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The Tentacle


November 8, 2011

Cookie Jar Empty! The Sky Is Falling!

Shawn Burns

Let’s say that you go to a bank and open a “Christmas Club” account. You decide that you will put $100 a month into the account based on the assurance from the bank that when you are ready to use the money, it will be there for you.

 

You’ve deposited your $100 a month faithfully each and every month all year.

 

Now the time has come to go Christmas shopping. So, you go into the bank to withdraw some of your money from your “Christmas Club” account in order to buy Christmas gifts.

 

But hold on a minute.

 

The bank manager informs you that the money you deposited into your account is gone. The bank manager explains that he used your “Christmas Club” money to help balance his budget for the year. And the bank manager tells you not to worry, you’ll be repaid. Maybe.

 

Then the bank manager tells you to keep making deposits into your “Christmas Club” account because he promises that next time your money will be there. Trust him, he tells you. In fact, he tells you that you should pay even more into this account.

 

What would you do? Call the police? Demand a criminal investigation? Demand that the guilty parties should be held accountable and punished?

 

One thing you wouldn’t do is to continue pouring more money into a designated account that is continually robbed.

 

In 2009, $218 million was taken from the Maryland Transportation Trust Fund and used on other things; and $218 million worth of road improvements weren’t started or completed as a result.

 

In 2010, $100 million was taken from the Transportation Trust Fund and used to balance the General Fund and for other things not related to transportation. Thus another $100 million worth of transportation projects weren’t started or completed as a result.

 

The Maryland Transportation Trust Fund – also known as the state’s favorite cookie jar – has been raided to the tune of at least $318 million in the last two years (some estimates put the figure much higher).

 

And now Gov. Martin O’Malley and State Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller are talking about raising the state gas tax in order to make up for their mistakes, poor fiscal management and their Enron-like accounting practices.

 

The Transportation Trust Fund is funded by the gas tax, vehicle titling fees, corporate income taxes, rental vehicle sales tax and a host of other taxes and fees.

 

More than enough money has been collected in taxes already to fund our state transportation and road needs. But the money that was collected – and the money that we were told was going to be used for our transportation needs – was spent on other stuff.

 

They lied to us. Sadly this, of course, is nothing new. Politicians in Annapolis and both Republican and Democrat governors have raided the Transportation Trust Fund for years.

 

Now we have bridges and road that are long overdue for replacement or repair and there is no money to get the work done.

 

So, what is the solution to the problem from our fearless leaders in Annapolis? Raise the gas tax 63 percent.

 

Now, isn’t that a brilliant solution to the problem?

 

Never mind that fact that the taxpayers were already duped into letting the foxes guard the henhouse; but now they are telling us to trust them. That this time they really, really mean it when they promise that the money will actually be used to meet our transportation needs.

 

Funny thing is, as recently as the last legislative session, a bill was introduced that would have legally protected and guaranteed that the money in the Transportation Trust Fund would only be used for transportation projects.

 

The bill failed. Why? It’s simple. The bill would have held the politicians in Annapolis accountable for a change.

 

Of course, another reason the bill failed is because it would have stopped our “leadership” in Annapolis from once again balancing the 2012 General Fund by using money from the Transportation Trust Fund.

 

The sheer audacity of the politicians in Annapolis to propose this state gas tax increase clearly demonstrates how little they respect the taxpayers, how stupid they think the taxpayers of Maryland are, and just how out of touch they truly are with the people they supposedly represent.

 

s72burns@gmail.com

 



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