- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 21, 2003

Ehrlich’s budget plans irk Md. Democrats

We are very disturbed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s recent announcement that he intends to cut $450 million to $500 million from this year’s budget. Just over one month ago, the General Assembly, working closely with the governor, passed a balanced budget. In fact, this year’s budget has a $34 million surplus, in addition to a Rainy Day Fund balance of more than $500 million.

Part of the budget solution was a package of reasonable corporate tax provisions that brought fairness to our corporate tax structure. This was an effort to make out-of-state corporations that currently avoid paying Maryland taxes pay their fair share and to bring uniformity to our tax system. Currently in Maryland, corporations bear less than 5 percent of Maryland’s tax burden.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ehrlich is going to veto this modest package, blowing a $135 million hole in the budget. He is using this veto to justify deep cuts to this year’s budget, inflicting unnecessary pain on Maryland families, while protecting corporations that don’t pay their fair share. At the same time, the state’s property tax rate will increase for the first time in decades, further burdening Maryland families.

The details of the governor’s proposal have not yet been shared with the public. However, cuts to an already lean budget will surely impact the most vulnerable Marylanders. Recent reports have foreshadowed cuts to programs that benefit children and that protect access to health care for Marylanders.

The governor has specifically said that he intends to cut another $60 million from our University System of Maryland (USM). If he follows through with this threat, the USM will suffer a cut of almost 20 percent this year — more than $175 million. The result — higher tuitions for middle-class families, layoffs for hundreds of workers and permanent damage to our high-quality institutions.

Several of us have been in the General Assembly since the creation of the USM in 1988. We have watched with pride as state investments have propelled every one of our institutions to national eminence. When the system was created, we looked with awe toward public institutions in Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan and California. Now, we meet or exceed the academic quality and reputation of those institutions.

Mr. Ehrlich’s proposal will undo a great deal of the progress we have made. His cuts will set the state’s commitment to the USM back four years. USM’s appropriation will be approximately equal to what it was in fiscal year 2000, even though its institutions serve about 11,000 more students now than it did in that year. That is equivalent to adding a new institution roughly the size of Towson University without providing any new funds.

The problem doesn’t end there. In Maryland, funding for community colleges and private institutions is directly tied to funding for the USM. In other words, cuts to the USM lead directly to cuts to our local community colleges and private institutions.

The bottom line is that hundreds of Marylanders will lose their jobs, jeopardizing the security of hardworking families. Tuition will go up again, placing a tax on middle-class families whose children want to attend a public school or the local community college. Our guiding principles of quality, access and affordability in higher education will be cast aside, unraveling years of work to gain national respect.

We understand the fiscal challenges the state faces, and the Senate of Maryland has been a responsible partner in the governor’s efforts to bring stability to our budget situation. It disturbs us that he now intends to go around the General Assembly and unilaterally make budget cuts that will do lasting harm to our residents. There is another way, however: The governor should accept the balanced budget he proposed and helped to develop and work with us to implement a long-term strategy when we convene next January. We should not allow large corporations and out-of-state tax avoiders to be protected at the expense of homeowners, hardworking Marylanders and tuition-paying families.

THOMAS V. MIKE MILLER JR.

President

Maryland Senate

Annapolis

ULYSSES CURRIE

Chairman

Senate Budget and Taxation Committee

PATRICK J. HOGAN

Vice chairman

Senate Budget and Taxation Committee

PAULA C. HOLLINGER

Chairman

Senate committees on Education, Health and Environmental Affairs

THOMAS M. MIDDLETON

Chairman

Senate Finance Committee

BRIAN E. FROSH

Chairman

Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee

NATHANIEL J. MCFADDEN

Senate majority leader

News media need to shoot straight about guns

CNN’s admission of errors in reporting the “assault weapons” ban story (“CNN rapped over gun segment,” Nation, Tuesday) is only the latest example of anti-gun bias in news reports.

With the New York Times facing severe criticism because of lapses in credibility, it should be common sense for CNN to double-check its information before it goes on the air. Fact checking is easy. Firearms are not particularly complex — far less so than automobiles, for example. Yet, reporters, producers and editors get it wrong time after time.

The errors, of course, always slant the story in the same direction, and tend to make guns look evil or scary, truth aside. In this world, bullets are always “cop killer” bullets, handguns are always “Saturday night specials” and rifles are always “assault weapons.” This approach can lead uninformed people to conclude that firearms and ammunition should be banned.

The pattern indicates a willful disregard for the truth.It is part of a campaign of disinformation designed to mislead the American people and allow the passage of stricter gun-control legislation.

Many members of Congress and their accomplices in the mainstream media want a total ban on firearms. They will settle for incremental steps — knowing that Americans would never accept a full ban all at once — but their ultimate goal is clear.

Now it is time for journalists to critically examine how they cover the subject of guns, much as the New York Times is now examining its supervision of reporters.

CNN should consult with true experts — not just anti-gun partisans — before it airs a gun-related story. The broadcast news organizations could then follow CNN’s lead. Otherwise, CNN will remain far behind the Fox News Channel in the ratings war.

By the way, The Washington Times was on target in describing the mistakes made by CNN, and provided an accurate and fair portrayal of the facts surrounding the gun story.

JAMES TERPENING

Washington

Big-spending Republicans

Embarrassed by record deficits and debt under their watch, Republicans are trying to divert attention away from their own fiscal mismanagement. Donald Lambro’s column, “Fiscal hypocrisy” (Commentary, Monday), is the latest effort to mislead the public about the cause of the nation’s deteriorating fiscal outlook.

The projected 10-year, cumulative $5.6 trillion in surpluses that were projected in January 2001 will turn into a $2 trillion deficit, should the Republican tax-and-spending policies be adopted. This $7-plus trillion reversal has nothing to do with Democratic amendments, as Mr. Lambro seems to suggest, and everything to do with Republican tax cuts (the biggest cause), Republican spending proposals and the worsening economy.

Mr. Lambro is wrong when he says the Democratic amendments would have added to the deficit. Instead, the net effect of all Democratic amendments to this year’s budget would have reduced deficits considerably. That’s because Democrats not only provided offsets on virtually every amendment, but we directed additional savings to deficit reduction.

In fact, had Congress adopted the main Democratic substitute amendment — my legislation — the deficit would have been reduced by $863 billion more than the Republican plan. In short, my amendments, like the Democratic amendments in toto, would not have added to the deficit as Mr. Lambro claims.

Compare Democrats’ fiscal approach with that of Republicans. The cost of Republican tax cuts are not offset, for there are no spending cuts. In fact, President Bush’s budget calls for $600 billion in new spending in the next 10 years. In other words, the president and his Republican allies are pushing tax cuts paid for with borrowed money, thereby plunging the country further into deficit and debt. While Republicans brag that they want to return the “people’s money,” their policies actually explode the “people’s debt.”

It is not Democrats who are engaged in fiscal hypocrisy. My Republican friends — with their guns-and-butter, cut taxes and raise spending approach — are the ones who have earned that title.

KENT CONRAD

U.S. Senate

Washington


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