Now that the 2011 Session has ended everyone will opine about who the “winners” and who “losers” were. Who was successful in getting their legislation passed and who was left in the dust. We are taking the opportunity again this year to put in our two cents.
Criminals…whether you are a convicted felon serving a life term or an illegal immigrant flagrantly violating federal law, the Maryland General Assembly had nothing but love and compassion for you this year. House Bill 302 – Inmates – Life Imprisonment – Parole Approval grants automatic release for those serving life sentences if they have to wait more than 180 days for the Governor to approve their parole. We wouldn’t want hardened criminals to be inconvenienced now would we? Senate Bill 167 allows illegal immigrants to pay in-state tuition. Proponents of this bill will tell you that these students have done nothing wrong this will allow them to go to college and become contributing members of society, completely ignoring the fact that once they graduate it will be a violation of federal law to actually employ them.
Labor Unions…a consistent winner in Maryland, labor unions did well again this year. The Democratic majority along with O’Malley Administration let the unions expand their strangle-hold on the state by unionizing independent home care providers. As they did with daycare providers several years ago, independent home care providers will now be subject to collective bargaining. Those who choose not to join the union will be charged a “service fee”. Unions also secured themselves a victory in the eyes of their membership with the $750 bonus for state employees. The truth about that “bonus” is that the bulk of it will go to pay the service fee that non-union employees will have to pay starting July 1. So the unions get to pocket most of the money they’re also taking a tremendous amount of credit for. Good work if you can get it.
Prince George’s County, Montgomery County, and Baltimore City…after strong “negotiations” (or vote trading) these “big three” jurisdictions are walking away with the lion’s share of the revenues from the Alcohol Tax increase. While the whole state will pay this bill and suffer the impacts like the closure of small businesses, it is these jurisdictions that will reap most of the benefit.
Taxpayers…Maryland’s taxpayers have made the loser’s list once again. Last year, they escaped a direct tax increase, but this year they were not as fortunate. The budget included a number of tax and fee increases…doubling the Vehicle Titling Tax, the Vanity Plate Fee, Land Recording fees, Birth Certificate fees. Even our sweet little silver-haired grandmothers will be paying the 38% increase in the Nursing Home Tax. The sales tax on Alcohol was increased by 50%. Does this menu of tax increases mean that Maryland has finally ended its ongoing budget crisis? Sadly, no. In fact, spending increased over 10% from last year to this year and there is talk of more tax increases as early as this fall. With the increase of the sales tax on alcohol, Maryland’s Tax Freedom Day be pushed to April 18th, meaning the taxpayers will have to work an extra day before they have paid all their taxes for the year.
Vulnerable populations…we all heard the radio commercials, saw the rallies, and read the letters from members of the Maryland’s most vulnerable populations – the disabled and mentally ill. They were advocating an increase in the Alcohol Tax and dedicating that money to their chronically underfunded programs…a dime a drink with a link they called it. Maryland’s most vulnerable populations were exploited by the Democratic majority who used them to bring the bill forward but then dedicated the bulk of the money to the “big three” jurisdictions, including Montgomery County – one of the wealthiest counties in the country.
Governor Martin O’Malley…one would think after a landslide win just a few months ago, Governor O’Malley would have the political capital to put his agenda on a glide path through the General Assembly. This proved not to be the case. His Wind Energy Proposal deflated and his Septic Bill was flushed. The Governor didn’t even stay in town during the critical final days of session…he headed to New Jersey to pick a fight with Chris Christie, a Governor that is actually doing something.