O’Malley/Brown Administration Gets Dizzy Spinning Jobs Numbers

It appears that the O’Malley/Brown Administration got a little dizzy while spinning the rather dismal July jobs report. Given that Maryland lost nearly 10,000 jobs last month, that’s understandable. It takes a lot of spin to try to turn that kind of job loss into anything positive.

In July, Maryland had the third worst job numbers in the country, and unemployment increased from 7% to 7.1%, while US unemployment “edged down.”

Governor O’Malley said in a statement that while the job numbers were disappointing, Maryland demonstrates “tremendous economic strength”.  He said that Maryland’s unemployment rate, while high, “remains four percent below the national average”. The Governor went on to mention, as he is wont to do, Maryland’s Triple A bond rating  – as if that’s related to jobs.

Let’s take a moment to peel back the layers of the O’Malley/Brown Administration’s self-serving rhetoric. The Unemployment Rate for the United States in July 2013 is 7.4%. Maryland’s unemployment rate rose to 7.1%. That is a 0.3% difference not a 4% difference as the Governor claims. Perhaps it is just more O’Malley/Brown Math, like their claims to have cut the budget as they have increased state spending by more than $7 billion.  They also failed to mention that the last three jobs reports have been bad for Maryland.

It is the worst kind of arrogance to tell people who have lost their jobs and families who are fighting to keep the wolves from the door that they should take comfort in the knowledge that their state has a great Triple A bond rating. What about the gas tax increase, sales tax increase, toll increases and fee increases that take money out of every family’s pocket in Maryland?  The time has long past for the O’Malley/Brown Administration to abandon the “Let Them Eat Cake” policy that has guided them, and yet they continue to repeat this nonsense while praising their progressive utopia.

Maryland’s alleged “economic strength” is as nonsensical as the rest of the drivel coming from the O’Malley/Brown Administration. If you really want to look at a state that can boast that title, you need only look across the Potomac to Virginia. Virginia is just as vulnerable to sequestration as Maryland is – if not more so. But if you compare the job numbers, you see two very different stories. Maryland’s July Unemployment rate was 7.1%, Virginia’s was 5.7%. Maryland lost 4,900 private sector jobs in July, while Virginia gained 4,100. According to the Tax Foundation, Maryland has lost more than 66,000 taxpayers between 2000 and 2010, with a loss of more than $5.5 billion in taxable income. On the other hand, Virginia gained nearly 129,000 new residents and an additional $1.1 billion in taxable income over that same time period (and before sequestration).

The reality of the situation is that the O’Malley/Brown Administration has been on a tax-and-spend frenzy since they were sworn into office in 2007. They blew through a surplus, increased taxes, tolls, and fees over 70 times and did NOTHING to soften the blow of the federal cutbacks that everyone knew were on the horizon. The havoc that the O’Malley/Brown policies will wreak on Maryland will be felt long after Governor O’Malley marches off to his next big gig. The sad part is that if the Governor had spent more time doing his job rather than running for his next job, the status of Maryland’s jobs would not be so bleak.

The House Republican Caucus realizes that tax relief is needed now if Maryland is to recover its strength and be a state where citizens can grow up, attend college, start businesses, raise families and retire without an ever-present hand in their wallets. Our Caucus is planning a significant tax relief package that will be introduced in advance of the 2014 Legislative Session. We will be sharing more details in the coming weeks.  In the meantime, citizens are encouraged to connect with us at www.houserepublicancaucus.com and www.facebook.com/mdhousegop to share their ideas and experience.

Del. Nicholaus Kipke
House Minority Leader

Del. Kathy Szeliga
House Minority Whip

House Republican Caucus Issues Statement on Pipkin Resignation

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.”

A Message from House Minority Leader Nic Kipke & House Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga

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.

House and Senate Republicans Protest July 1st Increases in Taxes, Tolls and Fees

Raining taxesOn 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.”

House Minority Leader, Nic Kipke addresses supporters and media

House Minority Leader, Nic Kipke addresses supporters and media

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.

Delegate Kathy Afzali speaks about the Gas Tax at the Frederick, Md. event.

Delegate Kathy Afzali speaks about the Gas Tax at the Frederick, Md. event.

“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.”

July 1st collage

Click on the following links for the official press releases and more detailed information about the tax, toll and fee increases. 

Bay Bridge Event Press Release
Frederick Event Press Release
Tax, Toll & Fee Increase Fact Sheets

House Republicans Issue Statement on Passing of Richard E. Hug

Annapolis – On behalf of the membership of the House Republican Caucus, Minority Leader Nic Kipke and Minority Whip Kathy Szeliga released the follow statement regarding the passing of Richard E. Hug:

“The House Republican Caucus deeply mourns the passing of Richard Hug, a great Marylander. Mr. Hug was a man of tremendous talent – in business, philanthropy, and politics.  You were fortunate to have just a conversation with him and honored if you were his friend. Words fail to describe his impact on Maryland or to describe the void his passing will leave. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Lois and their family. Mr. Hug’s legacy of dedicated community service will not soon be forgotten.”

Click here for a PDF of the official statement. 

House Republicans Elect New Leadership: Delegates Nicholaus R. Kipke and Kathy Szeliga to Serve as Minority Leader and Minority Whip

Annapolis – House Republicans elected Delegate Nicholaus R. Kipke of Anne Arundel County as House Minority Leader and Delegate Kathy Szeliga as House Minority Whip.

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New House Minority Leader, Nicholaus Kipke.

“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.

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New House Minority Whip, Kathy Szeliga

“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.

House Republican Leaders Respond to Senate President Miller’s “Neanderthal” Comments

Annapolis – House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell and House Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio issued the following statement in response to Senate President Miller’s comments earlier today on the House Republicans’ criticism of his Transportation Plan:

“We were disappointed in the remarks made by Senate President Miller earlier today. We simply disagree on a fundamental philosophical issue – that is hardly a reason to resort to name calling. However, his remarks are indicative of the lack of civil discourse that prevents good public policy from moving forward in Maryland.

We agree with President Miller that transportation needs to be a priority for the 2013 Session and applaud his efforts to bring this issue to the forefront when other Democratic leaders have not. However, we feel that his proposal is not the best option for the citizens of Maryland. We welcome the opportunity to have a productive and respectful dialogue on this issue. Anything less is a disservice to the citizens of Maryland.”

Click here for a copy of the statement.

House Republicans: Maryland Needs a Responsible Plan NOT a Gas Tax Hike

AnnapolisToday members of the House Republican Caucus made it clear that Maryland does not need a gas tax hike, but instead needs a responsible plan that addresses the actual needs of its citizens.

transpresser“As a caucus, we are appalled that Democratic leaders would again ask taxpayers to pay more when they have done nothing to curb spending and responsibly steward existing transportation revenue,” said House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell.

“If Democrats want more money for transportation, they need to stop raiding the Transportation Trust Fund,” commented Delegate Susan Krebs. “That is why we are proposing a Constitutional amendment that protects the trust fund from future raids. The bill that the Senate President has introduced does not go far enough to truly protect the Transportation Trust Fund.”

Earlier this month, Senate President Mike Miller introduced two bills on transportation. The first bill (SB 829) claims to protect the transportation trust fund, but in reality simply codifies the continued raids. The other (SB 830) adds a 3% sales tax on gasoline which, at current prices, equals a 10 cent per gallon tax hike.

How Does Maryland Commute“The problem is not a lack of money,” said Delegate Herb McMillan. “Transportation Trust Fund spending is out of alignment with Marylanders’ transportation needs. The vast majority of trust fund revenue comes from motorists, but the operating budget spends twice as much on mass transit than roads, which is only used by 8.8% of commuters. We don’t need more revenue. What we need is to ensure that revenues from motorists are spent on highways, and not on mass transit projects that most of them will never use.”

Transportation Revenue Sources“Contrary to what the O’Malley Administration continues to say, over $1 billion taken from the Transportation Trust Fund has yet to be repaid,” said Delegate Andrew Serafini. “We are calling on the Governor to repay those monies over the next three years. The Governor introduced a budget that increases spending by $500 million. If we truly have a transportation crisis, we should take $300 million of that increase and use it to restore transportation dollars. Rather than force citizens to pay more, we should do better managing the dollars we have already taken.”

Where is the Money Spent“Gas prices are projected to be over $4 per gallon by the spring,” said House Minority Whip Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. “This will have a ripple effect throughout the economy. As legislators we should be looking for solutions that make things easier for our citizens, not more difficult.”

Click here for the press release document.

House Republicans Propose Pension Reform

Annapolis – The House Republican Caucus today announced a legislative package aimed to correct the problems in Maryland’s pension system. The package calls for honest accounting of the pension fund obligation, full annual funding of the pension fund, and limiting risky investment with pension fund dollars. The plan also includes giving state employees more choice in their retirement planning and providing adequate representation for counties on the Pension Board.

“The current state of Maryland’s Pension Fund is cause for alarm,” said Delegate Steven Schuh of Anne Arundel County. “Currently, Maryland is $21 billion short of fully funding its pension obligations. The consequences of this underfunding will not only impact current and retired state employees, but also the taxpayers of Maryland. The current shortfall translates into a hidden debt obligation of $8,750 for every household in the State.”

Currently, only $37 billion of the total $58 billion pension obligation is funded. This shortfall is due to chronic annual underfunding to the pension fund as well as overestimating the expected return on pension fund investments. Risky investment strategies including, hedge funds, junk bonds and private equity, have also contributed to the problem. Continued underfunding of pension obligations could require increased taxes or program cuts to cover the shortfall. If underfunding continues long-term, it is even possible that Maryland’s retirees could see their benefit reduced or eliminated.

Bills in this legislative package are sponsored by Delegates. Steven Schuh of Anne Arundel County, Andrew Serafini of Washington County, Gail Bates of Howard County, Nic Kipke of Anne Arundel County, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio of the Eastern Shore, and Susan Aumann of Baltimore County.

“House Republicans believe that a promise made is a promise kept when it comes to employee pensions,” commented Del. Andrew Serafini of Washington County. “But, this is not a political issue. Democrats and Republicans can come together to solve this issue to keep the State’s commitment to its employees. This legislative package will put Maryland’s pension fund back on solid ground so that our state retirees will never have to worry if their pension check is going to clear and will give all state employees flexibility in how they structure their retirement planning.”

Click here for PDF of the Press Release.

Additional information available in Caucus Powerpoint Presentation and Pew Center on the States Report.