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The Tentacle


November 21, 2007

Taxarians at the Gate

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Happy Thanksgiving. We have so many things for which to be thankful. The first of which is our men and women in uniform who continue to perform admirably in difficult circumstances.

For this particular Thanksgiving we should also take the time to be thankful that the Special Taxing Session of the Maryland General Assembly is finally over. As it is, that august legislative body enacted an historic $1.3 billion in new taxes in just 19 days. Please join me in giving thanks that they were not in session for another minute.

Many will be just as happy to not ever read or hear about Gov. Martin O’Malley’s regressive tax package being enacted, for quite some time. With perhaps an exception for what Del. Richard Weldon, (R., Frederick/Washington), Examiner writer Len Lazarick, Gazette writers Sean Sedam and Doug Tallman, or columnists Blair Lee and Barry Rascovar, the “O’Malley Watch” or “Red Maryland” blog, or WBAL may write, among others.

The special session was class warfare at its worst. As much as the citizens of Maryland were the clear-cut losers in this greatest show on earth, there is a silver lining – and that is the above writers – and some elected officials – of which I’ll note in a minute.

Meanwhile, for an after-action report, Monday WBAL put together one of the most cogent narratives about the bewildering and byzantine machinations of the last 19 days. It can be found at http://wbal.com/news/story.asp?articleid=65818.

On the positive side, we should be ever vigilant to seek out and thank the many Maryland legislators and leaders who worked hard, against a stacked deck and impossible odds, to stymie the arrogant power of the monopoly in Maryland’s government. We were impressed with their dedication and service as we observed their valiant re-arranging of the deck chairs on the Titanic as the band played on.

An invaluable source of information in the last number of weeks was the Herculean effort put forth by former Carroll County Del. Joe Getty, who is arguably among a number of bright public policy analysts on the Annapolis scene.

If I am not mistaken, he was crucial in putting together a series of updates titled, “Special Session Report – Annapolis,” from the Senate Republican Caucus, under the leadership of Senator Minority Leader David Brinkley (R., Frederick/Carroll) and Minority Whip Senator Allan Kittleman (R., Howard). We also owe Senators Brinkley and Kittleman a special note of thanks this Thanksgiving.

In the House of Delegates, many continued to be impressed with the leadership and analysis of House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell (R), Southern MD), Assistant Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway (R., Eastern Shore); and House Minority Whip Christopher B. Shank (R., Washington County).

We should be thankful for such talented representation.

Nevertheless, a certain enmity is reserved for the legislators who employed situational ethics, moral relativism, and the partisan politics of convenience in this special session.

The administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., offered slots as a funding mechanism to ameliorate the state’s structural deficit as a result of the Maryland General Assembly irresponsibly enacting the “Thornton” education initiative without funding in the administration of Parris Glendening.

To be certain, there are those of us who squirm with the idea of yet another legalized vice in our society. Gambling is a Faustian bargain, accepted by much of society; and if it had been enacted in the early years of the Ehrlich Administration, the regressive taxing schemes just visited on our state would have never happened.

This session remains somewhat an enigma for those well versed in government finance, public policy, and economics, in that it was all about raising taxes in response to a “projected” $1.7 billion dollar shortfall absent an accompanying budget.

Without the hegemony of a one party government, no other responsible elected leadership would have ever been allowed to get away with raising taxes so precipitously without a measurable mathematical imperative or a clearly defined nexus of benefit.

With the passage of this tax package, there are now more than ever, two Marylands. A rural Maryland that exists to provide quality of life and common sense for the other Maryland, the urbanized areas where reason and common sense have taken a holiday.

Senate Minority Leader Brinkley said it best in The Washington Post on November 19: “Common sense and reason went out the window just to give the governor a victory. I think this whole thing has been a debacle, and taxpayers are stuck holding the bill.”

The other curiosity is that now that the governor has been successful in an historic rise in taxes, how in the world will he indemnify and justify this action in his future pursuit of public office and leadership? How will our quality of life be measurably increased in the three years that remain in his term?

For now, holidays are like children in which it is hardly appropriate to say that we like one holiday over another – especially our religious holidays. Nevertheless, over the years, Thanksgiving has become – if not my favorite holiday – it is first among equals.

Thanksgiving is when we take the time to be thankful for everything that is right with our community, our state, our nation – and most importantly, our families. Thanksgiving is a time for getting together to celebrate friends and family.

As we have witnessed in the last several weeks, the people mentioned above, among others, are the caliber of journalistic and political leadership for which we also owe special gratitude this Thanksgiving.

They were the folks who stood steadfastly in the face of the opera, “Taxarians at the Gate – How the loss of reason in public policy, economics, and taxation threatens Maryland’s families, economy, and public good.”

They may have lost this battle, but chances are that all is not lost in the long run. 2010 will be an interesting year.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at: kdayhoff@carr.org



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