In Md., deficits are nothing new

How 'shocking' is a budget deficit given Maryland's history?

"Somewhere along the way, as Maryland's revenue picture went from bad to worse, a scary term entered the Annapolis lexicon: the 'structural deficit.'" So said The Baltimore Sun on February 9, 2003 as then-Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. proposed a plan to wipe out a $2 billion dollar shortfall at the start of his administration. At that time, the new governor was shocked to learn how stressed the finances of our state were.

Four years later, The Sun reported, "Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley will face fiscal problems nearly as dire as those endured by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., with state spending expected to outpace tax receipts by more than $1 billion a year for the foreseeable future..." The new O'Malley administration was dismayed to learn of the poor financial health of the state and vowed to deal with the "structural deficit" once and for all.

Now, eight years later, Gov.-elect Larry Hogan reports that the state faces a shortfall greater than he ever imagined and vows to deal with the "structural deficit" that causes it ("Hogan says Maryland needs 'strong medicine' to cure budget woes," Dec. 11).

Clearly, either our gubernatorial candidates are not paying attention or the chronic shortfalls, deficits and attendant budget gimmicks are just business as usual in Annapolis. Either way, while our new governor may be shocked by the state of the state, the citizens are not.

We have seen this movie before. We can expect some modest budget cuts, some small tax increases and a couple of new or expanded "fees." In four or eight years, a new governor who will be shocked by the budget shortfall and dedicated to eliminating the surprising "structural deficit." And so it goes.

Mac Nachlas, Baltimore

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