Commentary by Ron Miller
"What do you suggest we do about it?"
Whenever I'm critical of the fiscal mismanagement to which the people of Maryland have been subjected by Governor Martin O'Malley, Senate president Thomas V. "Mike" Miller, and Speaker of the House of Delegates Mike Busch, and that's usually every chance I get, I find myself being challenged with that question.
Although I'm tempted to point them to the numerous columns I've written where I say exactly what I would do differently, I figure that would be a little too snarky on my part, so let me try to explain what I think would be a prudent approach in the 2010 General Assembly session to put Maryland's fiscal house in order.
The first thing I would do is freeze spending. This administration will tell you they've actually cut spending, but that's not true. As far as Maryland taxpayers are concerned, the budget is not just the general fund. Our taxes pay for the entire budget, so stop with the accounting sleight of hand - you insult our intelligence.
The second thing I would do is zero-base the budget. All expenditures should be subject to review and justification. You'll hear our elected officials say most of the budget is mandated and can't be touched. Says who? If they are the ones who put the mandates in place, they can remove them.
No portion of the budget, even those deemed worthwhile by most, should be exempt from review. We violate the trust of the taxpayer if we don't evaluate all expenditures with the same level of scrutiny and skepticism.
If a budget item is driven by a federal mandate, my response would be to push back. We're still a constitutional republic, and if I'm a betting man, I'd wager a paycheck that whatever the federal mandate may be, it's not authorized in the U.S. Constitution.
The Tenth Amendment states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." I take my country's Constitution seriously as the law of the land, and we in the states have rolled over for far too long. Just say no to unconstitutional federal mandates.
The third thing I would do is lower the corporate tax rate. Virginia has a corporate tax rate of 6%, a full 2.5% lower than Maryland's rate. Maryland needs jobs, and corporations attracted by Maryland's highly educated workforce, quality of life, and positive economic factors are equally repelled by the high corporate taxes, onerous regulatory environment, and the general feeling that Maryland is hostile to businesses. We should at least match, if not undercut, Virginia's corporate tax rate.
I would also review our regulatory regime toward businesses to determine what regulations are absolutely necessary for public safety and worker protection, and which ones can be eliminated.
Finally, I would institute tort reform, which would kill two birds with one stone. Not only would a reformed tort system make us more attractive to businesses, it would also be a big step toward bringing doctors back to Maryland, helping to alleviate a severe doctor shortage, especially in rural areas like southern Maryland.
Texas is a successful test case of a state that enacted tort reform and saw its outflow of doctors reversed almost immediately. Since the law was enacted in 2003, 76 Texas counties gained additional emergency physicians, and 24 counties that did not have ER doctors now do. Over 14,500 new doctors were licensed in Texas and every year since the reforms were passed has seen a record increase in the number of medical license applications. Texas, once listed as
the 47th worst state in the ratio of doctors per citizen, will soon be in the lower 30s and improving.
Hospital construction is booming, more people are signing up for health insurance, and even the New York Times was forced to acknowledge the success of Texas' reforms:
"Four years after Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment limiting awards in medical malpractice lawsuits, doctors are responding as supporters predicted, arriving from all parts of the country to swell the ranks of specialists at Texas hospitals and bring professional healthcare to some long-underserved rural areas."
The impact of tort reform on the Texas economy overall is also impressive. According to a report on the reforms:
"Dr. Ray Perryman, a noted economist, reports that 8.5% of Texas' economic growth is attributable to lawsuit reforms. His study documents that a $112.5 billion increase in economic spending (much, of course in health care), $51.2 billion increase in goods and services produced in Texas, $15.2 billion in annual net benefits of enhanced innovation and, remarkably, that 430,000 additional Texans have obtained health insurance as a direct result of the reforms in HB4."
Even my liberal friends should understand there can be no revenue for their precious programs if there is no expansion of the tax base. The tax base grows when we have more jobs, particularly more jobs that pay good salaries. All of the steps I've outlined above will lead to more businesses creating jobs and more money in people's pockets. The fact that we'll also solve some of our more difficult health care problems is a welcome side effect.
That's what I propose to do about Maryland's fiscal crisis - and that's just the beginning.
Ron Miller, of Huntingtown, is a military veteran, conservative writer
and activist, former and future candidate for the Maryland Senate,
communications director for the Calvert County Republican Party, and executive
director of Regular Folks United, Inc., a 501(c)3
nonprofit organization. Ron is a regular contributor to
American Thinker, and
You can also follow Ron on his website TeamRonMiller.com, as
well as Twitter and