- - Tuesday, April 7, 2015

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Maryland has been called “the Land of Pleasant Living,” but after eight years of the policies of Gov. Martin O'Malley, a lot of Marylanders found it not so pleasant. In a Gallup poll taken in 2014, shortly before the conclusion of Mr. O'Malley’s second term, 47 percent of voters stated that they would move out of Maryland if they could — the third-highest state in the nation from which people wanted to flee.

Taxes, jobs and better opportunity were the main reasons Marylanders gave for wanting to leave. The poll did not count the thousands of people who had already left. In 2010 after just one term with Mr. O'Malley, nearly 31,000 Maryland taxpayers had fled his unabashedly left-wing economic and social policies, with most heading south to relatively tax-friendly states.

Since 2007, 40 tax, fee and toll increases were imposed on Marylanders, taking $3.1 billion annually out of taxpayer pockets to grow a state government that Mr. O'Malley claimed was “severely undercapitalized.” His budgets grew much faster than the taxpayers’ paychecks. During his two terms as governor, spending ballooned from $28.8 billion to more than $39 billion. His budget increases of over $1 billion a year were the highest in the region.

Shamefully, his budgets were only balanced by gimmicks like raiding most dedicated funds, including the state pension fund and the Transportation Trust Fund, and dramatically expanding bonded indebtedness to replace the pilfered money. Irresponsible, deliberate underfunding of the pension fund increased the unfunded pension liability by $10.4 billion.

Mr. O'Malley has bragged that he cut state spending by $9 billion and created thousands of new jobs, but both claims are delusional. By normal math, spending has increased more than $10 billion. Since 2007, Maryland has lost 40,000 jobs, thousands of small businesses and several major corporations.

On Election Day 2014, Mr. O'Malley’s record was soundly repudiated by the voters of liberal Maryland when his lieutenant governor, who promised to carry on his policies, was trounced by Larry Hogan, a Republican businessman promising change.

Liberal Democrats who are becoming intrigued with Martin O'Malley as a potential nominee for president might want to talk to the Democrats from Dundalk. The eastern Baltimore County community includes thousands of union steelworkers who once worked at the Bethlehem Steel plant, which was recently demolished. They have never elected a Republican to any office. But in 2014, fed-up Democrats went to the polls and in a clear repudiation of the O’Malley record, replaced all their state legislators and their councilman with GOP representatives.

Martin O'Malley ran for governor promising no tax increases on families earning less than $250,000 per year. A class warrior, he promised to balance the budget on the backs of the rich. Indeed, he tried soaking the rich by levying a “millionaire tax” on high earners. In creating the new top tax bracket, Mr. O'Malley pronounced that these richest Marylanders were “willing and able to pay their fair share.”

A year later, one-third of the millionaires had disappeared from the tax rolls and it was clear that they were not so willing to pay a combined state and county income tax rate approaching 10 percent. Some of the missing millionaire tax returns could be attributed to the recession, but many wealthy Marylanders just changed their residency to states such as Florida, which has no income tax. Instead of increasing revenues by an estimated $106 million, the following year the tax took in $100 million less than the prior year.

The loss of revenues had to be made up elsewhere. The O’Malley tax burden has weighed very heavily on middle-class Marylanders. They have suffered higher taxes on their paycheck, their beer, their tobacco, their gasoline and for the privilege of flushing their toilets. And they were hit with an increased sales tax, amusement tax, vehicle titling tax, hospital provider tax, fees for birth and death certificates, huge new tolls, and even a new tax on the rain that falls on their roof.

With the help of one of the most liberal legislatures in the nation, Mr. O'Malley was successful in achieving significant and controversial changes to the social fabric of Maryland. Among his “achievements” is a Maryland Dream Act that provides in-state college tuition to illegal immigrants whom the former governor defines as “New Americans.” He signed same-sex marriage into law, successfully fought to eliminate the death penalty, and passed one of the most onerous gun laws in the country. He also burnished his environmental credentials with a government-led scheme to build costly, inefficient wind turbines off the coast of Ocean City.

Fiscal irresponsibility, left-wing social causes and environmental extremism are pillars of Mr. O'Malley’s eight-year reign in Annapolis. Expect the same liberal agenda to appear on the presidential stage as he tries to outflank Hillary Clinton on the left.

As for Marylanders, we’re not ready to have an aspiring President O'Malley do to America what he did to Maryland.

Ellen Sauerbrey is a former minority leader of the Maryland House of Delegates and a two-time Republican nominee for governor.

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