As the General Assembly session approaches, Marylanders once again face the ominous prospect of ever higher taxes as the state government addresses an anticipated $580-million budget deficit. After seven years of the Gov. Martin O'Malley administration and dozens of increases in taxes and fees, the Democratic monopoly in Annapolis still cannot balance the budget without demanding more from working Marylanders.
It does not have to be this way.
After claiming that billions in higher income, sales, gas and other taxes would slay the deficit monster, the need for Marylanders to pay tribute to their leaders in Annapolis seems unquenchable. Since Governor O'Malley entered office, the legislature has passed higher income taxes, sales taxes and gas taxes; increased fees and tolls throughout the state; mandated localities pass a "rain tax" to pay for stormwater management projects, and increased taxes on cigarettes and alcohol. Even these measures were not enough to support state spending, so state Democrats supported legalizing gambling, which the voters approved.
Despite all of these burdens placed upon Maryland citizens, the beast of state government is still hungering for more. The insatiable need for more revenue is leading to calls for more taxes and even legalizing and taxing drugs to fill the fiscal gap.
It seems real fiscal responsibility in Annapolis is a mirage. As my Red Maryland colleague Mark Newgent pointed out last week, the governor and state leaders have dipped deep into their bag of tricks to increase state spending over the last seven years by over $8 billion and raising taxes by over $9 billion all while telling Maryland taxpayers that they have cut the budget to the bone and made the tough choices.
How long can Maryland's leaders engage in such reckless disingenuousness before they are held to account?
When the state's Spending Affordability Committee recently announced that the state could afford to increase spending yet another 4 percent, Republicans on the committee voted against the recommendation. Once again, House and Senate Republicans will be proposing an alternative budget that has no growth in state spending and derails the O'Malley lurch toward higher taxes and state debt.
These same elected Republicans have for years been charting a fiscally responsible course only to be ignored by the Democratic monopoly in Annapolis. In 2013, House Republicans proposed an alternative budget which called for zero growth in state spending and recommended cuts in overlapping and redundant state programs. The 2012 Republican alternative balanced the budget without the increased taxes passed in that session. Previous Republican alternative budgets have made specific spending reductions to balance state spending without higher taxes.
The same debate is echoed in the Maryland gubernatorial race. Republican candidates all call for fiscal restraint, tax relief and a more business friendly state. They point to the enormous success of GOP leaders in other states who have achieved much higher rates of economic growth while funding state services without a need for higher taxes. By contrast, the Democratic candidates, particularly Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, represent more of the same and have supported the last seven years of tax-and-spend budget making.
Next November, Maryland voters will have a real choice. They can continue to empower a Democratic monopoly bent on higher spending, taxes and debt or they can choose a real alternative which will provide for fiscally responsible state government and real economic growth.
Enough is enough.
Gregory Kline is a frequent contributor to Red Maryland, a conservative radio network and blog whose content appears regularly in The Baltimore Sun and on baltimoresun.com. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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