Baltimore Sun Fact Check: Ehrlich-O'Malley debate

Competing claims on state spending:

Ehrlich: "We added up your budgets over the four years. Do you know what they added to? $124 billion. Mine? $101 billion. That's not a rounding error."

O'Malley: "We have cut state spending more than any governor in Maryland history."

The facts: The figures for Ehrlich's statement are accurate, though it is unclear how helpful the comparison is.

Ehrlich arrives at his number by adding together all four of O'Malley's budgets and comparing those cumulative figures to his four years of spending. For example, the $101 billion that Ehrlich spent over four years is $21 billion more than what was spent during the last four years of Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening's tenure.

Ehrlich's team has not disputed O'Malley's reference to cutting state spending, which refers to eight trips he made to the Board of Public Works to reduce planned spending that the Maryland General Assembly had approved. The board cut approved spending by $1.6 billion. O'Malley also replaced state tax dollars with federal tax dollars, which replaced $4.5 billion in state spending.

Competing claims on job creation:

Ehrlich: "We have not created one net new job in this state over the past four years … we've doubled our unemployment rate."

O'Malley: "The truth of the matter is we have actually created 33,000 net new jobs." He credits that figure to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The facts: Maryland has lost jobs since O'Malley took office, a reflection of a national trend.

The state's employers have added 33,200 positions since January 2010. O'Malley frequently mentions those increases on the campaign trail in an effort to stress a job-creation trend that started in March and April. But job creation slowed in the ensuing months and moved to negative territory in July and August, when Maryland lost positions. January is also a useful point for O'Malley to start — it is the low-water mark for jobs in Maryland.

But Ehrlich's point requires turning back the clock to January 2007, when O'Malley took office. At that point the state's employers reported having 82,600 more positions than they did in August 2010, the most recent available figures. Ehrlich governed through happier economic times and on his watch the state's employers added 123,000 jobs.

Jobs in January 2003: 2,483,800

Jobs in January 2007: 2,606,600

Jobs in August 2010: 2,524,000

The state's unemployment rate has risen from 3.6 percent when O'Malley took office to 7.3 percent — more than twice as high. At the end of Ehrlich's four years, the state's unemployment rate was one percentage point lower than the national average. Now Maryland's unemployment rate is 2.3 percentage points lower than the national average.

Competing claims on lowering taxes:

O'Malley says Ehrlich "didn't lower taxes one penny," while O'Malley lowered taxes for "41 percent of filers."

Ehrlich says that O'Malley passed the "largest tax increase in the state's history."

The facts: Several niche tax reduction measures favored by Ehrlich passed under his watch, including the expansion of a tax credit for homeowners, a tax credit for using energy-efficient heating systems and a tax credit for biotech companies. Ehrlich also pushed legislation to eliminate the income tax on military retiree pension, and a watered-down version of that legislation passed.

In his 2007 tax package, O'Malley lowered the income tax for lower- and middle-income earners and expanded eligibility for the earned income tax credit. The state's Department of Legislative services estimates that move reduced taxes for 41.1 percent of filers. The same analysis shows that 55.9 percent of taxpayers shouldered a larger tax burden because of the changes. Three percent had no change to their tax bills.

O'Malley's camp has not disputed the claim that the governor's 2007 tax package has made up the majority of the $3.6 billion in new revenue that the state took in during his tenure. Ehrlich also raised taxes and fees, with the state taking in roughly $2.9 billion from new sources of income during his time in office, though that figure includes tax bills he vetoed and the Democrat-led General Assembly overrode.

Competing claims on backlogs in state's DNA crime database:

O'Malley: "When I was elected, we were left a 24,000-sample DNA backlog, a backlog that was allowed to grow under the former governor. A backlog that they never bothered to address. ... There are 270 violent felons that have been charged only because we are doing a better job of backing up our police officers with the technology they need. … We've now cleared that backlog." He also said thousands of DNA samples went uncollected during Ehrlich's term.

Ehrlich: "The DNA sample bill was a prerogative, an initiative of our administration. … We allowed for the first time those samples to be taken upon conviction. That was our bill that created the database which created the new work which created the ability of the system, as you know, governor, to work."

The facts: Ehrlich championed the DNA database, but analysts said it wasn't being fully used under his watch.

In 2002, Glendening signed into law an expansion of the crimes that trigger DNA collection from certain crimes of violence to all felonies. The legislation was pushed by the Baltimore City delegation at the behest of then-Mayor O'Malley. In 2005, Ehrlich backed a bill authorizing the collection of DNA samples at the time of sentencing, clearly delineating when the sample was to be taken. It became law.

An audit released in February 2007, covering May 2003 to April 2006 during Ehrlich's tenure, documented more than 25,000 DNA samples collected "were not analyzed and/or recorded in the State's DNA database in a timely manner." Other samples had not been collected as required by law, the report said.

The Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention reports that there have been 270 arrests from DNA hits since March 2007, though the agency's website does not say how many arrests resulted in charges.

Competing claims on higher education:

Ehrlich: "The tuition freeze started under our administration. [Under O'Malley] the total cost of education in those system schools, at College Park, has increased 35 percent." However, he later added: "Governors do not set tuition, the Board of Regents sets tuition."

O'Malley: Fees that Ehrlich cites went up under his watch, too. "What he had the discretion to do or to not to do, though, is make investments in higher education so that kids did not get hit with a 40 percent increase for in-state college."

The facts: Tuition and fees have risen over the years.

Tuition did not rise in fall 2006, an election year. That's because the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation prohibiting a tuition hike for one year. Ehrlich did not sign the bill but let it become law.

Tuition rose under Ehrlich's previous three years, and fees have steadily risen over the years. The Board of Regents sets tuition rates based on the budget drafted by the governor and approved by the legislature. University system lobbyist Patrick J. Hogan, a former Democratic senator who authored the one-year freeze legislation, compared the tuition-setting process to a see-saw: "When state support goes down, tuition goes up."

Below is a review of tuition and fees (including room and board, but not parking) at the University of Maryland, College Park, the fall before Ehrlich was elected, the final fall of his tenure and this fall. After several years without a tuition increase, O'Malley budgeted for a 3 percent hike this year.

Fall 2002 tuition $4,800, fees $8,407

Fall 2006 tuition $6,566, fees $8,639

Fall 2010 tuition $6,763, fees $9,840

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