- The Washington Times - Monday, November 21, 2011

Despite protestations to the contrary from Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley’s administration, it has been clear for the past few years that the governor’s programs, policies and proposed legislation constitute an assault on rural economies and property rights.

Whether the war on rural Maryland is intentional or not is beside the point. The fact remains that implementation of the administration’s policies and legislative proposals, from the proposed septic system ban to higher tolls, taxes and fees, will strip rural Maryland of any real opportunity to create jobs or boost its economy.

The O’Malley administration denies that there is a war on rural residents and touts millions of state dollars spent on rural education, school construction and health care. Of course, the state has not completely abandoned rural Maryland; constitutionally, it cannot. Nevertheless, it is clear that state funding for rural communities is just about last on the administration’s list.

Rural Maryland has been forced to take a back seat in state funding, especially where transportation projects are concerned. Of the transportation budget, 45 percent is slated for mass transit and $4 billion will be spent on rapid rail capital projects, which rural Marylanders will never ride.

The most expensive transportation project in Maryland’s history is the $2.4 billion, 18-mile Intercounty Connector (ICC), which was supposed to be self-supporting. Only recently did we discover that the ICC needs support from the recent toll increases that hammer rural Eastern Shore residents disproportionately. The ICC is another transportation project which rural Marylanders will rarely use.

It appears that rural Marylanders are doomed to be sucked into an endless whirlpool to pay the tab for urban dwellers. One of the worst O'Malley policies is PlanMaryland, which will destroy local government’s authority over land use and the property rights in rural communities. It’s all being done with the stroke of the governor’s pen, not by a vote in the General Assembly.

According to Mr. O'Malley, PlanMaryland is a collaborative effort with local governments, but the state has the final say. It seems akin to the old coin-toss trick, “heads, I win, tails, you lose.”

As I see it, PlanMaryland is an unprecedented intrusion upon local land use control.

I have no doubt the General Assembly would kill PlanMaryland if the governor had the integrity and courage to submit it to the people’s elected representatives.

The administration’s protestation that the war on rural Maryland does not exist is brazen. Is Mr. O'Malley asking whether we believe him or our own eyes? My answer is I certainly don’t believe the governor.

STATE SEN. E.J. PIPKIN

Maryland District 36

Elkton, Md.