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January 31, 2008

State of the State Smoke & Mirrors

Chris Cavey

Recently Gov. Martin O’Malley delivered the State of the State address to the applause of a Democrat-dominated General Assembly. In case you missed it, the speech was about 40 minutes of infomercial to which the press paid little attention. Here are a couple of nice highlight.

A funny thing happened while on the podium. The Governor of Maryland was snubbed by The President of the Senate at exactly three minutes and twelve seconds into the video.

In one of the poorest acting jobs ever, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller “pretended” to be directing traffic on the floor of the House and only glanced in Governor O’Malley’s direction. No handshake, no smile or nod. Nothing. Even Speaker Nancy Pelosi is cordial to President Bush on formal occasions, so what gives with the boys in “Nap-town.”

Perhaps it was the fact that “Uncle Mike” knew the text of the speech would take a slap at him for giving birth to electric de-regulation back in 1999. The Electric Utility Industry Restructuring – then known as SB 300 – “parents” were Senators Miller and Thomas Bromwell, the two power brokers of the day.

Governor O’Malley said in his speech that “deregulation has failed us in Maryland and we cannot allow our future to be determined by that mistake.”

Uh oh! Does he mean the mistake made by the two senators? Or does he mean the mistakes made by the Glendening/Miller appointed and controlled Public Service Commission who de-regulated us into this mess.

Regardless of whom he wants to blame, the Teflon Governor remains as slick as ever. After all, it was Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s fault during the campaign, the economy in the first year and now the blame lands on the 1999 General Assembly. Nice.

The other really outstanding quote from his speech was: “And today the vast majority of Maryland's families, like families throughout our country, are finding it harder and harder just to pay their bills and maintain the quality of life that they have worked so very, very hard to achieve.” In any other forum laughter would have spontaneously erupted from the crowd.

Did Governor O’Malley, and everyone else there, forget the fact they added to the burden of families’ paying bills during the tax-a-thon special session in November? Are the citizens of Maryland really believing the smoke and mirrors of elected leaders feeling “our pain” while adding to our load? Get real.

How can you say you understand the plight of Maryland families while oppressively increasing their tax burden? Especially the burdens that cross all social-economic lines such as sales, tobacco and vehicle taxes. One would think, if there was understanding on these matters, there would be relief.

The governor then proposes to eliminate 500 vacant jobs from state government while creating 976 new positions, a net gain of 476 positions. Personally I don’t mind any employer, including the State of Maryland, filling needed jobs with qualified employees, but this was a nice trick.

But we all know state employees deserve to be paid and their paychecks come from our tax dollars. Every new addition equals cost. Elimination of vacant positions saves little money because there is no actual payroll involved with a vacant position. Think it through.

You can point to the job creation on one hand and point to the job elimination on the other. Just depends on who your audience is at a given moment. Bottom line is that neither direction will completely stick to the O’Malley Teflon surface.

The State of the State message rated just about in line with the governor’s polling popularity…39% approval. Well below average in answering what is being accomplished to keep Maryland strong and below average in pointing to positive new direction for “The Free State.”

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