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January 23, 2004

Letís Show a Little Courage, Please!

John P. Snyder

It is said that former President John F. Kennedy would frequently paraphrase the title of his Pulitzer Prize winning book "Profiles in Courage" when he encountered tepid responses to hard challenges.

"What we need," he would say, "is less profile and more courage.Ē The same advice could be directed to the Democratic leadership in Annapolis, whose display of gutless buffoonery is painful to watch.

How can it be that Maryland remains mired in debt and deficits when most other states have overcome the effects of a slow economy to make their states solvent? According to every economic indicator, from job growth, to income, to low unemployment figures, Maryland, as a state, is in an enviable position shared by few others.

Here is a good way to describe it. In the 1990s, up to 2002, there simply was no fox to guard the henhouse in Annapolis.

Legacy seeking Parris Glendening teamed up with the free spending liberals in the House and Senate to spend more than what the state took in. Today for every dollar the state spends, there is only 86 cents of revenue to back it up.

There is no doubt that the goals intended to be met by the spending of $1.8 billion, as dictated by the Thornton Commission, were noble and worthwhile. Never mind, of course, that independent studies show conclusively that throwing money at educational problems does not help the matter.

But letís be honest. When the results of the commissionsí findings were made public, everyone agreed that it was a nice idea but the state couldn't afford it.

The issues was almost dead until then State Sen. Chris Van Hollen, speaking of gutless buffoons, resurrected it in order to show voters what a swell guy he was as he took on Connie Morella for her congressional seat. Increased cigarette taxes paid for half of the first year. No one knew where the money would come from to pay for the 4 years to come.

Lucky for Mr. Van Hollen, he is in Congress now and doesn't have to participate in finding ways to pay for it. Should there be someone in power in Annapolis who isn't afraid of the truth, they would suggest that the Thornton spending be spread out over seven or eight years.

Further reduced would be the outlay to Montgomery County. Liberals who demand fairness shouldn't quibble with poorer counties getting more money than schools that contain, as Dick Gephardt famously said, the "winners of lifeís lottery."

Paying for Thornton out of the general fund is painful, especially when now is the time to float some bonds - given the low interest rates - for new school construction.

But no, Thornton is the 60-ton gorilla that is sacred and cannot be touched. The rest of the stateís business be damned, Thornton comes first. Spreading it out over a more palatable time frame would ease our current struggle. Want you head taken off? Suggest we cut back or spread out Thornton funding.

Less visible, but an equal killer, is the stateís Medicaid costs. Up 8% every year it seems it is now growing faster than we can fund it. At $6 billion a year, the state cannot sustain its growth, But who wants to suggest that its generous benefits be cut back to slow down its rate of growth? You would think a few Democrats, each safely residing in carefully gerrymandered districts, would have the guts to suggest ways to trim the excesses. Fat chance!

When the voters of Maryland had the chance to stop the madness in Annapolis, they elected Gov. Robert Ehrlich, Jr. The insertion of Governor Ehrlich, a Republican, into the governing process has been extremely beneficial to our state.

While there is nothing close to parity among the parties, Governor Ehrlich has extraordinary budgetary powers that helps give, at least, an appearance of balance. His unequivocal stand against raising taxes is sound policy. Itís easy to raise taxes, especially with all the guilt-ridden liberals who are willing to pay more around the state.

Cutting or slowing spending, now that takes courage. It seems to be in short supply, regrettably, in Annapolis.

John P. Snyder can be emailed at

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