Maryland needs two strong political parties

August 14, 2007

The news that Maryland's Republican Party is almost broke is not good for any state resident, regardless of his or her political affiliation. In our view, two (or more) healthy parties are essential for good government.

The state GOP's dire straits were reported Saturday in The (Baltimore) Sun, which obtained a copy of the party's financial statement for the period ending July 31.

At that time, the GOP treasurer reported that the party had cash in hand of $4,615 and was $50,500 in debt. It also noted that in the first six months of this year, the party ran a deficit of $103,536.

Party officials quoted by The Sun say that since the Republicans lost the governor's office, major donors have stopped giving and a key fundraising event only brought in $15,572 - less that 10 percent of the projected take.


It's not known whether the drop in donations is due to the disappointment over the defeat of Gov. Robert Ehrlich or is a comment on how the party machinery is being run. That's a question for the leaders of the party and its members to answer.

What concerns us is that with the almost unlimited power that Maryland's constitution gives the governor over the budget, there needs to be an opposition that can act as a devil's advocate, raising questions about dubious bills.

Two that come to mind are a previous General Assembly plan to approve an income-tax cut without cutting expenditures to pay for it and the decision to fund the recommendations of the education-related Thornton Commission without knowing how they would be paid for.

And although it doesn't have anything to do with taxation, a previous General Assembly approved electricity deregulation in 1999 on the premise it would lead to competition and lower power prices.

The Democratic leaders pushed the bill through, then promptly forgot about it until Baltimore Gas & Electric announced a 72 percent increase in 2006.

None of these things might have happened if there had been a vigorous opposition that could have made a strong case to voters who were not paying attention that they should oppose passage of bills by those lawmakers who hoped that funding would magically appear to cover the promises they had made.

Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who announced earlier this year that he would continue to speak out about state issues, could help.

As Maryland's first Republican governor since Spiro Agnew, he has a platform from which he can criticize the Democrats.

But as we said when he made that statement, to be effective he has to avoid statements that are only party rhetoric. Instead, he needs to offer sensible solutions to the state's problems and fair critiques of answers he feels are flawed.

As for the rest of the Republicans, they cannot allow themselves to become an endangered species. For the sake of Maryland citizens, they need to raise their voices on behalf of good legislation and in opposition to proposals that are flawed, foolish and fiscally irresponsible.

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