There are a couple of stories just in the last few days telling us how serious Maryland’s financial woes are. I hadn’t planned to post them because most readers of PTPR are on top of these stories every day, but since the Washington County Republicans are on a wild spending spree I thought maybe they hadn’t seen them.
For new readers the Republican County Commission has resurrected a 24-mile ($1 million per mile) trail scheme for a select group of special interests (bike riders and as yet to be determined other recreationists)—a plan that property owners deep-sixed two decades ago. This was a plan that was first proposed by a Democrat Governor (Southern Washington County was to be the “Inner harbor of the West”), and his Democrat lackeys in Washington County in the early 1990’s.
(Unfortunately, I have no time here to go into the nutty stadium idea for downtown Hagerstown, but it too is a real dog.)
Here is the first headline the Commissioners must have missed:
Maryland state spending is growing more than four times faster than the national average, according to a new report.
A biannual study from the National Governors Association and the National Association of State Budget Officers projects Maryland’s spending to grow 13.6 percent this fiscal year, while states nationwide operate under budgets projected to increase 3.3 percent.
In comparison, Virginia spending will increase 6.1 percent by the end of June — nearly twice the national average — or about half as much as its Potomac rival. Maryland’s rate of spending growth is eclipsed by just three states: North Dakota, Alaska and Tennessee.
The Maryland operating budget has grown about $7 billion in the last five years.
And critics say the report showcases that Maryland has failed to rein in spending while raising taxes on residents to fill massive and chronic budget shortfalls.
Maryland shed 7,500 jobs in May, the third-highest loss in the nation for the month.
And here is the other one:
Maryland has one of the worst-funded pension systems in the country, with its retirement and health liabilities growing to $71 billion, after lawmakers paid less into the system than what was owed for years, according to a new report.
The state’s funding level ranked worse than just 11 other states in 2010, as Maryland had paid only 64 percent of what it owed to retirees in pension benefits, according to a newly released report from the Pew Center on the States. The system’s liabilities increased $2 billion from the previous year.
By comparison, Virginia’s pension funding level ranked in line with the national average, at 72 percent.
The Pew Center rated both Virginia and Maryland’s stewardship of their pension systems as “cause for serious concern.”
“These states cannot sit back and hope the stock market bails them out, especially as baby boomers retire,” said David Draine, a senior researcher with the Pew Center. Critics say the states also are banking on projections for their investment returns that are much too rosy.
But its o.k.! When the doo-doo hits the fan, Washington Countians can take their minds off their woes by riding bikes, watching ball games and hanging out in the new fancy library and senior center with the rest of the homeless people!
See our whole category of posts for background on the boondoggle, here.