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Can Tea Parties Bring Common Sense to Our State Capitals?

The next session of the Maryland General Assembly will convene on January 13. Presumably this month the Republicans members of both chambers (numbering 36 delegates and 14 state senators) will be giving some thought to their policy priorities before they caucus on January 12.

We hope that the various Maryland Tea Parties and Rallies are already putting together a list of their concerns to bring to Annapolis, and to the county seats and city halls of the Old Line State.

Last April 13 we asked "Is A New Pork Express Just Leaving the Annapolis Station?"

 

"Didn't somebody talk about a Tax Day Tea Party this coming Wednesday? Something about too much spending? Or was that just about Washington, D.C. behavior?"

Faithful readers know we have been writing for some time here for example about state taxing, spending, regulatory, and transparency improvements. Today we offer one modest proposal.

Read (and Post) the Bill!

"Read the Bill" is just as applicable to state legislators as to members of the United States Congress.

This maxim should be reinforced in Annapolis by giving everyone - including minority-party lawmakers outside the "loop," not just the key insiders in the fiscal process - time to digest the leadership's proposed versions of both the operating and the capital budgets (as well as any tax hikes).

A constructive start: posting on the internet the texts of these proposals (together with each one's current Fiscal and Policy Note) at least three days before they are voted on by each chamber.

Why Nearly Every Legislator in 2005 and 2006 OK'd Tax Dollars for CASA?

On December 27, 2007, we wrote about two grants for CASA of Maryland that few Maryland conservatives likely favored but which were parts of capital budget bills that no one voted against and apparently few read.

"The CASA project (click here and here) received approval for $100,000 in state debt in 2005 and for $300,000 in state debt in 2006. Thus a nearly unanimous Maryland General Assembly voted for this project (among very many others) two years running."

. . . . .

"Does all this signify that every member voting for the two capital budget bills that included the CASA bond provisions (among many other bond provisions) wished to make Maryland a magnet state for illegals? Hardly.

But it does tell us that the Maryland political establishment is still asleep at the fiscal switch when it comes to spending other people's money, and that both General Assembly parties savor local pork.

Many of the local bond-bill projects are arguably worthy endeavors - - - for private donors. Some may be defensible for public funding. But it is a stretch to burden Maryland taxpayers with debts for undertakings far removed from the core roles of state and local government.

Click here and here and here for more details on recent [late 2007] Maryland local pork. Read here about The Steamboat to Nowhere which received $450,000 just in state money since 2004, and a proposed $300,000 from the Worcester County Commissioners. Click here to read about a Calvert County project, Annemarie Garden, sponsored by the House of Delegates Republican leader which non-profit enterprise has received $250,000 since 2006, just in state money. and a proposed $500,000 from Calvert County.

One expects the Other Team, with its almost religious belief in growing and ever more intrusive government, to provide 'bread and circuses' in every way and at all levels imaginable. Just eyeball, for example, current Montgomery County's legislative bond-bill projects here: a music hall, a riding park, a labor college, and so forth."

. . . . .

"It shows a lack of respect for Maryland voters, however, when General Assembly Republicans decry overspending by governor O'Malley and the Democrats while complicitly pushing their own pet local taxpayer-paid schemes. More and more Congressional Republicans are beginning to get it about pork. It is time for Maryland Republican legislators to follow suit - - - and listen to fiscal-reform leaders like Senator Tom Coburn and Representative Jeff Flake on the national scene."

A Park for Affluent Doggies

Here are some very questionable 2009 Maryland capital expenditures we highlighted last April 22, projects that only a handful in the General Assembly voted against:

"All Republicans who voted for this year's capital budget thereby also voted for this 'miscellaneous' set of larger capital projects - well, see for yourself !

Here are a few:

Z00L Misc: Lyric Opera House - Stage House Expansion $1,500,000
Z00M Misc: Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts 500,000
Z00Q Misc: National Children's Museum 1,500,000
Z00R Misc: Park Heights Revitalization 1,500,000
Z00V Misc: WestSide Revitalization 2,000,000

Plus $3,000,000 for An Affluent Doggies Park?

Z00S Misc: Robert E. Lee Park 3,000,000

'The request is for planning and construction funding for improvement to Robert E. Lee Park - a 415-acre park used primarily by dog owners for recreating with their pets in and around the adjacent Lake Roland.'"

And what is the bigger picture in the Maryland capital budget?

"How much money has the 'prevailing wage' requirement added to construction costs? (A great deal, as former comptroller Schaefer declared in February of 2000: "There is also information reflecting that prevailing wage laws may add as much as 20% to 30%.") Why haven't public-private partnerships been widely used in Maryland public-school construction? How many large capital-budget items are really priorities for using taxpayer money today?"

Sunshine - through the internet - on proposed spending and tax bills, several days before their final consideration in the House of Delegates and Maryland Senate, could help head-off ridiculous expenditures like Doggie Parks, complicate back-room log-rolling, and bring whole classes of spending (like 'prevailing wage' rules) under greater scrutiny

One-party state administrations like those of Maryland can lead the minority as well as the majority astray. How many Maryland Republican legislators on key General Assembly panels would echo one Republican member's confession we learned of: "I finally have a seat at the table, so I don't want to rock the boat by complaining about spending (or whatever)?"

Stay tuned for more modest proposals for this session of the General Assembly - - in both Maryland and Virginia!

It is clear that Maryland Tea Parties have their work cut out for them in Annapolis this coming year.

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