ANNAPOLIS – The House Republican Caucus today presented a budget alternative that maintains state services while rejecting the shift of the pension burden to counties and rejecting any tax increases.
“I’m proud of the work the minority party has done this year to produce a balanced budget that freezes spending at current levels, does not include tax increases, and does not shift the state’s expense of pensions down to the counties,” said Delegate Tony McConkey (Anne Arundel County) the ranking Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee.
The Republican budget proposal comes just days after a Doomsday proposal was presented in the House that threatens major cuts to programs and lay-offs of state employees if the General Assembly rejects taxes. The Republican proposal illustrates that with fiscal discipline, tax hikes are not necessary.
“The FY 2008 budget was $29.6 billion; the Governor’s budget proposal for this year is $35.9 billion. This is a whopping 21% increase in spending since Governor O’Malley took office,” said Delegate Kathy Szeliga (Baltimore & Harford Counties). “Although there is a tremendous amount of rhetoric coming from the Governor’s office about $7.5 billion in spending cuts, the overall picture tells a very different story.”
“Maryland’s families are struggling today, many making less than they did a few years ago,” said Delegate Sue Aumann (Baltimore Co). Citing a report produced by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Delegate Aumann continued, “Personal income in Maryland is not growing, our citizens are worried about how to put gas in their cars and food on the table. How can we ask them to pay more? Our plan will protect families and taxpayers by fundamentally freezing spending at 2012 levels.”
Delegate McConkey went on to explain the plan in more detail. “We have protected education, fire, safety and health programs and rejected lay-offs. State agencies will have to operate with the same amount of funds they received last year. Family and small business budgets are flat or declining. Government can and should live within its means just like our citizens do,” said McConkey.
Delegate Gail Bates (Howard County) pointed out, “The 21% increase in state spending has been supported on the backs of taxpayers and by relying on federal stimulus money. Now that the federal subsidies are being cut back, taxpayers paying for the widespread increases.”
With a flood of tax proposal on the table this year, Delegate Addie Eckardt (Mid-Shore) said Republicans have rejected any new taxes. “With gas prices nearing $4 a gallon and food prices soaring, I’m not sure how our constituents will pay new taxes and fees,” said Delegate Eckardt as she discussed some of the specific taxes under consideration including the quarter percent income tax increase, an enormous expansion of the sales tax into many service industries, the gas tax and other proposals.
“During these austere times, we find it hard to believe that new programs and projects would even be considered,” said Delegate Nancy Stocksdale (Carroll County). “There are 3 new transit lines, a new sports arena, along with an unaffordable off-shore wind energy project being wished-for today. I’m a senior on a fixed income and I’m telling you that government shouldn’t be spending money that seniors can’t afford to pay.”
Earlier this year members of the Republican Caucus commissioned a poll by a leading Maryland pollster that showed 96% of Marylanders think they pay enough or too much in taxes. “We are standing up for the 96%,” said Delegate Szeliga. “People across our state are telling Annapolis it is time to put the brakes on the tax and spend mentality that’s gotten us into this mess.”
Delegate McConkey summarized the Republican plan by saying, “Our budget plan works. We urge our colleagues in Annapolis to join us in holding the line on government spending to protect our families, taxpayers, and small businesses from unaffordable higher taxes and fees. Less spending equals a brighter future for Maryland.”