- The Washington Times - Friday, April 6, 2007

Everyone knows that a liberal like Gov. Martin O’Malley doesn’t want to address Maryland’s looming budgetary crisis. He would rather advocate huge new budget commitments while pursuing politically easy, small-bore issues like auto emissions or Maryland’s presidential-primary pecking order. Meanwhile, if and when lawmakers decide that a tax increase is inevitable, he can blame someone else. So it’s more than ironic to hear Mr. O’Malley pick a fight with the Democratic dons of the General Assembly over the budgetary shortfall on the eve of the finish to Maryland’s 2007 legislative session.

“How do I say this in a diplomatic way?” Mr. O’Malley told The Washington Times this week. “There’s not the will in this body, either in the Senate or the House, to do the tough things that we need to do. The majority of both bodies want to give this administration a chance to reduce the magnitude of the mountain ahead of us before they have to cast tough votes.”

Now, some parsing of that statement is in order. It is obviously trained at Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch, and it means to pin on them the blame for the fallout from the state’s expected $1.5 billion budgetary shortfall next year. Not only are these two lawmakers very different from one another in terms of culpability; neither compares to Mr. O’Malley himself, who, even though he is only a few months into his tenure, is setting in motion a chain of events which are destined to win him the lion’s share of blame for the projected $5 billion gap between revenues and spending over the next five years.

For starters, Mr. O’Malley has grabbed $1.2 billion from state reserves to avoid tax increases or legalized slot machines. He also has made a priority of $400 million in school-construction expenditures. He has frozen college tuition rates and called for what amounts to socialized medicine. He has, in short, been the tax-and-spend Democrat we expected he would.

Now to Messrs. Busch and Miller, one of whom is quite different in his budgetary outlook. For all our differences with Mr. Miller, he has become a voice of relative fiscal sanity ever since he announced he would not seek re-election in 2010. Absent re-election, he is now able to stand up to his party’s far-left base. It is Mr. Miller who very publicly challenged Mr. O’Malley on this subject earlier this year: “There’s going to be cuts, there’s going to be slots, there’s going to be tax increases,” The Washington Times quoted him in February. “And it’s going to be tough for some people, but they’re going to have to suck it up and move forward for the good of the state.” Such statements virtually guaranteed political warfare with Mr. O’Malley.

Here’s the bottom line: The state faces a $1.5 billion budget shortfall next year and an anticipated $5 billion gap between revenues and spending over the next five years. Mr. O’Malley will ultimately be responsible, for the simple reason that his big spending is causing it.

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