A True Maryland Unemployment Story

The fact that Maryland’s unemployment number is at 6.4% for August (and higher than the national average) comes as no surprise to those who continue to be unemployed or underemployed. To them, that number may seem too small. It is.

The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes data on unemployment each month. The standard unemployment figure does not count those who are underemployed or workers who have dropped out of the labor market because they have become discouraged. We all know someone who has just given up on finding a job or is working part-time but wants to work full-time. Those folks are not even counted in the traditional unemployment report.

BLS does publish a separate report that includes “alternative measure of labor underutilization” to give a more realistic picture of unemployment. If you look at the most recent BLS U-6 chart (counting total unemployment, plus underemployment and job market dropouts) covering the third quarter of 2013 through second quarter 2014 you’re in for a shock. Our U-6 figure is a staggering 11.7%.

That means that 11.7% of all Marylanders are either unemployed, underemployed or have just given up. Does 11.7% sound like economic recovery to you?

That’s not all of the bad news. A leading Maryland economist recently stated that Maryland led the nation in job losses for August and is currently ranked 44th nationally in year over year job growth.

“Governing for Results” has been a theme of Governor O’Malley’s tenure. These are not results you will see in any of his feel-good press releases. The O’Malley-Brown administration has proudly supported economic decisions that may feel good for liberals, but are very bad for Maryland.

The House Republican Caucus is consistent in its support of responsible state spending, as well as laws and regulations that support the businesses and workers of Maryland. We want every citizen to have the opportunity to work and be live their lives without the burden of ever-increasing taxes and regulations that have been imposed on them by Democrats. Our caucus continues to fight for you.

House Republicans Ask O’Malley Tough Questions on Unaccompanied Immigrant Children in Maryland

On August 8th, House Minority Leader, Nic Kipke, and House Minority Whip, Kathy Szeliga, sent a letter to Governor O’Malley requesting more information about the unaccompanied immigrant children arriving in Maryland.

“Federal immigration issues aside, I worry about the health and safety of these vulnerable children that have been brought into our state. We also expect to gain a greater understanding of how this major undertaking is being managed and what oversight is in place to ensure that the interests if the citizens of Maryland are protected,” said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke.

Specifically, the letter requested more detailed information about how many unaccompanied minors are currently in Maryland, and how many additional children are expected; as well as the health, shelter, and educational services being provided. Additionally, the letter requested more information on which public and private entities would be providing these services and their related costs.

“Our caucus is concerned about the safety and welfare of these children,” said House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga. “We are equally concerned about the costs of serving this new influx of immigrants and learning more about the impact on Maryland’s citizens and taxpayers. We encourage the Governor and the Administration to promptly hold a briefing to inform and discuss these serious issues with the state legislature.”

CLICK HERE for a copy of the letter sent to Governor O’Malley.

House Republicans Decry Immoral Gas Tax Increases

No Gas Tax HikeAnnapolis, Md. – On the eve of yet another gas tax increase by the O’Malley/Brown Administration, House Republicans today called attention to the inherent flaws with automatic tax hikes.

“With all of the turmoil in the Middle East, gas prices are skyrocketing”, said House Minority Leader Nic Kipke. “The automatic increase that takes effect tomorrow does not take into account current gas prices or how our citizens are struggling to make ends meet. But, an utter lack of consideration of the citizens of Maryland has been the hallmark of the O’Malley-Brown Administration so this should come as no surprise.”

Under House Bill 1515 passed in 2013, a new tax was applied to gasoline. The tax was set at 3.5 cents per gallon effective July 1, 2013. This tax was also indexed to inflation, which accounts for the increase effective tomorrow. The tax will increase by another 3.5 cents on January 1, 2015. Additional increases will also occur well into the future.

“Tomorrow’s increase is just another example of how the O’Malley-Brown administration and the Democratic majority are completely out of touch with the needs of Marylanders,” said House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga. “Today, it is the gas tax. There is also a proposal to tax every mile you drive!  Drivers simply cannot afford any more taxes and fees. House Republicans will continue to offer better ideas and solutions, which include lower taxes for everyone in Maryland.”

Click here for official press release.

House Republicans Present Plan for Maryland’s Fiscal Future

Annapolis, Md. – Today, House Republicans announced their alternative budget plan in response to the O’Malley/Brown Administration’s FY2015 budget proposal that raises overall spending by more than $2 billion over last year. This represents a cumulative spending increase of $10.6 billion since they took office in 2007.

2014 Budget Growth (2)“Despite more than 80 tax, fee and toll increases since 2007, the O’Malley/Brown Administration relies on broken promises and one-time fixes to balance the budget,” said Delegate Gail Bates (Howard). “This is poor management. We cannot steal from the pensions of our hardworking state employees or codify ‘one time fixes’ like hijacking county highway user revenues to fund more wasteful and mismanaged programs.”

“Continuing on this misguided path is irresponsible and ties our hands in the future,” said Delegate Andrew Serafini (Washington). “We will be forced to choose between two bad options: more taxes or deep cuts. What major programs will we have to cut or what taxes will we have to raise because we cannot exercise fiscal discipline today?”

The House Republican alternative budget proposal limits spending growth to just 1% over last year, restores the contribution to the state pension fund, and leaves a fund balance to cushion against possible revenue shortfalls later this year.

“We believe our budget proposal protects the promises made by our state,” said Delegate Tony McConkey (Anne Arundel). “The Republican budget plan fully funds pensions and reduces the fiscal cliff facing Maryland by responsibly restraining spending in next year’s budget.”

House Republicans Push for Rain Tax Repeal

Annapolis, Md. – Today, House Republicans announced their plan to repeal Maryland’s Rain Tax. In the year since it was passed during the 2012 Legislative Session, the Stormwater Management – Watershed Protection Program, has proven to be nothing more than another excuse to tax Marylanders.

One Maryland“If you ask the citizens of our State if they support efforts to clean up the Bay, you will hear a resounding ‘yes’.  If you ask those same citizens if they support both a healthy environment and business climate, they will say ‘yes,’” said Delegate Cathy Vitale (Anne Arundel County). “These principals are not mutually exclusive.  However, the hasty manner in which the Rain Tax was passed failed to take into consideration the impact this legislation would have on industries that are now treated differently from county to county, and on ‘consumer purchasing’ from one to the other as only some businesses will have to build in these costs to their products and services.”

RainTaxMap“We’ve had more than a year to see how this policy would play out, and so far it has done nothing to improve the Chesapeake Bay,” said Delegate Wayne Norman, the bill’s lead sponsor. “Cleaning up the Bay is a regional issue and it is foolish to make ten counties in Maryland the primary focus of these efforts. We need to repeal the Rain Tax and find a new, equitable solution that will actually improve the health of the Bay.”

The Rain Tax is one of more than 80 tax, toll and fee increases levied on Maryland’s citizens by the O’Malley/Brown Administration.

From the Floor: Del. Haddaway-Riccio’s and Del. McMillan’s Remarks During the Anthony Brown Maryland Health Care Exchange Bailout Debate

Yesterday the House of Delegates debated SB 134, the bill that will provide retroactive coverage to those who tried to register for health insurance on Maryland’s notoriously flawed health care exchange website. We have affectionately named it the “Anthony Brown Health Care Exchange Bailout.” Below are some great remarks delivered on the floor by Del. Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio of District 37B on the Eastern Shore and Del. Herb McMillan of District 30 in Anne Arundel County.

JeannieontheFloorFrom the very beginning the Maryland Health Exchange has been a failure to launch. Millions of dollars spent on the roll out, on the web site, on fixes and now we will spend more taxpayer dollars on a temporary fix to a long term problem.

You expect us to have faith that it will all be fixed – but the fact that the bill allows the MHIP Board to extend this coverage prospectively again and again and again demonstrates that there is NO REASON TO BELIEVE that it will be fixed before the end of this legislative session.

In the meantime, you expect people to prove that they attempted to get coverage, – to sign an affidavit that their computer screen froze, to sign an affidavit that they were on hold for over two hours, or to sign an affidavit that they were given the wrong phone number – or to submit paper applications– Now that’s progressive!

There is a simple solution. If this is really about getting people health insurance, skip the bureaucracy and let individuals who are eligible for a subsidy have their subsidy and go to a private broker to get coverage.

This is a nothing more than a bailout, a cover up and another waste of taxpayer dollars and I cannot support that. The contractors and the leaders who were responsible for these mistakes should be paying up – not the taxpayers.

- Del. Jeannie Haddaway Riccio

mcmillanonfloorThe Affordable Care Act in the US, and in MD, was sold to the people on the 4 basic premises.

  1. If you like your health insurance, you can keep your health insurance.
  2. If you have health insurance it will cost the same or be less expensive
  3. That there will be enough new people signing up for health insurance to subsidize those who cannot afford it – not just more people signing up for Medicaid and subsidies.
  4. That government will be competent to manage one of the largest segments of our economy, and one that touches each of us personally.

It is clear that on both a national and state level, that none of these premises are correct. This bill attempts to fix a flat tire on a car with a blown engine; the car still won’t get you anywhere when you’re done. Better to fix the car’s engine before you fix the flat tire; but this bill doesn’t do that.

Think about how this bill is structured. It’s a blank check; open ended funding for anyone who claims they attempted to obtain health insurance. Providing health insurance to a person retroactively is like giving care insurance coverage to a person after they’ve had a wreck. Insurance doesn’t work that way in the real world.

Some will say this bill is the compassionate thing to do – but it isn’t. The compassionate thing to do is to recognize and address the underlying problems with Maryland’s health insurance system. This bill doesn’t do that.

It’s time to say goodbye to the mindset that simply throwing taxpayer’s money at a problem is compassionate or a measure of how much we care. Compassion applied without competence and common sense has led us to this failure. What Maryland needs now is compassion coupled with competence; compassion coupled with common sense; and compassion coupled with a health insurance system that actually works. This bill doesn’t fulfill those needs. All it does is sweep Maryland’s health insurance problems under the rug; and that’s not compassion, its cowardice.

- Del. Herb McMillan