- The Washington Times - Friday, February 9, 2007

In the wake of November’s vote to return Maryland to the rule of one-party liberalism, the trend in the early weeks of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s tenure is hardly surprising. On issues such as taxes, spending, nanny-state regulations, the death penalty and state benefits for illegal aliens, the new governor and General Assembly Democrats are moving the state sharply to the left.

Mr. O’Malley’s priorities include draconian new emission standards for cars; pouring new money into poorly managed public school systems like the one in Baltimore; “freezing” college tuition (which leaves taxpayers to pay higher bills); and a “living wage” measure requiring government contractors to pay artificially high wage rates (at least $11.95 an hour) if they want to do business with the state — which will increase the cost of government services to the taxpayers. The governor says he will sign legislation abolishing capitol punishment if it reaches his desk and has indicated support for legislation providing instate tuition to illegal aliens.

But the O’Malley agenda is only Part 1 of the big-time shellacking Marylanders voted themselves in November. House Speaker Michael Busch, for example, is pushing a new plan to increase state tobacco taxes to create a new program to provide health insurance for the uninsured. Mr. Busch says the program will cost $600 million a year, a number that probably shouldn’t be taken too seriously. The experience with such programs (think Medicare and Medicaid) is that absent severe limitations on service, they end up costing many times the original price. The eventual cost of such a plan even worries powerful Democratic lawmakers like Senate President Mike Miller, who objects to the use of a cigarette tax to pay for part of the bill (sponsors think they can hit Washington up for some of the cost as well) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Thomas Middleton, who says the House proposal may need to be scaled back, pointing out that other states increased payroll taxes to expand health coverage.

In the wake of new budget projections suggesting the state’s fiscal outlook is deteriorating, even Mr. O’Malley and Mr. Miller (who has already announced he is retiring after this term) have indicated a reluctance to push for big new entitlement programs right away. But that would require them to say no to important members of the political left’s coalition like Casa de Maryland and Progressive Maryland, something that is unlikely to happen except on marginal issues.

The degree to which the far-left has taken over the state Democratic Party was on display in the House Judiciary Committee last week, where John Porcari, Mr. O’Malley’s nominee for transportation secretary, said Maryland needs to comply with the federal Real ID Act by next year — which means, in essence that illegal aliens would be barred from obtaining driver’s licenses. The very idea was denounced by the illegal-alien-friendly committee chairman Joseph Vallario, who suggested that Maryland should instead demand repeal of the act. It will be interesting to see if the governor and Mr. Porcari can muster the political will to tackle the Vallario problem on driver’s licenses.

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