We congratulate Delegate Steve Hershey on his appointment to the State Senate. He has been a dedicated colleague and member of the House Republican Caucus and we wish him all the best in this new role. We have no doubt that he will continue to be steadfast representative and advocate for the citizens of District 36.
The House Republican Caucus issued the following statement on the resignation of Senator E.J. Pipkin:
“The House Republican Caucus thanks Senator Pipkin for his dedicated service and advocacy for Maryland’s taxpayers. He has been a tremendous leader in the General Assembly and strong Republican partner in fighting the O’Malley/Brown Administration’s tax and spend agenda.
He will be sorely missed and we wish he and his family all the best in their new endeavors.”
After careful consideration and discussion with the members of the House Republican Caucus, we are pleased to announce the following appointments to our leadership team:
Assistant Minority Leader: Delegate Michael Hough
Assistant Minority Whip: Delegate Sue Aumann
Caucus Chairman: Delegate Jay Jacobs
Chief Deputy Whip: Delegate Justin Ready
Deputy Whips: Delegate Gail Bates
Delegate Steve Hershey
Delegate Charles Otto
Delegate Susan Krebs
Delegate John Cluster
Delegate Kathy Afzali
Ranking Members: Delegate Tony McConkey, Appropriations
Delegate Kelly Schulz, Economic Matters
Delegate Wayne Norman, Environmental Matters
Delegate Justin Ready, Health & Government Operations
Delegate Mike McDermott, Judiciary
Delegate LeRoy Myers, Ways & Means
Parliamentarian: Delegate Wayne Norman
Our leadership team is a great mix of seasoned legislators with a wealth of institutional memory as well as newer members with a fresh perspective. They represent a wide variety of constituents from the agricultural and rural areas of the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland, to the more urban areas of Central Maryland and many places in between. This team is ready to beat back the failed tax and spend policies that have plagued Maryland for far too long. We are honored to have the opportunity to serve with them.
On July 1st, House and Senate Republicans gathered with business owners and citizens to protest the virtual downpour of tax, fee and toll increases heaped on them by Governor Martin O’Malley. The Joint Republican Caucus hosted two media events – one in Stevensville, Md. on the Eastern Shore, and another in Frederick, Md. in Western Maryland.
“In particular, we are objecting to the Rain Tax and the gas tax increase which became effective today, July 1st,” said House Minority Leader Nicholaus Kipke (Dist. 31 – Anne Arundel). “We are protesting the shameful increase in tolls which, in addition to the gas tax hike, place a significant burden on Maryland drivers and commuters in particular.”
The Rain Tax, based on the square footage of impervious surfaces, will be imposed on homeowners, businesses and nonprofit entities, including places of worship in ten of Maryland’s most populous jurisdictions. These surfaces include roofs, parking lots, sidewalks and other surfaces that do not absorb rain, but deflect it. The polluted water then flows from impervious surfaces into the Bay’s tributaries and, ultimately into the Bay.
Senate Minority Leader E.J. Pipkin (Dist. 36 – Cecil) called the tax “an economy blight and a job killer.” He emphasized, “Businesses will not want to locate in a state that imposes a rain tax that can equal or exceed their property tax bill. This tax alone threatens to turn Maryland from a business-unfriendly state into a business-hostile state.”
In addition to the new Rain Tax, Marylanders will also have to contend with an unprecedented toll and gas tax increases. The per gallon increase in the gas tax, coupled with a $3.50 increase in the vehicle registration fee, will cost citizens $735 million annually when fully phased in. The gas tax will increase 63%, while the tax on diesel fuel will increase 90%. By 2015, the tax per gallon of gas will increase from the current 23.5 cents per gallon (the 29th highest in the nation) to 41.5 cents a gallon (the 5th highest in the nation). Adding insult to injury, also beginning in 2015, the gas tax will automatically increase with inflation, without any oversight or approval from the General Assembly.
“When the gas tax is added to bridge, tunnel and road toll increases, many of which have doubled, Maryland motorists will be saddled with a highly inflated driving cost,” pointed out Senate Minority Whip Ed Reilly (Dist. 33 – Anne Arundel), “and as business shipping and delivery costs skyrocket, it is the consumers who will bear the brunt of rising prices of just about all consumer goods, including food and clothing.”
“For the past seven years, the O’Malley Administration has beaten Maryland taxpayers bloody with tax, fee and toll increases,” asserted House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga (Dist. 7 – Baltimore Co.). According to published reports, the total tab for the O’Malley Administration’s unbridled increases through fiscal 2014 will be $9.5 billion. “I doubt highly that during the same time period, any other state has imposed such shameful and unconscionable tax, fee and toll increases on its constituents. This Administration is inflicted with a severe case of revenue greed and the citizens of Maryland continue to be the long-suffering victims.”
Click on the following links for the official press releases and more detailed information about the tax, toll and fee increases.
Annapolis – House Republicans elected Delegate Nicholaus R. Kipke of Anne Arundel County as House Minority Leader and Delegate Kathy Szeliga as House Minority Whip.
“It is a great honor to have been elected to this position”, said Kipke. “We are excited about the future of our Caucus and look forward to meeting the challenges of the Democratic monopoly in Maryland.”
“We are ready to hit the ground running”, said Szeliga. “We want to build on the successes of the past and increase our numbers so we can beat back the tax and spend mentality that all too often rules the day in Annapolis.”
The new leadership team plans to focus on increasing communication and outreach to the public as well as working with like-minded organizations such as Change Maryland and Americans for Prosperity.
“We’re going to have one big, great tent for folks who are really concerned about Maryland’s economy, public safety, and education”, said Kipke. “Our Caucus has the best policies and the best arguments in Annapolis, but too often our message doesn’t reach the voters. That must change”
Delegates Kipke and Szeliga replace Delegate Tony O’Donnell who served as Minority Leader since 2007 and Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio who served as Minority Whip since 2011.
“We both have a tremendous amount of respect for our out-going Minority Leader and Whip, said Szeliga. “We are thankful for all they have done and they will continue to be an integral part of the Republican Caucus.”
Click here for the official press release.
The following is a summary report of the major issues of the 2013 Legislative Session.
BUDGET & FISCAL ISSUES
Operating Budget. Despite claims that he has reduced state spending by almost $8 billion since taking office, Governor O’Malley’s FY2014 budget continued the trend of increasing the state’s overall spending by more than $1 billion each year, a 25% increase since 2007.
Touted as “fiscally prudent and socially responsible,” the FY2014 budget is anything but. As 26% of Maryland’s budget is supported by the Federal Government, our citizens will be affected by the federal sequester more than most. With the full effects of federal sequestration still an unknown, Governor O’Malley continues to irresponsibly increase spending. State spending continues to outpace personal income growth as Maryland’s government keeps getting bigger while taxpayers struggle to keep up with new taxes and fees. O’Malley’s budget increased spending by over $1 billion dollars in FY 2014 – a 3% increase from last year.
House Republicans urged the Governor to exercise caution during these uncertain fiscal times and reduce his budget proposal by 2%, which equaled the same paycheck reduction all Marylanders saw when the federal payroll tax holiday expired in January. This proposal was rejected by the Administration and House Democrats, who are content to continue their spend-and-tax cycle.
Click here to view the House Republican Caucus press conference on the budget.
Pensions. The House Republican Caucus championed pension reform in the 2013 Session. Chronic mismanagement and underfunding of the state’s pension fund has left state employees and the state’s fiscal health in jeopardy. The Republican legislative package would have required full-funding of the state’s pension obligation and a more realistic estimation of return on fund investments as well as a stringent limitation on risky pension investments. Additional Republican proposals included the creation of a 401(k)-type retirement option for all state employees and would have added two more county representatives to the State Pension Board.
While the Republican initiatives were rejected, the General Assembly did pass alternative legislation to phase in the full-funding of the State Pension Fund, albeit at a slower rate than the Republican suggestion.
Click here to read a Baltimore Sun article about the GOP Pension Reform Proposal.
Capital Budget. This year, Governor O’Malley’s Capital Budget authorized $1.11 BILLION in new state debt. While the Capital Budget includes many worthy items such as school construction, the constantly increasing debt of the O’Malley-Brown Administration is not sustainable long-term. Maryland’s debt payments are funded primarily by the state’s property tax revenue. Due to the decline in home values over the last several years this revenue source has fallen short of covering our debt payments. With the debt that has already been undertaken and the additional debt that is authorized this year, the gap between what is owed and what is covered by the property tax widens significantly, making an increase in the property tax rate a very real possibility. The bottom line is that over the last seven years the O’Malley-Brown Administration has been content to max out the state’s credit card and stick present and future generations of Marylanders with the bill.
HB 224: Election Law – Improving Access to Voting. Governor O’Malley’s Improving Access to Voting legislation relaxes the requirements needed to register to vote by allowing same day registration, expanding early voting and allowing online access to absentee ballots. House Republicans opposed this bill on the grounds that it creates more opportunities for voter fraud and compromises the integrity of the election process.
HB 244 passed the House 92-43 and the Senate 36-11.
HB 493: Referendum Integrity Act. While not passed, HB 493 would have placed additional burdens on the petition process and dissuaded citizens from signing onto a referendum. If passed, HB 493 would have required petition sponsors to create a campaign finance committee for each law being petitioned, required signers to include their birthdate with their signature, required each signature page to contain language that signer information is subject to public disclosure, required petition circulators to take a training course and prohibited payment per approved signature.
This legislation was Democratic retaliation following three successful petitions that resulted in ballot initiatives in 2012: repeals of the DREAM Act, same-sex marriage and the newest legislative redistricting plan. While the legislation didn’t move forward this year, it will be something to keep an eye on in the future.
GAS TAX – TRANSPORTATION
HB 1515: Transportation Infrastructure and Investment Act of 2013
Gas Tax. At the 11th hour, Governor O’Malley introduced the complicated and convoluted Transportation Infrastructure and Investment Act of 2013 sneaking it in just minutes before the deadline to introduce legislation in the session. This $2 billion revenue bill puts a disproportionate burden on motorists by:
- Indexing the existing excise tax on gas using the Consumer Price Index. This means that the excise tax is indexed to inflation and will put gas tax increases on auto-pilot. The gas tax will continue to go up year after year with no legislative oversight.
- Creating a new 1% sales tax on the retail price of gas effective July 1, 2013 that will increase to 2% on January 1, 2015, and to 3% on July 1, 2015. These amounts assume that the federal government will authorize online sales tax collection, but if that does not happen,
the sales tax on gas will increase by 4% on January 1, 2016 and to 5% on July 1, 2016.
As a result, even with a conservative estimate of inflation, the total gas tax will increase by 88% by FY2017 and Marylanders could be paying 44.1 cents per gallon in Maryland gas taxes alone. To add insult to injury to motorists, the majority of the money raised through these new taxes will not even be used to build and repair roads and bridges, but instead will be directed to seldom-used mass transit. While just 8% of Marylanders use mass transit to commute, mass transit receives more than four times the funding for highways. Motorists are being asked to foot the bill for a service many of them don’t and will never be able to use.
The Fake Transportation Trust Fund Lock Box
The Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) has been Governor O’Malley’s overdraft protection as he continues to spend beyond the State’s means. The TTF has repeatedly been raided to balance the state’s budget and $1 billion of local highway user funds have yet to be paid back.
SB 829: Transportation Trust Fund – Financing – Use of Funds
In order to provide themselves with political cover after passing the gas tax, Democrats, following the lead of Senate President Mike Miller passed SB 829 – a fake lockbox on the Transportation Trust Fund – during the last hour of the 2013 legislative session. Instead of actually protecting the TTF from future raids, SB 829 codifies this reckless spending behavior and encapsulates it into the State Constitution. The bottom line is that SB 829 does absolutely nothing to ensure that TTF dollars are actually spent on transportation.
SB 829 passed the House 106-32 and Senate 45-2.
House Republicans strongly opposed the gas tax and advocated for the protection, alignment and restoration of the Transportation Trust Fund. They supported legislation that would create a true lockbox on the Transportation Trust Fund, bring TTF spending into alignment with the needs of Marylanders by directing more funding towards highways, and restoring nearly $1 billion in highway user funds back to the TTF. Unfortunately for Maryland’s motorists, the Republican proposals were rejected by House Democrats. While they were willing to grab more than $2 billion out of Marylander’s wallets, they were very unwilling to pass legislation to guarantee that the money raised through these new taxes would actually fund transportation infrastructure.
HB 1515 passed the House 76-63 and Senate 27-20.
Click here to view the House Republican Caucus press conference on the gas tax.
Click here to read one of many articles chronicling Senate President Mike Miller’s infamous “neanderthal” comments regarding the House Republican Transportation plan.
Mandatory Union Fees for State Public School and Higher Education Employees – HB 667 & SB 841
Governor O’Malley and his fellow Democrats continued to cave to union pressures with the passage of HB 667 and SB 863. These bills create a “fee to work” by requiring that all state public school and higher education employees pay a fee to a union regardless of whether they are a member of the organization, support its political or ideological views, or wish the organization to negotiate or advocate on their behalf. Essentially this bill takes hundreds of dollars a year out of employee paychecks and makes a deposit to the union’s banking account without the employees’ consent.
HB 667, Public School Employees – Collective Bargaining – Representation Fees, passed the House 95-43 and the Senate 31-13.
SB 841, the Higher Education Fair Share Act, passed the House 94-45
and the Senate 34-12.
NATURAL RESOURCES & ENERGY
HB 226: Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013. Governor O’Malley was finally able to pass his Offshore Wind bill after working with Senate President Miller to rearrange the make-up of Senate Finance Committee to remove detractors. House Republicans opposed the bill on financial grounds. When the 200 megawatt wind project comes on line in 2018, ratepayers will bear the $112 million annual net cost of the project, which is more than twice the cost than projected conventional energy costs. Offshore wind is also a bad investment for Maryland ratepayers as is it projected to lose more than $1.4 billion over the 20-year life of the project. The increased costs to ratepayers will disproportionately affect the state’s most vulnerable low-income earners that cannot afford the latest residential upgrades or energy-saving appliances who already pay higher than average utility bills. Despite their pontificating about creating jobs in Maryland, House Democrats rejected an amendment requiring a substation be built in Maryland, thus creating sustainable jobs in the state. Democrats also rejected other amendments to cap the costs to ratepayers and ensure that companies working on the project were US-based and also used US-made materials. The bill passed the House 88-48 and the Senate 30-15.
SB 276: Death Penalty Repeal. SB 276 repealed the Death Penalty in Maryland and made the maximum penalty issued by the state life without parole. Most members of the House Republican Caucus opposed this legislation and offered multiple amendments to the bill that were ultimately rejected. House Democrats opposed retaining the death penalty as a sentencing option in cases of mass murder, terrorism, school shootings, contract killing, murder of law enforcement and first responders, and correctional officers. House Democrats effectively removed an important tool for prosecutors and have also endangered the safety of correctional officers working in the state prisons, as there is now no deterrent to keep the most vicious criminals from committing acts of violence against them. House Democrats also rejected an amendment that would have removed prison “perks” from those serving life from parole such as TV, internet access, recreation time, and family visits.
The Death Penalty Repeal passed the House 82-57 and the Senate 27-20.
SB 715: Maryland Highway Safety Act of 2013. Deceptively named the Maryland Highway Safety Act of 2013, SB 715 authorizes the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to issue drivers licenses and identification cards to illegal immigrants. These “second tier” licenses could not be used for federal purposes such as purchasing a firearm, boarding a flight, or entering a federal building.
House Republicans opposed SB 715 with concerns that the requirements to obtain a drivers license were not stringent enough and with no way to reliably verify an applicant’s identity, multiple licenses could be issued to the same person. With Maryland being the only state on the East Coast to issue licenses to illegal immigrants, our state becomes a gateway for potential terrorists and others seeking to obtain ID for questionable purposes. Additionally, the two-tiered ID system, downgrades all Maryland-issued drivers licenses and IDs and makes Maryland non-compliant with the Federal REAL ID Act. Once this measure goes into effect, no Maryland-issued ID may be used for federal purposes, including boarding a plane or entering a federal building.
House Republican amendments to require fingerprinting of illegal immigrants who were issued an ID, and to make the second-tier ID a different color, among others were rejected. SB 715 passed the House 82-55 and Senate 29-18.
SB 281: Firearm Safety Act of 2013. The House Republican Caucus vehemently opposed SB 281 on the grounds that it severely limits the Second Amendment rights of Marylanders and effectively punishes Marylanders that legally exercise their right to own a firearm. Billed as a way to make our families and streets safer following the tragedy in Newtown, CT, SB281 does nothing to curb gun-related crime.
A majority of Democrats opposed amendments that would have eliminated “time off for good behavior” and other perks for those convicted of crimes with a firearm. They also opposed amendments eliminating the fingerprinting requirement, creating a special license for competitive shooters, creating a public campaign to end the stigma of mental illness, expanding conceal-carry permits, as well as many others.
While the bill limits firearm access for the mentally ill, the O’Malley Administration left many critical mental health and early intervention programs grossly underfunded so those most at-risk are not able to receive the services and support they desperately need.
Unfortunately for Maryland, Governor O’Malley decided to pave his way to the 2016 Presidential Campaign by trampling on the rights of law-abiding citizens and exploiting recent tragedies for political gain.
After almost 24 hours of hearings and debate and thousands of Second-Amendment supporters traveling to Annapolis to make their voices heard, SB 281 passed the House 78-61 and the Senate 28-19.
SB 281 makes sweeping changes to Maryland’s gun laws and goes into effect on October 1, 2013. The bill is not retroactive, meaning that it only applies to firearm purchases made on or after October 1st. The major highlights are as follows:
Assault Weapon Ban. SB 281 designates 45 rifles as “Assault Long Guns” including the AR-15, SKS, as well as any of their “copycats” and bans the sale of these firearms effective October 1st, 2013. This bill is NOT retroactive. If you currently own one of these firearms, or purchase prior to October 1st, 2013 you can continue to possess your firearm. In addition, these firearms can continue to be passed on through inheritance provided the heir is not otherwise disqualified from possessing a Regulated Firearm.
Magazine Capacity/Ammunition. Effective October 1, 2013 magazine size for all firearms is restricted to 10 rounds or less. The purchase, transfer, or sale of higher capacity magazines is prohibited. This bill is NOT retroactive. If you currently possess a large capacity magazine, you may continue to do so.
SB 281 bans a person from possessing any ammunition if they are disqualified from possessing a regulated firearm (by virtue of a criminal conviction, drug or alcohol abuse, is a fugitive from justice, or suffers from a mental disorder)
Handgun Qualification License: Fees, Training and Fingerprinting. Anyone who wishes to purchase a handgun after October 1, 2013, must apply to the Maryland State Police for a handgun qualification license. Applicants are required to complete 4 hours of training and submit fingerprints and complete a criminal background check. The cost of the initial licensing, fingerprinting, and background check is paid by the applicant and is estimated to be over $100. Once issued, the license is good for ten years. The license can be renewed for a $20 fee and additional training is not required for renewal. If you currently own a regulated firearm you do not have to ever complete the training to apply for the handgun purchase license.
Mental Health Provisions. SB 281 restricts a person who has ever been a subject of an Involuntarily Commitment or those who are currently under a protective order from possessing any firearm and requires them to surrender any firearms to law enforcement for safe keeping. A hearing review process is available for individuals to petition to regain their rights to possess a firearm.
Active and retired law enforcement officers and military personnel over age 21 as well as firearm manufacturing facilities are generally exempted from the provisions and restrictions of this act.
For a PDF version of this report, please click here.
With a little over a month left in the 2013 Session of the General Assembly, Governor O’Malley took a momentary break from his national campaign to make yet another assault on the wallets of Maryland’s citizens. His “Transportation Infrastructure and Investment Act of 2013” (HB 1515/SB 1054) was introduced earlier this week and is yet another example of how out of touch this Administration is not only with the economic realities facing Maryland’s families and businesses, but also with the transportation needs of this state.
The Governor’s gas tax increase has a number of moving parts. First, he decreases the excise tax on gasoline from 23.5 cents to 18.5 cents, but then he indexes the tax to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). As a result, the gas tax will be set on autopilot automatically increasing every year the CPI increases. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the CPI has increased an average of 2.43% since 2002. This autopilot increasing is also a one-way street. While the gas tax will increase if the CPI increases, there is no change in the gas tax should the CPI trend downward. The CPI has only declined once since 2002. It gets worse. These automatic increases also apply to the excise tax on diesel fuel – currently 24.25 cents/gallon. So, under Governor O’Malley’s plan the tax on diesel fuel – the fuel that is relied on by a multitude of Maryland’s businesses – will see sharp increases in the future, automatically. But, it doesn’t stop there. Not missing an opportunity to tax an item more than once, Governor O’Malley’s gas tax scheme also imposes a 2% tax at the wholesale level and increasing to 4% in 2014. If the federal government fails to authorize online sales tax collection, this tax increases to 6% in 2015. Over the next five years, the Governor’s bill has the potential to take over $3 billion out of the pockets of the motoring public alone.
Even with all of these dollars coming out of the pockets of drivers, very little will go to roads and bridges – if it gets to transportation at all. Governor O’Malley’s transportation package gives no meaningful protections to the Transportation Trust Fund. It requires the approval of a 3/5th majority of a standing committee to raid the TTF which is no challenge at all when one considers the makeup of the General Assembly and the gamesmanship that can be played with committee assignments. This anemic protection is not extended to Highway User Revenues, which is still owed over $1 billion from previous raids. These funds can continue to be pillaged without the pretense of protective hurdles.
But for arguments sake, let’s say these dollars do actually make it to transportation. Currently, 56% of the revenue that goes into the TTF comes from the motoring public through the gas tax, titling tax, MVA fees, and registration fees. However, 57% of the spending goes to mass transit. This is absurd when you consider the fact that 83% of Maryland’s commuters drive alone or carpool while 9% utilize mass transit. If past is prologue the likelihood of any new gas tax dollars making it to road projects are very slim. While the Governor’s plan indexes mass transit fares to the CPI beginning in 2015, the revenues from that indexing are only $10-$20 million per year. Given that the costs of the Red Line and Purple line are in the BILLIONS of dollars, it is clear that automobile drivers will continue to subsidize a system they do not use.
Perhaps the Governor’s gas tax scheme would be more tolerable if it was not the latest installment in a multitude of tax, toll, and fee increases since he took office in 2007. Maybe citizens would be able to trust that this money would go to transportation if he had not raided that and virtually every other dedicated fund to cover his apparent spending addiction. If the Governor had worked half as hard on solving our transportation challenges (e.g. appointing a permanent Secretary of Transportation) as he has on increasing his national profile perhaps he would have some credibility on this issue. But everything the Governor has done and has not done – down to submitting a complicated piece of legislation in the waning hours of the 2013 Session – has only served as proof of his ineptitude.
The bottom line is this: Maryland does not need this or any other scheme to increase the gas tax. Maryland needs to truly PROTECT the Transportation Trust Fund. Maryland needs to ALIGN its transportation spending with the needs of its citizens. Maryland needs to RESTORE the $1 billion of transportation monies that was taken from but not repaid to the counties. Until these things happen, Maryland’s drivers will constantly be on the hook to feed the transportation beast.
Today, Republican members of the House Appropriations Committee presented an alternative budget plan calling for zero growth in the upcoming fiscal year, which equates to a 2% across the board cut to Governor O’Malley’s budget proposal. Republican committee members urged Governor O’Malley to tread cautiously given the current financial insecurity brought on by the federal sequester and still recovering local economy.
“Earlier this year, Maryland taxpayers saw their paycheck reduced by 2% as a result of decisions by the federal government,” said Delegate Tony McConkey. “It is not unreasonable for Maryland’s government to take the same reductions as its taxpayers. In light of the pending impacts of sequestration, we must be cautious with our budgeting. Now is not the time to increase spending.”
Delegate Susan Aumann also called attention to the disparity between personal income growth and the rate of state government spending increases, “Maryland’s budget has increased over one billion dollars each year since 2008. State spending has outpaced personal income growth and Maryland’s government continues to grow while its taxpayers are losing ground.”
“We have to look at what we’re doing and change the patterns of the past,” said Delegate Addie Eckardt. “For the last several years the Governor has initiated new overlapping programs at the expense of existing programs. He has also used temporary federal money to fund long-term programs. All of this establishes an unsustainable pattern of increased spending that needs to stop.”
Republicans also expressed concerns about the growing state debt.
“Over the course of his term, the Governor has maxed out the State credit card,” remarked Delegate Gail Bates. “The state’s mortgage (debt service) is increasing year by year and is paid by the state’s property tax. In order to keep up with payments, property taxes will need to rise. Our children and grandchildren will be footing the bill for today’s spending.”
“Although the Governor’s budget may not appear to be as bad this year as it has been in years past, spending still increases $1.4 billion more than last year,” said Delegate Nancy Stocksdale. “Over the last several years the pattern has been the same: Governor O’Malley raises taxes, then he increases spending, then he raises taxes again. Increasing spending again just means higher taxes down the road. Enough is enough.”
Republicans also commented on the added burden the Governor’s transportation plan would put on taxpayers.
“We agree that improving our transportation infrastructure needs to be a priority,” said Delegate Wendell Beitzel. “However, the Governor’s plan does not distribute the funding burden equally between motorists and mass-transit users. The Governor’s gas tax plan is also overly burdensome on the working poor, rural areas of the state, and Maryland’s small businesses.”
According to a recent Gonzales poll, 96% of Marylanders feel that they pay enough in taxes and 64% are against annual $1 billion spending increases.
“We are listening to the citizens of Maryland and responding with a plan that will protect against more taxes and fees. Our plan is a fiscally responsible alternative to another bloated spending plan presented by the Governor,” commented Delegate Kathy Szeliga. “The citizens of Maryland are clearly tired of the same old strategy of raising taxes to increase spending. The leadership in Annapolis is out of touch with the pressures on family budgets today or they would not answer every challenge with more taxes.”
Click here for official copy of the press release.
Our national and state governments are systems of checks and balances to ensure that no one branch of government has too much power and that the government serves the people. In Maryland, we’re used to not getting much balance, but we are guaranteed the “final check” on our elected officials by voting them out of office or voting down legislation they pass by petitioning state laws to a ballot. Both require verification of residence in Maryland for participation, but why are the standards to vote and to sign a petition so different?
The latter “check” by the people was most recently championed during the 2012 election when concerned citizens collected enough signatures to bring Democratic priorities including the DREAM Act, same-sex marriage and redistricting plan to the ballot. Citizens were able to vote yea or nay on whether the law would stick. Although all of the ballot initiatives failed and the laws still stand (albeit by some close margins), the mere fact that their initiatives were called into question upset Maryland Democrats and now they are out to suppress citizens’ ability to petition a law to the ballot in retaliation. House Bill 493, ironically named the Referendum Integrity Act, places additional burdens on an already difficult petition process and aims to dissuade citizens from signing onto a referendum. If HB493 passes, petition sponsors will have to create a campaign finance committee for each law that is petitioned, each signer must include their birthdate, each signature page must contain language that information is subject to public disclosure, and petition circulators must take a training course and prohibits payment per approved signature.
Meanwhile, Governor O’Malley and other Democrats through HB224 – Improving Access to Voting – are looking to relaxing the requirements needed to register to vote by allowing same day registration, expanding early voting, and allowing online access to absentee ballots.
Recently Governor O’Malley wrote, “We need to do everything we can to improve access to voting and encourage Marylanders to exercise their most fundamental right.”
So what about that other fundamental right to petition your government? Does that not exist when the result of people exercising it creates bumps in your road to the White House?
Maryland Public Policy Institute: No Need to Change Referendum Process
Capital Gazette: Some Sore Winners Are Trying to Obstruct Referendums
Maryland Reporter: Democrats Bill on Referendums Denounced as Voter Suppression by GOP Delegate
Baltimore Sun (OpEd): Democrats’ Hypocrisy on Voter Access