013.

In 2008 and 2009, Ron George proved Maryland had handed Driver’s Licenses to MS 13 gang members. When terrorists were caught in other states planning attacks on military bases, they had Maryland drivers licenses. Prince George’s Emergency Hospital System was going under from the large influx of undocumented immigrants who didn’t pay for services and hundreds of millions were spent to keep it afloat. There were lines around Motor Vehicle Administration locations (MVA’s) everyday.  Now, once again, we have an enormous backlog of applicants at the MVA.

And then we have this from the Ron George “grooveyard of forgotten favorites”:

Hey, it got a little bit of media love from the folks at Rare – but still has fewer than 700 views. It’s the kind of thing he could have used back in April – maybe things would have turned out differently.

And this is just a couple days’ worth. But don’t forget – in a couple hours early voting begins around the state. And if I may be so bold as to make a campaign plug – and yes, there is an authority line on this website – Wicomico County GOP voters should make sure they get to page 2 on the ballot. Central Committee is the final office listed, and my name is second-to-last this time (in 2006 and 2010 I was listed last.) Whether you “bullet vote” just one or select nine, I’d appreciate it if my name was among those you select. And spread the word!

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  • 2018 Election

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    Maryland

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    Ben Cardin (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

     

    U.S. Congress -1st District

    Andy Harris (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Jenica Martin (Libertarian) – Facebook Twitter

    Jesse Colvin (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    State Senate – District 37

    Addie Eckardt (R – incumbent) – Facebook

    Holly Wright (D) – Facebook

     

    Delegate – District 37A

    Frank Cooke (R) – Facebook

    Sheree Sample-Hughes (D – incumbent) – Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 37B (elect 2)

    Chris Adams (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Johnny Mautz (R – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Dan O’Hare (D) – Facebook

     

    State Senate – District 38

    Mary Beth Carozza (R) – Facebook Twitter

    Jim Mathias (D – incumbent) Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38A

    Charles Otto (R – incumbent)

    Kirkland Hall, Sr. (D) – Facebook Twitter

     

    Delegate – District 38B

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

     

    Delegate – District 38C

    Wayne Hartman (R) – Facebook

     

    Delaware

     

    U.S. Senate

     

    Republican:

    Rob ArlettFacebook Twitter

    Roque de la FuenteFacebook Twitter

    Gene Truono, Jr. –  Facebook

     

    Libertarian (no primary, advances to General):

    Nadine Frost – Facebook

     

    Democrat:

    Tom Carper (incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

    Kerri Evelyn HarrisFacebook Twitter

     

    Green (no primary, advances to General):

    Demitri Theodoropoulos

     

     

    Congress (at-large):

     

    Republican:

    Lee MurphyFacebook Twitter

    Scott Walker

     

    Democrat (no primary, advances to General):

    Lisa Blunt Rochester (D – incumbent) – Facebook Twitter

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