- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2012


For as long as I can remember, and as long as he has held higher office, Democratic Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley has wanted to be president. Every move as mayor of Baltimore, as governor of Maryland and as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association has been calculated to win a Democratic primary in 2016. So instead of caring about the needs of Marylanders and leveraging our state’s assets to create prosperity, Mr. O’Malley has treated Marylanders like guinea pigs, pushing a far-left economic agenda in hopes of impressing the liberal establishment and activists in early-primary states. Now, like many of the bailed-out Wall Street banks, Maryland is nothing more than a “zombie state” - an entity with deficits as far as the eye can see, a private sector on life support and a bloated government workforce dependent upon federal funding.

When Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. left office in 2007, the state had a $1.4 billion budget surplus and nearly full employment and was a place where private-sector businesses thrived. Mr. O’Malley, after his first 18 months in office, destroyed all of those successes. He passed massive tax increases on retail sales and income. He signed the first ever “millionaire’s tax,” which forced thousands of affluent residents to flee Maryland and take their assets with them. He created the “tech tax” on information-technology companies, proposed a “fitness tax” on local gyms and has sought to index the gas tax. The poisonous combination of these tax increases has driven 2,500 Maryland businesses to close their doors and lay off more than 200,000 workers. The simple truth is that individual prosperity and business growth are destitute here in Maryland thanks to Mr. O’Malley. He isn’t fighting for hardworking taxpayers; he is fighting to appeal to intellectual liberals who tend to vote in the Iowa caucuses.

Today, thanks in part to Mr. O’Malley’s eagerness to accept federal stimulus dollars with strings attached, the deficits have grown bigger and the massive, mandated spending has continued. Maryland has a population of just more than 5.5 million but an annual budget of $35 billion and a state employee workforce of 80,000. Instead of trimming the workforce and its expenses, as Maryland private-sector employers have done during the recession, Mr. O’Malley has protected state employees and even expanded Medicaid and other social-welfare programs. To pay for his bloated bureaucracy, he has used stimulus grants and forced the dwindling private sector to cough up more in taxes. Exhibit A is his new tax increase on “wealthy” families who make $150,000 annually. It is a tactic that will destroy private-sector jobs in Maryland but earn him chits with public-sector unions, a key constituency in Democratic presidential primaries.

Another way his lofty political ambitions have left Maryland helpless: green energy. For the second legislative session in a row, Mr. O’Malley has pushed for wind turbines in the ocean off the coast of the tourism capital of Maryland, Ocean City. His plan would be a double whammy for Marylanders. Because wind energy is not cost-effective to build or operate, taxpayers would be forced to subsidize both with a monthly tax. On top of that, Mr. O’Malley’s proposal also would mandate existing energy producers in the state to purchase high-priced wind power, a cost that would be passed on to the consumer. While this would increase utility bills for millions of working families back home in Maryland, Solyndra-type executives (prospective 2016 donors) are making a fortune, and environmental activists in New Hampshire will be swooning over Mr. O’Malley’s “green portfolio.”

Mr. O’Malley’s blind ambition has punished working Marylanders. His legacy: a tiny, neutered private sector whose workers will be forced to pay for the burgeoning social-welfare state. Tax increases, a bloated government workforce and expensive energy may be the ticket in the 2016 Democratic primary, but it’s certainly a terrible way to govern. His drive to the White House is destroying a once-great state and certainly will bankrupt a country teetering on the brink.

Dave Schwartz is the state director of Americans for Prosperity-Maryland.

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