- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 13, 2005

One of the best things to happen to Maryland this year occurred at midnight on Monday, when the General Assembly adjourned, having paved the way for a panoply of new taxes and regulations that are virtually certain to chase business out of the state.

Gov. Robert Ehrlich has rightly promised to veto one of the worst measures passed by the legislature: a bill to impose a special, punitive tax against Wal-Mart.

Led by House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Mike Miller, Democrats have decided that Wal-Mart does not spend enough for health care for its workers, so they passed a bill to force any company with more than 10,000 employees in Maryland to spend at least 8 percent of its payroll on health care or pay a special tax to fund Medicaid. The only company that meets that criteria would be Wal-Mart.

The bill may already be having an effect: In light of the General Assembly’s passage of the Wal-Mart tax, the company is reconsidering its decision to locate a new facility with 1,000 jobs in Somerset County on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. If Democrats have their way, the legislation will create a precedent for Medicaid and other new taxes to be imposed on businesses at the whim of politicians.

The Wal-Mart tax is but one example of the mischief perpetrated by the liberal Democrats. They also pushed through a bill that would raise the state’s minimum wage to $6.15 an hour — one dollar above the federally mandated minimum wage. Study after study has shown that the likely effect of this will be to deny entry-level job opportunities to low-skilled, minority youths. Mr. Ehrlich says he has not decided whether to veto the bill. He should do so.

Earlier in the session, lawmakers enacted over the governor’s veto a medical malpractice insurance bill that includes a new tax on health maintenance organizations and will do little to stop the proliferation of questionable lawsuits. Also, Mr. Busch — ever intent on forcing tax increases — for the third year in a row managed to kill Mr. Ehrlich’s revenue source: slot machines, which would also save jobs in the horseracing industry. In yet an example of irresponsibility that will drive away foreign investment in Maryland, the legislature overrode the governor’s veto of legislation opening state contracts to foreign competition.

The legislature failed Marylanders in other areas: It failed to pass legislation clarifying that illegal immigrants are not entitled to driver’s licenses; but it found the time to approve a bill creating a state registry of heterosexual and homosexual domestic partners.

One of the few bright spots was the passage of a compromise version of legislation pushed by the governor strengthening penalties against witness intimidation. Overall, though, this year’s session served to illustrate that the Democratic Party of Maryland is veering farther and farther to the left. Next November, the voters will render their verdict.

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