- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 22, 2012

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley appeared very proud of the proposed budget he submitted last week, expect for one little detail he seemed reluctant to discuss.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, touted the budget as a triumph over difficult economic times, which would allow the state to build new infrastructure, provide record funding for schools and expand health coverage despite a $1.1-billion structural deficit.

The one thing he failed to mention? The budget’s total cost.

Nowhere in the governor’s presentation to reporters or in the news release issued by his staff was it mentioned that the budget includes $35.9 billion in expenditures — a record for the state and a 3-percent increase over last year.

Staff members provided the cost when asked, and the number was posted on the state’s website. However, Mr. O’Malley was very careful not to use the phrase “$35.9 billion.”

Maybe he didn’t want to give Marylanders a mass case of sticker shock.

Credit where credit’s due

Virginia Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling said last week his 2011 fundraising haul was more than $1,098,237. Who deserved the accolades for helping him amass such a war chest? His family? His staff? His annual “Burgers with Bill” fundraiser?

Probably so, at least in part. But publicly, Mr. Bolling gave a slap on the back to Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, his future opponent for the 2013 GOP gubernatorial nomination, whose entrance into the race apparently prompted a flood of donations — for Mr. Bolling.

“I am especially pleased by the ground swell of support I have received since my opponent announced his campaign for governor on December 1,” he said in a statement. “We raised more money during the last month of 2011 than we have during any similar fundraising period.”

Mr. Bolling had already notched a mini-victory after Mr. Cuccinelli this month reversed his position on immediately changing Virginia’s ballot-access laws to get more candidates on the Republican presidential primary ballot, then last week another on the fundraising front, besting the attorney general’s total of $937,099.

Only time will tell whether it will translate into votes.

What about the fries?

D.C. Council member Vincent B. Orange came up with an elaborate, yet tasty, analogy during a legislative debate over a bill that would limit the control that gasoline distributors, or “jobbers,” have over petroleum purchases by D.C. station owners.

The Retail Service Station Amendment Act does not allow jobbers to operate gas stations, though they can still own or supply the stations. Its sponsor, council member Mary M. Cheh, Ward 3 Democrat, said too much jobber control “can lead to market manipulation.”

But Mr. Orange, at-large Democrat, argued the bill would not necessarily lower gas prices and that there is no need for the bill that would mostly affect Joe Mamo, a D.C.-area petroleum magnate. He said Mr. Mamo is a success story among minority business owners and there is no problem with restrictions on where stations buy there gas.

That’s where the fun part began. Mr. Orange explained: “McDonald’s sells McDonald’s hamburgers. If you want to sell a McDonald’s hamburger you have to buy from McDonald’s. Under your bill — if this was McDonald’s — you’re saying that people who operate a McDonald’s franchise can go buy their hamburgers from Burger King. That’s essentially what you’re saying.”

Any questions? Good, let’s eat!

• David Hill, David Sherfinski and Tom Howell Jr. contributed to this report

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