House Minority Whip Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio will deliver the Republican response to the Governor’s State of the State Speech. The response will air on MPT today following the Governor’s speech at Noon. The Governor’s speech and Delegate Haddaway-Riccio’s response can be viewed here The text of her speech is below.
Good afternoon. I’m Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio and I am a member of the Maryland House of Delegates from the 37th District on the Eastern Shore.
I was recently elected Minority Whip in the House and have therefore been afforded the privilege to address you today.
I want to thank Maryland Public Television for providing us with this opportunity and I would like to thank you – the viewers – for taking the time to listen to an alternative point of view from the Republican Caucus.
As you know, there is an important difference between hearing and listening. As voters in Maryland – you sent us a strong message in the last election.
The crux of your message was to slow government spending, improve our economy and ensure a stronger future for our State. I believe that you were also saying put the politics aside and get the job done. The Maryland Republican Party wholeheartedly agrees.
With that in mind, we expected a budget that was lean, that curbed spending and that addressed our structural deficit.
But over the past few days, legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle have noted the fact that the Governor’s budget only reduces the deficit from $1.6 billion to $1.2 billion.
While the Governor has made a start, it simply is not enough.
With spending still outpacing revenues, it will now be up to the Maryland General Assembly to do the heavy lifting.
We understand that this is not an easy task and it’s one that requires us to weigh our decisions not as Democrats or Republicans, but as representatives of the people.
The citizens of Maryland have the expectation that we restore the fiscal health of our State and get government back to its core functions and out of your everyday life.
As a Caucus, that is a responsibility that we take very seriously.
While it would be easier to sit on the sidelines and criticize, we have chosen to be leaders in this process.
Again this year, our budget recommendations significantly reduce the state’s deficit without raising taxes, without reducing vital services and without harming vulnerable populations.
These accomplishments highlight key differences in our philosophy and approach.
We agree with the Governor’s decision to end state employee furloughs, but to provide every state employee with a $750 bonus and five more days of paid vacation in the midst of a $1.2 billion deficit is irresponsible – especially if it is being paid for with a tax on hospital patients and nursing home residents.
Similarly, we agree with the Governor on the urgent need for pension reform. This is particularly important given the fact that our pension shortfall has grown to billions of dollars.
But the savings achieved from that reform should be re-invested in the fund to ensure solvency in the system. Employees who have worked hard for many years deserve the peace of mind that their retirement will be there when the time comes.
We also oppose the continued practice of raiding funds to fuel new spending. In the Governor’s FY2012 budget, dedicated tax payer dollars in the Transportation Trust Fund and the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund will again be diverted for other purposes.
At the same time, Democratic leaders are seeking to increase taxes and fees for these funds. How can we – in good conscience – expect taxpayers to entrust their money to these purposes when the funds are continually raided for new spending?
In examining the capital budget, we looked at its effect on our State’s long term debt. Many legislative members, including myself, have important projects that we would like to have funded, but in light of the economic times we face, our Caucus has asked that these projects not be funded.
We believe this to be a more measured approach that provides breathing room and security for the future.
The Governor also focused on the need to create and retain jobs in the State of Maryland.
Maryland is fortunate to have economic engines such as the Port of Baltimore and lucrative industries such as biotechnology and cyber security. Our beautiful natural resources also allow us to benefit from tourism, film and the arts.
But addressing the regulatory entanglements and the tax climate in our state would allow us to grow exponentially. In a time of global competition, we cannot afford to enact policies that cause Maryland to be at a disadvantage.
All time high unemployment insurance rates and the prospect of more government intervention in wage setting and employment practices will be devastating to our small businesses.
Also of concern is our rush to be first in enacting Federal health care reform. It’s important for health care to be affordable and accessible, but creating a new state agency and a government-run health care exchange costs money, adds bureaucracy and risks Maryland jobs.
If we must be first, we believe that a privately run exchange would create robust competition among the private sector – to lower health care costs. Medical liability reform and modernized reimbursement rates are other important policies that should be the focus of any health reform agenda.
Lastly, I would also like to take the time to offer our perspective on Maryland’s energy policy. In our view, a diversified energy portfolio is essential to providing affordable, reliable and sustainable power to our State.
Off Shore wind, solar, geothermal and other renewable energies are important components. But they are not mutually exclusive to other sources of energy.
A new nuclear power plant at Calvert Cliffs will also bring jobs and clean power and a broader solution to Maryland’s energy needs.
All of these policy considerations highlight what we deem the most important to our State at this time.
As leaders, we must make sound decisions with an eye toward limited government, supporting private sector growth and reducing the tax burden on our citizens.
Ingenuity, determination and the dignity of a strong workforce will lead us to better times – not government intervention, bureaucracy and the old, tired tax and spend mentality.
We see a bright light at the end of the tunnel. As Marylanders and Americans, we have done it before and we can do it again – but not without participation and true leadership from all branches of government and from both sides of the aisle.
As your Republican Caucus, we gladly accept that responsibility and will strive to meet that responsibility to build a strong foundation for future generations.
Thank you again for hearing our viewpoint.
May God bless you, may he bless the State of Maryland and may he bless the United States of America.