Posted by: Ann Corcoran | December 27, 2010

2011: Maryland’s year of reckoning

The Washington Post has an article today about the hell coming to the Maryland budget process and to the Governor, Martin O’Malley, when he tries to solve the state’s financial woes while fending off the Leftwing special interests who helped elect him.  If there was a silver lining in the Republican loss of the governor’s race, this is it.  There is going to be hell to pay all around.

The Post:

To close Maryland’s next budget gap, Gov. Martin O’Malley is considering across-the-board cuts in local education funding, a reduction in payments to mental health providers who serve the poor and a shift of hundreds of millions of dollars in teacher pension costs to the counties, which already face their own fiscal problems.

Those and other cost-saving measures – all recommended by the governor’s budget advisers – underscore the unpopular choices O’Malley (D) faces as he prepares to submit a balanced spending plan for fiscal 2012 next month.

O’Malley, who won reelection Nov. 2, spent much of his first term making largely recession-driven budget cuts. But even as the economy shows signs of recovering, Maryland and other states are facing arguably their most difficult budget season yet.

The difficulty is partly because of the evaporation of billions in federal stimulus funds that have propped up state budgets nationwide for the past two years. And repeated rounds of budget-cutting have left few easy alternatives, even in Maryland, which is in better shape than many other states.  [and in much worse shape than others!–ed]

I’m still predicting Martin O’Malley, likely to become very unpopular through the gruesome slashing process about to begin, will slip into his next political gig by benefiting from the surely soon-to-be-retiring US Senator Barbara Mikulski and her vacated seat.

The Post’s Maryland reporter, John Wagner, ends his lengthy discussion of O’Malley’s budgetary dilemma with this quote from Sen. Thomas M. Middleton (D-Charles):

“I keep telling people this is the year of reckoning,” Middleton said. “We don’t have any pockets of loose change anywhere. . . . I’m glad I’m not the governor.”

Indeed!

The slots did not come through for O’Malley

Governor O’Malley, like Bob Ehrlich before him, latched on to the gambling industry as the panacea to save Maryland from a budget crisis.  They gambled wrong.  Coincidentally, just today, I came across this lengthy discussion of the failure of the slots initiative to produce gobs of cash (the article was originally published in early November) and it is timely in light of this Washington Post story.   Everyone should save the link to “Maryland’s Gambling Governors” about the history of how governors go wrong when they look for the easy way out.

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Responses

  1. I was one of those people who voted against slots when it came up, but there were passionate people on both sides of the debate.

    I’m sure the experience in Maryland is similar, but years ago when Ohio instituted its lottery with the instant scratch-off tickets (and eventually, lotto) they were supposed to help pay for new schools and education – yet, later on when the argument was whether to raise the sales tax to pay for new schools it was revealed that the lottery raised less than 10 percent of education dollars.

    As I wrote in 2008 in a post opposing the issue, my biggest problem with Maryland’s system was its inflexibility (since it’s a Constitutional amendment as opposed to a legislative initiative.) The linked post Ann refers to today points out correctly that we are already behind a number of other states who have adopted table games and sports betting.

    (The link: http://monoblogue.us/2008/10/28/on-the-question-of-slots/)

    I don’t think we will ever meet expectations for the revenue; meanwhile, the little bit of local help it may give Cecil and Worcester counties (Ocean Downs opens its slot barn January 4th) will likely be outweighed by a drain on social services for surrounding areas.

    Scratch-offs lose their glitz and glamour for the newest, coolest thing, but the state is still taxing the poor and depending on this to fill the budget. It’s shameful.


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