Comptroller Peter Franchot's statements concerning the future of Maryland this week carried a distinctly Republican tone concerning the need to make it easier for businesses and help them grow as a way to improve the state's employment picture and overall economy. It will be interesting see, if the Democrat wins re-election, whether he maintains the same tune after November 4.
The Board of Revenue Estimates, which Franchot chairs, lowered revenue estimates for the 2015 and 2016 fiscal years by more than $405 million. The largest portion of that - $350 million – is from a decrease in individual income tax revenues.
"It feels like we sit at these meetings every quarter, hopeful and determined that 'next year will be the year' when the recovery takes hold and is felt broadly throughout the economy," Franchot said. "Yet, another year has passed, and ordinary families and small businesses haven't even recovered to where they were before the financial collapse, much less made up for the wages they've lost over the past six years. We need to recognize that hope is not an economic strategy.
"Wages and salaries are essentially stagnant," he said. "Local, independent businesses are struggling to meet payroll, cover their costs and turn a profit. Working families have cut back their spending because they just don't have the money, they're scared of losing their jobs, or, in many cases, both."
Franchot said most of the uncertainty is "based on political problems and decisions, as opposed to global economic conditions," citing Washington's inability to make long-term budget decisions and unpredictability in the tax and regulatory environment.
Maryland needs to jumpstart private sector growth, he said, adding, "We can only make that happen if we provide a sense of predictability for Maryland families and small businesses."
He implored state lawmakers to "be smart in how we spend taxpayer dollars," and said Maryland needs to be "more forward-looking about how we borrow money."
He also said, "We simply cannot create any unnecessary road blocks that would make employers reluctant to invest, grow and hire."
These messages of guarding taxpayer dollars, making wise spending choices and easing the burden on businesses have been touted for years by minority Republicans. With each passing year since the recession Maryland families and businesses have continued to struggle, but Democrats and Gov. Martin O'Malley have continued to increase fees and add new taxes, even as families have seen their income stagnate.
Perhaps, no matter who wins election in the various races up for grabs, those in office will consider the impact on families and businesses before they decide to increase the burden on taxpayers.