What part of "We are out of money!" does the governor of Maryland not understand?
Governor Martin O'Malley released his proposed 2012 Maryland budget, fully aware that the state has a $1.6 billion shortfall, and no hope of rescue on the horizon from a federal government that for two years spent bailout funds it really didn't have in the first place, and is now telling the states, "You're on your own."
Families, who have to deal with their own personal budget shortfalls, know that means belt-tightening, setting priorities, and denying luxuries until things get better.
County governments across Maryland are telling their constituents to brace themselves for significant cuts in local budgets, with layoffs a possibility. Calvert and St. Mary's counties are slated to lose millions of dollars in state funding for local schools.
The Daily Beast, an online news and opinion site, examined the budget challenges of all fifty states and ranked Maryland 19th on the list of states most likely to go bankrupt.
Maryland's Department of Legislative Services released a report last week that said the state would either have to raise property taxes by 56 percent over the next five years or cut $1.1 billion in services to cover the long-term debt
So what does O'Malley do?
He takes last year's budget figure, $32.4 billion, the largest in state history, and increases it by almost 5 percent!
State House columnist Barry Rascovar was none too complimentary of the governor's efforts:
This is O'Malley's most contradictory and hypocritical budget. It pretends to be a tough, belt-tightening blueprint, but it's not.What in the world is going on here?
Instead, it amounts to another cut-and-paste effort that papers over most of Maryland's long-term fiscal deficiencies while waiting for tax revenues to rebound.
That's not the half of it. O'Malley is sharply critical of his counterpart in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie, for proposing a shift in public sector pensions to a 401(k)-style plan and longer service before retiring with full benefits. O'Malley haughtily declares that Governor Christie "delights in being abusive towards public employees."
Bad form, Governor O'Malley.
Whose state pension plan is the lowest rated in the country? Whose state pension plan is $19 billion in the red and only 64 percent funded? Who, rather than address the long-term solvency of the state pension plan, is tinkering at the margins to eke out some savings to offset this year's budget deficit?
Who's going to be long gone from the Governor's House when the pension system blows a hole in the state budget like an iceberg against the Titanic, taking every public sector employee's pension and the entire state down to the bottom?
Governor Christie is tackling the problems with New Jersey's budget on his watch, and is taking full responsibility for his tough decisions. Regarding his pension proposal which, incidentally, was also recommended to our General Assembly by an economic consultant and rejected by O'Malley, Christie said:
"I am not proposing pension and benefit reforms just to be tight-fisted I am proposing pension reform for the police officers who have served—and contributed—for years but who may find nothing when they retire a decade from now."GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Murphy recently offered a list of proposed solutions to Maryland's budget crisis, and the 33-year old businessman demonstrated more leadership and courage than I've seen displayed by our current leadership in Annapolis.
Rarely have I witnessed a more cynical and self-serving attitude toward one's public duties than I've seen in Martin O'Malley. Democrats are far too easily seduced by young, attractive, smooth talking candidates, as if they're searching for the next John F. Kennedy, and this attraction blinds them to the evidence.
O'Malley rose to fame as the mayor of Baltimore in part because of his public safety record, but as David Simon, the creator of the HBO series The Wire, set in Baltimore, points out in response to recent criticism of his show, all was not as it appeared:
After a new election cycle, however, those arguments [quality over quantity of arrest] were ignored in favor of years of "zero tolerance" of minor street crimes and an obsession with street-level drug enforcement that actually de-emphasized quality police work and led to marked declines in arrest rates for major felonies.But what does any of that matter when Esquire magazine is declaring you "The Best Young Mayor in the Country", and Time magazine lists you as one of America's "Top 5 Big City Mayors"? You're a big deal! You should be governor, and then - who knows?
Later, when a mayor sought to become governor using public safety as an issue, the same police department went further down the path, emphasizing widespread street arrests of dubious quality and legality. This did not reduce crime so much as it violated the civil rights of many city residents and led to the widespread alienation of our jury pool, with many city jurors no longer willing to trust the integrity of testifying officers - a problem that will plague Baltimore law enforcement for years.
Furthermore, on behalf of Mr. O'Malley's political aspirations, many supervisors in many police districts were engaged in a prolonged campaign to improperly downgrade U.C.R. felonies to misdemeanors so as to further the political claim that crime was under control. This was common knowledge throughout the department and was much remarked upon privately by respected veteran supervisors and investigators, themselves frustrated at the practice. Nonetheless, aggravated assaults became common assaults. Armed robberies became larcenies. Rapes were unfounded.
His ambition is exposed for everyone to see - even a University of Maryland student journalist can see right through him.
It happened in Baltimore, and it's happening in Maryland. He'll do just enough to look good on the surface, but the long-term and systemic problems will be left for his predecessors to fix. Meanwhile, the recently elected head of the Democratic Governors Association is soaking up the adulation like the rock star he pretends to be.
All you folks out there who recently gave him his highest job performance ratings since he's been in office are being played like an electric guitar. Guess who'll have to break down the stage and clean up the mess after he's moved on to the next big tour?
Ron Miller is a conservative writer and commentator, author of the book, SELLOUT: Musings from Uncle Toms Porch, and the president of Regular Folks United, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of individual liberty, free markets and our nation's founding principles. The nine-year plus veteran of the U.S. Air Force and married father of three writes columns for several online sites and print publications, and his own website, TeamRonMiller.com. Join him on Facebook and Twitter.