Sine Die, Thankfully
Mercifully at midnight Monday the gavel banged on the podium and the Maryland General Assembly adjourned Sine Die. The 428th session will be recorded as one of the most invasive sessions for taxpayer and the most directionless session for Gov. Martin O’Malley and the Democrat leadership to date.
The handwriting was on the wall when – on a warm winter’s day – Gov. O’Malley stood for his inauguration in front of a sparse crowd, made up of mostly staffers, police and appointees. Many questioned why a man who had over a 50% job approval rating could only garner 25% of the expected crowd. We would soon see this as a prelude to a session of lackluster and absentee leadership.
The State of the State address, which is typically used by governors to assert and promote their legislative agenda for the coming session, was the next telling sign. Governor O’Malley spoke that day of only one new initiative, a ban of all septic systems. Republican legislators immediately declared his proposal to be a “war against agriculture.” Democrat leadership had a difficult time keeping the votes in line. The bill soon failed…basically due to a limited lobbying effort on the part of the governor’s office.
Governor O’Malley had limited success this session with his initiatives to become the “greenest” governor in the nation due to the fact he has spent too much time in the nation’s capital and not enough time in Maryland’s capital.
Many articles across the state have been written about his time away from Annapolis during the 90-day session, and his efforts to promote himself as a national figure. Few begrudge any man the desire for advancement; however, such self-promoting can be self-defeating when the shepherd leaves the flock rather than leading it.
The governor’s absenteeism spawned a budget with short falls and a limited amount of promotion in seeing it to conclusion. Teachers, who are normally solid in the O’Malley camp, railed against the budget, even heckling him while on stage. However, neither this protest, nor any of the others held on Lawyers Mall, changed anything concerning the direction Annapolis took this session. The people who voted Democrats into power were forgotten.
Over the years most sessions are fairly predictable and seem to follow a pattern based around the debate and finalization of the massive state budget. This time budgeting appeared as if it were the third rail of Annapolis due to the fact everyone knew there was a need for revenue and for serious cuts.
After spending millions of his re-election dollars convincing voters in Maryland that a fee is a tax, Governor O’Malley and his party’s leaders raised miscellaneous fees and hypocritically smiled. Fees increased from cradle to grave as the cost of birth certificates increased as well as fees to nursing homes. We will soon see plenty of fee increases from the Motor Vehicle Administration, too.
Wine can now be shipped into Maryland; however, the shipper will be paying for the privilege to do so. Within our Free State, the proposed “dime a drink” excise tax ended up 90 days later as a full blown 50% increase in alcohol sale tax with revenues starting this July rather than phased in over three years as planned. It was pushed through in the last days as the need became direr to prop up a poorly constructed O’Malley budget.
Perhaps, if the Maryland General Assembly had spent less time early on with hand-wringing, sweating and debating the social aspects of gay marriage and transgender people, there would have been a little more value added benefits to the budget and handling of tax dollars for all our citizens.
Effective at the 11th hour of this session Maryland will now sell tax credits to supply venture capital to promote the business climate in our state. Makes me question who would buy into the worst business climate in America…but who knows? Governor O’Malley is also so desperate for a casino at Rocky Gap that the state is slashing the tax rate on the proposed casino revenue and waiving $3 million in fees.
Conversely our farmers will get no breaks on inheritance tax because it would cost $2 million in potential lost revenue. The good news is the children of their migrant workers now qualify for in-state tuition rates – at greater than a $2 million cost!
Perhaps the most interesting and craziest use of time was the debate and dissertation surrounding Governor O’Malley’s off shore wind initiative. This bill was full of hot air from the beginning and everyone knew it. It was only another piece of the puzzle making Martin O’Malley a green governor; however, the cost and the lack of solid information scared legislators. The wind energy bill was subjected to a summer breeze and sent to summer study.
I believe, however, it should be revamped! Wind energy is a great idea! It was the placement and location which needs to be changed for maximum potential. Wind turbines should be mounted in Annapolis between the State House and Government House…there is always plenty of wind there.