"The whole aim of politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."

— H. L. Mencken


The sky is falling! Real cuts that will harm education, health, safety and the environment throughout Maryland! Gov. Larry Hogan's budget is taking us backward!

The fear tactics began before the ink was dry on a budget that spends less than taxpayers sent us, increases state spending $400 million, increases education funding by $45 million (to a record high) and still eradicates an $800 million deficit. House Speaker Michael E. Busch warned, "Every county in the state will get less school funding than expected. … That's a real cut." Except it isn't a real cut. Only in Annapolis is a $45 million education increase a cut. Fourteen of 24 counties will receive more education funding than last year. Baltimore County will get $21.2 million more in education funding than last year; per pupil state funding will increase from $6,419 to $6,619.

Baltimore City gets less education funding, in part because its property values increased. Funding formulas city representatives voted for just last year are responsible for $21 million of Baltimore's $38 million cut. Why is Mr. Hogan's continuation of a policy they supported then so scary now? Prince George's County Delegation Chairman Jay Walker was afraid that, even with a $38 million education increase, his county would, "lose 600 teachers." Really? How can you lose 600 teachers when you're getting $38 million more?

We've seen this "Friday the 13th" budget drama unfold every year for eight years. The script never changes. Liberal enacted funding "formulas" automatically drive up "required" spending to a level that exceeds taxpayer money received by the state. A "projected" deficit then becomes a real deficit. Any effort to reduce funding "required" by the "formulas" to balance the budget is called a "cut," even if the "cut" amounts to spending more money than last year. Liberal legislators bemoan the devastation to programs and local governments resulting from the "cuts" (which are really spending increases) and warn we must spend more to "save" X (fill in the program) and to "keep us from going backward."

After much clamor, spending is increased just below what the "formulas" require; that way, liberals can maintain they "compromised" and made billions of "real cuts." But there are no cuts. Dedicated funds are raided, state retirement funds are shortchanged, money is borrowed and taxes are increased to "resolve" the "crisis" and "balance" the budget. Legislators proclaim this hot mess "fiscally prudent and socially responsible" and go home. Next year — surprise! We have another "budget crisis."

That is why, over the last eight years, state spending increased from $29 to $39 billion; $4.5 billion in dedicated funds were raided; and taxes and fees were raised dozens of times, costing taxpayers $8 billion. It's also why within two years, unless we act now, we will be spending two times more on debt interest payments than we spend on school construction.

That is why, over the last eight years, 8,000 businesses failed or left Maryland; our unemployment rate exceeded the national average; we led America in home foreclosures, became third in food stamp growth and were fifth from the bottom in business climate.

That is why we must break the cycle of spend then tax with this budget. Spending, taxes, jobs and the economy are interrelated. We can't spend our way out of a deficit or tax ourselves into prosperity; we've tried that for eight years. It doesn't work. Governor Hogan's budget is something we haven't had in a long time: a spending plan that funds our priorities and lives within its means, just like we do. Those calling for higher funding for anything should also say what funding they would reduce to stay within Mr. Hogan's budget framework — especially the liberal legislators who created this $800 million deficit.

Liberal legislators use Orwellian double speak and fear tactics to paint Mr. Hogan's budget as the end of the world, but it's really just the end of the world as they know it. With a budget that holds spending below what taxpayers sent us, increases total spending by $400 million, increases education funding by $45 million, caps automatic spending increases and eradicates an $800 million deficit, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Del. Herb McMillan represents Annapolis in the Maryland House of Delegates; his email is herb.mcmillan@house.state.md.us.