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Kicking the budget can

Maryland’s democratic leadership is playing a dangerous version of the childhood game “Kick the Can”. However, in the so-called adult, political world they are kicking the proverbial “budget can” down the road into future years.

Maryland faces a $2 billion structural budget deficit that Democrats address by relying upon federal funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and accounting gimmicks such as fund transfers. O’Malley’s budget is predicated upon the receipt of nearly $1 billion of federal funds all of which have not yet been approved at the federal level. Additionally, funds have been transferred from other non-general State funds into the general fund to give the appearance the budget is balanced.

For instance, Governor O’Malley has stated the agricultural preservation fund is fully funded. Technically that may be correct, but in reality the funds were transferred into the general fund and were replaced by state bonds. What does that leave us with? Debt!

O’Malley and cohorts Senate Majority Leader Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch fully support deficit spending and accounting gimmicks to present a so-called balance budget to the Maryland Assembly as required by the State Constitution. However, they are purposely and willingly deceiving the citizens of Maryland. The budget contains a $2 billion structural shortfall and O’Malley, Miller, and Busch are complicit in the deception.

This past week State Senators David Brinkley (R-4) and E.J. Pipkin (R-36) submitted Senate Bill 1004 – The Budget Reconciliation and Balancing Act. The bill reduces spending by nearly $1 billion in fiscal year 2011 and eliminates the structural deficit by 2014. Republicans are excluded from the budget process by the Democrat controlled General Assembly. Senators Brinkley and Pipkin took the initiative and submitted a reasonable plan to restore Maryland to fiscal health and eliminate the structural deficit. They deserve credit for their actions.  It remains to be seen how the Democratic leadership will react to it.

After the 2006 election Marylanders were rudely welcomed with the single largest tax increase in Maryland’s history courtesy of Governor O’Malley, Mike Miller, and Mike Busch. In an election year O’Malley, Miller, and Busch will not increase taxes. However, what do you think is going to happen in 2011 if they are re-elected this year? How many of them will go on record promising they will not increase taxes in subsequent years after the 2010 election is complete? They won’t. They rely on tax increases to increase spending. It’s that simple. Democrats have controlled the Maryland Assembly for over 100 years. It’s time for a change Maryland.

Some interesting facts regarding the budget and the current legislative session:

• The entire budget is $32 billion of which 81% consists of Medicaid, education, and public safety. The Democrats did not touch any of these areas when considering cutting spending.

• September 30th each year the state takes a public school enrollment count and basis the following fiscal year’s budget on that count. Each year 10,000 students drop out of Maryland public schools. The elementary and secondary education budget is $7 billion for roughly 869,000 students; or a cost of roughly $8,000 per student. That means the public school system receives $80 million for students that are not even enrolled in the public schools. Delegate Nancy Stocksdale has introduced a bill to address this issue.

• The budget includes funding for a number of jobs categorized as “unnecessary”. Many of these positions are unfilled but are still included in the budget.

• Delegate Frank attempted to introduce an amendment to address pensions received by state legislators or to require state legislators to receive the same benefits as all state employees. A hearing was called at night by Speaker Busch, during the heavy snowfall in February, and Delegate Frank was two seconds late in standing up on the floor of the House to offer the amendment. Using a procedural motion, Speaker Busch ruled him out of order and refused to take any amendments.

• The State is responsible for contributing to the retirement funds for teachers. However, each county sets the pay scale for teachers. If Montgomery County pays a teacher $60,000 per year and Somerset County pays a teacher $35,000 per year, retirement benefits are calculated based upon that. The State has no input into teacher salaries but is required by law to pay the benefits. One proposal in SB 1004 is to transfer half of this responsibility to the counties. Initial reaction by Democrats indicates they do not support this change.


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