Ehrlich says O'Malley plan 'junk'

The Baltimore Sun

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took aim yesterday at Gov. Martin O'Malley's plan for closing the projected $1.7 billion budget shortfall, calling it an "insulting, phony piece of junk."

Speaking on WBAL Radio's Robert and Kendel Ehrlich Show, he urged listeners to attend a Republican protest of O'Malley's tax and slots plan starting at 4 p.m. tomorrow in Annapolis.

"Monday is a statement day," said Ehrlich, a Republican. "Let's make a statement."

"We deserve better than this circus," he added.

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said, "In all due respect to the former governor, I have no comment on anything he said this morning."

Ehrlich was joined in his criticism of O'Malley's plan by a guest on the two-hour radio program, House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell.

Referring to O'Malley's proposal to hold a November 2008 referendum on allowing up to 15,000 slot machines at five locations, Ehrlich said to O'Donnell, "It looks like, Tony, here has been a deal struck on slots."

Ehrlich pushed throughout his four-year term for legalizing slot machines but was blocked by House Speaker Michael E. Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat, among others. Busch, a slots foe, said last week that a referendum was the best way to resolve the debate.

"Mike Busch figured out my name isn't on the top of the bill," Ehrlich said.

But Ehrlich mostly focused on the tax proposals, ridiculing administration arguments that some Maryland tax rates should be raised to be comparable with those in neighboring states.

"The governors of Pennsylvania, West Virginia ... they're laughing right now. They love this special session," Ehrlich said.

He remarked that if he had proposed reductions in the rate of growth of education spending, as O'Malley has, the teachers union would have had thousands of protesters outside his house.

Both Ehrlichs repeatedly told callers to get mad over the administration proposal. "We love your anger," Kendel Ehrlich told one caller.

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