Commentary by Ron Miller
(Sept. 2, 2009) Here in Maryland, the time has come to pay the piper, and rural counties, including the tri-county area of southern Maryland, are bearing the brunt of the $454 million in state budgets cuts recently announced by the Board of Public Works. This brings to $736 million the reductions in the current budget made necessary because of the fiscal malpractice of Governor Martin O'Malley, Senator Mike Miller and Delegate Mike Busch and those they've led during the past three years.
The loser in the state budget cut lottery is Dorchester County, which will see its state aid cut by 54 percent. Closer to home, state aid to St. Mary's County is being reduced by 47%, Calvert by 45% and Charles by 34%. Montgomery, Prince George's, and Baltimore City were generally at the lower end of the scale, although even they were unable to escape the cuts.
The administration that criticized its predecessor for not making the hard choices on managing the structural deficit depleted the rainy-day fund surplus rather than reduce spending, raised taxes by a record $1.4 billion the following year, conned the voters into approving slots the year after that, and wrangled billions in federal stimulus money this year and next from the free spenders in Washington.
Incredibly, despite their public acknowledgement of a structural deficit, meaning they knew they were projected to spend more than they took in, and the precipitous drop in state revenues brought about by their ill-advised tax increases, they never stopped spending. With everything they knew, the current budget they enacted was $1.1 billion higher than the previous year's budget. With 2009 revenues $348 million below estimates, most of that from reduced income taxes, the cuts we're seeing currently to bring the budget into balance were inevitable.
Regrettably, I don't have any good news to offer for the next couple of years at least. Revenues are expected to continue downward, and the General Assembly is going to be forced to either make painful budget cuts or raise taxes again, and we see how well that's worked. Education and health care are the two largest segments of the state budget, and soon there will be no way to avoid cuts in those areas if the budget is to be balanced.
Even now, however, the elected officials in Annapolis don't grasp the fact we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. They are whispering about other taxation proposals and just announced a two-month tax amnesty program in a desperate attempt to secure additional funds.
Are you kidding me? The revenue projections clearly show that the so-called millionaire's tax lost money, and the increased corporate taxes brought in less money as well. Millionaires and businesses are either making a lot less money or they're leaving for greener pastures in the states bordering Maryland.
Only sales taxes and the lottery met or exceeded projections. I guess folks still have to buy stuff and, in this economy, you have as much of a shot at winning the lottery as finding a job.
House Minority Leader Tony O'Donnell has criticized the O'Malley/Miller/Busch cabal for not acting earlier to bring spending in line with revenues, and the consequences of their inaction will be felt for years to come. In the words of Lord Rutherford, a Nobel Prize winning chemist and physicist, "We've got no money, so we've got to think."
My approach would be to blow the whole thing up and start from scratch, with taxpayer protection, tax relief, budgetary reform, health care and energy reform, and job creation as the foundations of a new economic plan.
Still, even if these changes were implemented tomorrow, we can no longer avoid the difficult decisions that need to be made to get Maryland on track toward fiscal responsibility and accountability. The next few years are going to hurt and you need to remember next November who it was that brought the pain.
Ron Miller, of Huntingtown, is a conservative blogger and activist, former and future candidate for the Maryland Senate, and communications director for the Calvert County Republican Party. Ron is a regular contributor to
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