Democrats question Ehrlich fiscal record


Looking to poke holes in Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s claim to have solved Maryland's financial crisis without raising taxes, the Maryland Democratic Party plans to release its study of the governor's fiscal record at today's State of the State speech, arguing that his tax, toll and fee increases have cost Marylanders $3 billion over the past three years.

Moreover, the Democrats say Ehrlich hasn't solved Maryland's structural deficit but instead has pushed it off to the next term. Noting figures in the governor's budget proposal, the Democrats say Ehrlich is leaving $3 billion in deficits for the winner of November's election.

"Today Ehrlich claims credit for taking Maryland from deficit to surplus," the Democrats say in their analysis. "Maybe he should give credit to the taxpayers he got to pay for it."

The Democrats, using figures from the nonpartisan Department of Legislative Services, say that since he took office, Ehrlich has boosted government revenue by $781 million from his property tax increase; $188 million from higher corporate filing fees; $519 million from increased car registration fees; $155 million from the flush tax; and $298 million from higher tolls.

Other miscellaneous fee increases bring the four-year total to $3.1 billion. In total, the Democrats say Ehrlich's tax and fee increases average out to $1,500 per Maryland household.

The Ehrlich administration rejected the Democrats' document as laughable, considering tax increases members of that party tried to pass since the governor took office.

"This is a document that is rooted in hypocrisy," said Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver. "The House passed more than $1 billion in taxes in less than five minutes with everything from a snack tax to a tea tax. The governor's effort to beat back $1 billion in taxes should earn him an award, not a fictional diatribe."

Andrew A. Green

Senate votes to override 3 vetoes

The Senate voted yesterday to override three vetoed bills, including one that would allow Montgomery County to use cameras to catch speeders.

Since the General Assembly session started two weeks ago, legislators have overridden 17 of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s vetoes.

"This troubles me," said Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, the Senate minority leader from the Eastern Shore. The Senate also voted to override a veto on a bill that would allow Baltimore to install surveillance systems at dumping sites to prevent illegal dumping and another that establishes how, in a legal action against an insurer, a party must prove a driver is uninsured. All three measures become law in 30 days; the House of Delegates had voted previously to approve them.

Vigorous debate preceded the vote on the speed cameras in Montgomery County.

"As soon as drivers realize they're in a speed camera area, they'll slam on the brakes," said Sen. E.J. Pipkin, an Eastern Shore Republican. "These cameras do not work."

Argued Sen. Ida G. Ruben, a Montgomery County Democrat: "We need to have some protection on these local streets. ... We do not have enough money to have police stand near schools and watch local streets."

Jill Rosen

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