Backroom Deals and Tax Increases
If anyone is not fully sick of – and disgusted by – the dirty backroom one-party politics displayed in Annapolis this year, I guess the only explanation is that you’ve seen it for so long you’ve become accustomed to it.
I’ve seen a lot of arrogant and self-serving action by politicians in Maryland in my lifetime, but I think the 2012 General Assembly takes the cake.
As we all remember, at the end of the regular session in April the legislature adjourned without finishing the budget. With Gov. Martin O’Malley, Senate President Thomas V. “Mike” Miller (Calvert/Prince George’s) and Speaker Michael Busch (Anne Arundel) quarrelling with each other like spoiled children, arguing about who gets to sit in the front seat, the senators and delegates went home and left us with the so-called “Doomsday Budget.”
Of course, the budget that was in effect at the end of the regular session was no doomsday whatsoever. In fact, it spent $700 million more than last year’s budget and produced very little in the way of meaningful austerity measures. But the term “Doomsday Budget” was an effective public relations ploy to goad the House and the Senate to come back for a special session.
And come back they did. The next thing we knew we had yet another tax increase shoved down our throats by the most arrogant single party rule in the entire United States of America.
That’s not all. As part of the corrupt bargain between the executive and legislative branches of our government, the legislature is coming back once again in July to discuss the pet issue of Senator Miller. That’s right, we are bringing the senators and delegates back at a cost of around $25,000 per day so that they could discuss putting another gambling facility in Senator Miller’s district.
That’s what this whole fight has been about, and why we – as taxpayers – continue to be completely disregarded by our so-called “leaders.” It is all so Mike Miller can have a casino at National Harbor.
Going back a little bit in time, roughly five years ago legislation was passed and approved at a referendum which created five sites in the State of Maryland for what were called video lottery terminals (a fancy name for slot machines). In that five years we have had two sites actually open (in Cecil and Worchester County) and the largest of the five now under construction, which will open next week in Anne Arundel County. Two other sites, in Allegheny and Baltimore City, may or may not get under way in the near future.
But that is not enough for Senate President Miller. He now wants to put what he calls a “billion dollar casino” in Prince George’s County at the National Harbor Complex.
Now I am on record as stating that Maryland should not lag behind our neighboring states when it comes to gaming. And now we clearly do. West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Delaware all have significant full service casinos, many very near to our borders.
The money that Marylanders would likely spend at casinos in this state, if we had them, is instead being siphoned off by our neighboring states, and being used to build their roads and schools and otherwise fund their budgetary priorities. Our leadership in Maryland has been so behind the curve that it is questionable whether they can ever catch up.
So, rather than deal with this issue like responsible legislators and governor during a regular session of the legislature, it was instead used as a bargaining chip to get Senate President Miller to agree to a tax increase, in exchange for this special session in about six weeks. Setting aside whether this new proposal will be good policy or not, the process was pathetic and should be considered beneath us as Marylanders who pay taxes to this state.
It will be very interesting to see what comes about in July. I know one interested party will be the Cordish Companies, who have pumped over a half billion dollars into their “Maryland Live” casino in Anne Arundel County, which will open next week. How would you like to have spent a half billion dollars and – right when you are getting ready to open – see the law changed so that a competitor will open a competing facility practically on your doorstep?
It will be an interesting debate, and my guess is that whatever comes out of it will yet again be the result of backroom secret negotiations between three politicians who clearly have held their respective offices for far too long.