- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2012

Capitol Hill isn’t alone in its preference for fuzzy budgetary math. Lawmakers in Annapolis have come up with a “doomsday budget” for the state that mirrors much of the drama taking place 30 miles away in Washington. Politicians in both towns pretend to share the fiscal pain by making draconian budget cuts. Cut through the smoke and mirrors and becomes clear nothing is actually being reduced. These reductions are as phony as the ones being proposed in Congress. Real spending in the Old Line State will be greater in the current fiscal year than it was last year, and the year before.

Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley proposed a “cut” of 1.5 percent from the proposed budget that initially came in at $36 billion and left the state with a $1.1 billon structural deficit. The regular session ended without the Senate passing the bills, triggering automatic cuts meant to bring the budget into balance. This still leaves $35.3 billion in spending, up from the previous year’s $34.2 billion amount. Aside from the “balance” part, this sounds a lot like Congress.

The fact is that Maryland’s budget has been increasing at an average of 5 percent a year while the population has inched up an average of 0.75 percent annually. On a per capita basis, government expenditures in the Free State have exploded, creating a significant deficit each year. The gaps have been covered by raising taxes and by borrowing. Borrowing is, in effect, a delayed tax hike.

In the latest plan being floated, the General Assembly would meet in one or even two special sessions - at taxpayer expense of $20,000 daily - to figure out how to fill the budget gap. The initial idea was to increase taxes on families making more than $100,000 - which is barely middle class in high-cost Montgomery and Howard counties. The House of Delegates added bills to increase the gas tax, a regressive idea hitting poor families the hardest. Now, in the special session, Plan B is to raise taxes on families making as little as $75,000. By no stretch of the imagination do those affected belong to the “millionaires and billionaires” club that Mr. O'Malley and his allies say they are targeting. They’re going after the average family.

Reining in spending simply isn’t on the agenda in either Annapolis or in Washington. Both cities live beyond their means, borrowing against the future for short-term political gain. This is particularly troublesome in Maryland, which has become one of the country’s most highly taxed jurisdictions, and one of the most hostile toward business. This once-prosperous state is likely to go the way of the Rust Belt as companies and investors realize it makes more sense to move out and put their capital to work in friendlier states like Virginia.

The culture of bigger and bigger government, combined with the class warrior’s instinct to punish success, must come to an end. The true doomsday is the one triggered by reckless politicians strangling the entrepreneurial spirit that once made this country great.

The Washington Times