2012 Meets "1984"
Amid rancorous opposition from Republicans and rising discontentment among segments of the ruling Democrats, the curtain rose Monday for an attempt at a carefully choreographed special – 431th – session of the Maryland General Assembly opera.
It was on May 4 that Gov. Martin O’Malley announced that the legislature would get together for a couple of days to raise taxes and enact more laws, rules and regulations in Maryland.
Paradoxically, Jim Joyner wrote in ExploreCarroll.com on May 6 that the Carroll County delegation observed that “the county would be better off under the state's ‘doomsday’ budget, and stands to lose some $1 million in state funding in a special session of the Maryland General Assembly…
“‘I challenge that moniker ... it's not a doomsday budget,’ said Sen. David Brinkley (R., Carroll/Frederick). ‘Frankly, the budget still goes up by $700 million, and I think the citizens are expecting us to live within our means as they are having to do so.’ ”
Aaron Davis wrote in The Washington Post on Monday that the General Assembly is meeting in a rare special session to boost taxes on residents making more than $100,000 to prevent school-funding cuts, layoffs and other austerity measures that would take effect July 1.
“The Democratic controlled legislature was expected to pass the tax package last month, but the plan fell apart on the final night of the General Assembly session amid a heated debate over whether to allow a full-fledged casino in Prince George’s County.”
Kate Havard, a student at St. John’s College, wrote a must-read comprehensive analysis for Maryland Business for Responsive Government on May 6, in which she said: “Minutes before midnight on April 9, the last day of Maryland’s 90-day legislative session, the state budget suddenly and unceremoniously collapsed.”
Del. Justin Ready (R., Carroll) spelled it out clearly and concisely: “Senate Bill 150, the 2013 fiscal year state budget, passed the House and the Senate in late March, but it took until the final day of session to work out the differences between the two versions of budget.
“The budget as passed spends well over $35 billion, the biggest budget in state history. The plan was for the budget to increase by $1.1 billion.
“However, the General Assembly adjourned without passing SB 523, which increased income taxes, and SB 152, the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, which raised several fees and passed the costs of teacher pensions back to county governments.
“Because these bills did not pass, the budget can ‘only’ increase by $700 million… That’s what is being called the doomsday budget; a budget that rises by $700 million rather than $1.1 million…”
However AP writer Brian Witte wrote that Governor “O'Malley says the tax increases are needed to avoid cuts to education and other critical services…”
Legislators from Carroll County are not alone in feeling that we would be better off without the special session tax increases. Maryland State Comptroller Peter Franchot said on Monday that the special session will “pass a fiscal year 2013 budget by raising income taxes on middle-class families…”
Ire over the income tax plan got louder, according to Baltimore Sun writers Michael Dresser and Annie Linskey, who also noted that “the brewing discontent within the Montgomery County House delegation stems from a belief that the governor's plan relies too heavily on their wealthy constituents.”
Ms. Havard also takes note that former Republican gubernatorial candidate Ellen Sauerbrey, who is now co-chair of Maryland Business for Responsive Government, said that “ ‘in the 2007 session, he had the largest tax increase of anyone in Maryland’s history, and $800 million of that was direct hits on Maryland business. You just hear constantly that Maryland is not a friendly place to expand.’
“Sauerbrey’s list of businesses that have left Maryland or decided not to come here since 2007 is impressive: Northrop Grumman (gone to Virginia), Black & Decker (Connecticut), Hilton USA (Virginia), Volkswagen USA (also Virginia), and SAIC (Virginia again)…”
Bill Murphy noted for CityBizList.com that the announcement for convening a special session coincided with Chief Executive magazine’s annual survey of CEOs in which Maryland was ranked 40th out of 50 states for its structural and macro-economic approach to business.
Veteran political reporter Bryan Sears wrote in Towson Patch that Governor O’Malley called the special session “to deal with lingering state budget issues.
“ ‘There is too much at stake not to move forward,” O’Malley said in a statement Friday afternoon. ‘I’m confident that we can come together with the Senate President and House Speaker to complete this most important work for the people of our State.’ “
The Baltimore Sun reported that “House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell, a Calvert County Republican, told of hearing on the radio on the way to Annapolis that lawmakers were coming into session to cut an additional $600 million in spending – an interpretation he said had come from the governor's office…”
Writing about the special session last Thursday, TheTentacle.com writer Chris Cavey quipped: “My eyes glaze over with acronyms, contingency plans, pieces of budget bills and numbers bigger than most Mega-Million jackpots…”
One thing is for certain. The various explanations of Maryland’s fiscal policies rival anything ever uttered by Winston Smith, in the classic George Orwell 1949 novel 1984.
Mr. Smith, if you will recall, was the clerk in the Ministry of Truth records department, whose job was to rewrite historical documents so they match the constantly changing current party line.
Every time Mr. Smith went on TV, a caption identified him as “6079 Smith W.”
I ponder this literary reference every time I hear the governor, “431 O’Malley M,” explaining Maryland’s economic policies in such gobbledygook populist terms.
… I’m just saying. . . . .