- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 15, 2008

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly’s approval rating has dropped since they increased taxes during the recent special General Assembly session, according to a poll released yesterday.

The Gonzales Marketing and Research poll showed 39 percent of Marylanders approve of Mr. O’Malley’s work so far, a seven-point drop from before he signed $1.4 billion in taxes into law during the special session, in November.

“It is a significant drop; you’d have to say that right now he is having some real political problems,” said Laslo Boyd, a partner at Gonzales marketing.

The negative rating among voters for Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, also increased — from 31 percent in October to 49 percent this month, according to the poll, In addition, the number of voters who were unsure how they felt about Mr. O’Malley slipped from 23 percent to 12 percent.

“We had to make some very difficult, unpopular, but very important decisions over the last few months to move our state forward,” said O’Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese.

The poll follows one Sunday in the Baltimore Sun and a Fox 5/The Washington Times/Rasmussen Reports poll about two weeks ago that showed Mr. O’Malley with 36 percent and 33 percent approval ratings, respectively.

Gonzales marketing polled 848 likely voters by phone, and the results had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.

During the three-week special session in Annapolis, Mr. O’Malley and Democratic lawmakers also approved additional state spending and placed a measure on the 2008 ballot to approve up to 15,000 slot machines to generate revenue.

The Gonzales polls showed 48 percent of the likely voters disapproved of lawmakers’ actions during the session, while only 27 percent approved.

“I don’t think that somehow it’s going to be warmly received,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat. “In the long term, hopefully the citizens will see the benefit.”

Mr. O’Malley may find some relief on the issue of legalizing slot machines, which he has said he is “sick of,” — 54 percent of Marylanders said they would vote to legalize slot machines, while 38 percent opposed the measure.

The poll also showed support is increasing for a repeal of the death penalty — 48 percent of respondents said they would favor life without parole for those convicted of first-degree murder, while 42 percent said they would support the death penalty.

Mr. O’Malley’s decreasing support could hurt his ability to push his legislative package through the 2008 regular General Assembly session, which started last week and includes proposals on energy reforms and expanded public-safety measures. But Mr. Boyd said the governor still has three years in his term to improve.

“There was going to be some backlash no matter what,” he said. “The time between now and 2010 [the next election] gives him an opportunity.”

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