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We all know what's coming next

April 28, 2007|By James Pelura

At a time when many political pundits are giving the 2007 session of the General Assembly a passing grade, I want to offer the more appropriate grade - an incomplete. What else can you say about Gov. Martin O'Malley and the Democrat majority that pushed through a $30 billion budget without the money to pay for it? They irresponsibly raided more than $800 million from the surplus that Gov. Bob Ehrlich built up in the Rainy Day Fund, leaving next to nothing for the future. And there is still going to be a more than a $1 billion budget gap. Watch your wallet, you know what's coming next!

Instead of finding efficiencies in our state government, O'Malley and the Democrat majority grew the size of government and increased spending. They significantly increased the size of the state government, adding hundreds of new positions. General fund spending will increase by 9 percent, while revenues are anticipated to grow by a mere 4 percent. Of course, in light of a recent Board of Revenue Estimates report, we can expect revenue growth to be even less than the 4 percent originally anticipated.

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The Democrat majority rejected a Republican amendment to the budget that would have reined in spending and addressed the budget gap. Republicans suggested reducing the size of the budget increase, while still fully funding retirement enhancements, COLA increases for state employees, new correctional officers, and a 1 percent increase in agency spending - all without depleting the Rainy Day Fund or raising taxes. In the end, this fiscally responsible approach was voted down by the Democrat majority.

You might ask: How are O'Malley and the Democrat majority now going to fix this mess? Taxes, taxes and more taxes! They are going to come back in a special session in the fall or in the 2008 session and say that they never knew how bad things were. They are going to say that tax increases are the only way to keep government services flowing.

Democrat leaders are already on record discussing the severity of the budget gap. Earlier this session, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller stated, "The public is going to have to feel the pain before the General Assembly can make gains in terms of identifying new revenue sources." Del. Luiz Simmons, a Montgomery County Democrat, recently likened the General Assembly's failure to deal with the budget gap to "kicking the can farther down the road." Simmons complained that the General Assembly passed some easy legislation this session, but failed to address the budget gap, which in his words will be a "pressure cooker" by next session.

So why didn't the Democrat leadership do something about it? O'Malley and the Democrat majority want the budget gap to worsen so they can say tax increases are the only way to solve the problem. They will say "Our hands are tied. What else can we do?" Show some leadership, for starters!

Taxes are clearly on their minds. In the 2007 session, the Democrats introduced no fewer than 37 bills to increase taxes at a tune of more than $4 billion. The Democrats want to increase income taxes, the sales tax and the gas tax and to add a new service tax. The Democrat majority wants to impose a new "green fund" tax that would charge homeowners who wish to build a new home or make an addition to an existing home.

Tax increases are on the way and could have been averted through the Republican budget plan. The Democrat majority has already busted open the piggy bank to pay for part of next year's budget.

You can expect them to shake you down for the rest of the shortfall they created. Watch your wallet, we all know what's coming next - taxes, taxes and more taxes!

James Pelura is state chairman of the Maryland Republican Party.

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