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October 1, 2002

The Ever Expanding Budget Deficit That is No Oneís Fault

John P. Snyder

Well, there you have it. The State of Maryland is going to be $400 million in the hole for this year and a startling $1.3 billion for next year, for a grand total of $1.7 billion over the next two years.

Earlier this year many Maryland government officials and Democratic leaders (pardon the redundancy) were chortling over the budget woes of nearby Virginia. Nothing like that could happen here, they said.

No doubt about it, the decline in revenue from capital gains taxes has affected most states. But here in Maryland, the reduced income arrived at the same time Parris Glendening was spending his way towards burnishing his expensive legacy, and the Democrat controlled legislature was buying some election-time goodwill with increased spending initiatives of their own.

Never mind that three straight years of a bear market had sounded the alarm well in advance. Nothing slows down big spending liberals hell bent on being loved and staying in power, so up the budget went. Good thing they set aside surplus revenue during the good times because our deficit would be higher today without it. It was at $500 million, but now it is under $300 million and sinking quickly..

One could make a case that the Democratic bosses that rule this state knew how this scenario would play out. But they thought Kathleen Kennedy Townsend would be a slam dunk, and that their redistricting plan would weed out what little opposition they had in the legislature. When they convene in January they would simply raise taxes enough to cover the red ink and life would go on uninterrupted.

So, now we have the spending gap, and guess what? Itís no oneís fault. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the most involved lieutenant governor in the nation according to her, was not involved in budget negotiations. Parris Glendening was merely fulfilling his mandate. William Donald Shaffer complained about this two years ago, or so he says.

And our locally elected official liberal tax and spender, Delegate C. Sue Hecht, has made herself look stupid by saying, in effect, that the deficit is no big deal because we still have our high bond rating. As if our bond rating is a chit that can be thrown in the pot to even everything out. Her contention that she can direct tens of millions of dollars from the state to Frederick in additional aid was specious to start, but is now laughable.

The sad part of the story is this. To most Marylanders, this is bad news. But to those in big liberal Montgomery County, they want to - and expect - to pay more in taxes. In Baltimore City and in Prince Georgeís county you can hear the collective shrug. Between the three of them, they will give Kathleen Kennedy Townsend a 210,000 vote cushion that Bobby Erhlich must overcome to become governor. And that is hard to do.

So we are $1.7 billion is the hole? So what?

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