Sunday, February 27, 2011

Counterfeit Journalism and Journalists: the Wisconsin Case of Ian Murphy's Call to Governor Scott Walker

--Richard E. Vatz

There is a major difference between journalists who are reasonably honest brokers and those who distort their opponents' positions or who leave out major arguments of those with whom they disagree. I wrote recently on this blog regarding the intellectual dishonesty of the indisputably brilliant New York Times' Paul Krugman regarding the Wisconsin public-employee union-Governor Walker dispute.

There are also those opinion-writers who ignore dishonesty not just in argument, but also in the pseudo-journalism utilized in acquiring information, including pseudo-journalism performed by non-journalists. Granted, though, ill-begotten information may include valid evidence despite its source.

The counterfeit interview by "Buffalo Beast" blogger Ian Murphy, who fraudulently claimed to be billionaire David Koch, a major contributor to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, is one in which Gov. Walker responds with mild tough talk about public unions and Wisconsin Democratic senators to his interlocutor, whom he assumes to be major donor Koch. "Koch" is profane and provides provocative, low-class sniggering, apparently trying to entice Gov. Walker to respond in kind.

A Rorschach test for pundits, the dishonest call earned Murphy the admiring label on CNN of "The Most Intriguing Person of the Day," an honor bravely criticized by Howard Kurtz of the same network and the blog "Daily Beast" (no relation to Murphy's blog). In addition the interview was hailed repeatedly on MSNBC as revelatory of Gov. Walker's under-the-veneer wolf's clothing and worse.

On the other hand, Ezra Klein, The Washington Post's liberal blogger, wrote honestly, "To Walker's credit, he doesn't say anything incriminating. When Murphy/Koch offers to plant demonstrators, Walker declines. The worst you can say is that when Murphy/Koch makes a lewd comment about Mika Brzezinski, Walker doesn't challenge him on it. But that portion reads to me as Walker politely grunting in response to an odd provocation. I imagine politicians are pretty good at gently moving the conversation along when their contributors say crazy things."

That is exactly right: when politicians beholden to contributors do not speak up to announce their own objection to consistently over-the-top rhetoric, it is because they think they are stylistically and sometimes morally superior to their tasteless supporters -- and they are. They could be purer than thou, but that may well sacrifice the support.

Are there times when supporters go so far that such professed outrage is called for despite the consequences? Yes, but not when they swear or slightly exaggerate the evil of their common adversaries.

Mr. Klein provides one significant criticism of Gov. Walker, that "The state's Democratic senators cannot get Walker on the phone..." but "David Koch" can. Sorry, but that is hardly political news; probably this is Mr. Klein's concession to his Democratic supporters.

Is Gov. Walker heroic in his conversation with "David Koch?" No. Is he in the top ten percentile of politicians with integrity?

You bet. And Ezra Klein is not heroic in his honesty either, but he is in the top ten percentile of honest, if misguided, journalists (his JournoList misjudgment notwithstanding).

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

More below the fold.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

"Freedom is just another word..."

For those who believe the public sector unions when they say their spoon banging tantrums are about "freedom," think again.

From the mouth of Maryland Democratic Senator Mac Middleton

"It's labor and trial lawyers that get Democrats in office. And you don't bite off the hand that feeds you." [emphasis mine]

Public sector unions are upset that taxpayers have finally awakened and are no longer willing to pay for the privilege of underwriting their political power.

More below the fold.

Maryland Democrats Propose Putting the Screws to Middle Class

From my latest Washington Examiner Local Opinion Zone post

Six state senators, all Democrats, have introduced an alternative budget package consisting of $827 million in tax increases, what they call the “Maryland First” plan. They claim their plan will help “move Maryland forward.” However, it’s a recipe for more pain for Maryland’s working families.

The individual bills include a 12 cents increase in the gasoline tax, a 10 cents, increase in the alcohol tax, a dollar increase in the cigarette tax, reinstatement of the millionaire’s tax, and combined reporting for multistate corporations.

Senator Paul Pinsky from Prince George’s County said the proposals are intended to expand the conversation about balancing the budget and to reduce the pain in the budget cuts.” Right senator, because the $1.4 billion 2007 special session tax increase—the largest in Maryland history—finally brought the state’s finances into structural balance.

Another cosponsor, Pinsky’s county colleague Jim Rosapepe, told the Associated Press that the impetus for the tax package came from a meeting earlier this month with Governor Martin O’Malley, who told Democratic senators he would keep an open mind about new taxes proposed by the legislature.

O’Malley keeping an “open mind” is a euphemism for weaseling out of his promise not to raise taxes. O’Malley even failed to make good on his promise to propose a budget without a tax increase. The newly minted darling of the national Democratic Party is simply letting the General Assembly do his dirty work for him, in order to hoodwink the rest of the nation that he isn’t a prolific tax hiker.

These senators should be forced to bear the burden of the gas tax themselves, as they are responsible as is O’Malley for raiding hundreds of millions of dollars from the transportation trust fund. Had these politicians shown some fiscal discipline in the past, Maryland would be paying for transportation projects with cash instead of bond debt.

We should have no faith that increasing the alcohol tax will achieve the results it’s proponents claim. In 2007, the very same people touted similar claims for a tobacco tax increase, yet revenue from the tax fell $117 million short of projections. These taxes also disproportionately hurt the poor. Reducing smoking and alcohol consumption are merely vapid justifications used by people like Maryland Health Care for All honcho, Vinny DeMarco for increasing these taxes. Their real goal is expanding government run healthcare, which is why they come back time and again for increased sin taxes. In reality, people like DeMarco end up helping Phillip Morris solidify their monopolies.

Maryland’s ever-mobile millionaires speak volumes about the efficacy of such a tax. Furthermore, it’s not just millionaire’s Maryland’s high taxes are driving out of the state. According to IRS data compiled by the Tax Foundation over 67, 431 people fled Maryland for bordering, lower tax states.

O’Malley initially floated combined reporting in his raft of special session tax increases in 2007. However he jettisoned the plan, and for good reason. A Ernst and & Young analysis of O’Malley’s initial tax plan revealed this about combined reporting:

· The option would result in a decrease of 18.3 jobs per $1 million tax increase in 2012.

· The static income tax increase would decrease Maryland employment by -587 jobs in 2012; job losses will increase to -641 by 2017.

· The tax option would decrease personal income by $37 million in 2012 and $50 million in 2017.

Fellow “Maryland First” supporter, Senator Jaime Raskin said the plan would continue “investment in the social infrastructure.” That pabulum may fly with his amen corner of progressives, but what these taxes will do is further tear the fabric of Maryland’s middle class.

More below the fold.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It Aint About the Cow

Some Queen Anne's County politics for you.

The Baltimore Sun, and even the Drudge Report picked up the total non-story that is MDGOP First Vice Chair Diana Waterman’s black angus cow “Oprah.” There is, of course, a lot of bovine waste floating around this manufactured tempest in a teapot, but none of it is coming from the cow.

The real story here isn’t the cow as the Sun thinks, but about Queen Anne’s County ne'er-do-well, Sveinn Storm ginning up a controversy where none exists to smear Waterman in order to sink County Ordinance 11-02, which the Queen Anne’s County Board of Commissioners approved Tuesday night.

Storm and his pack of shrieking anti-growth harpies were opposed to the measure, which allows the party central committees to fill vacancies on the Queen Anne’s County Board of Commissioners. A similar system exists for vacancies in the General Assembly. The governor appoints replacements recommended by the county central committee of the party holding the particular seat.

Duly elected pro-growth Republicans dominate the Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee. Waterman is not only First Vice Chair of the Maryland GOP, but a member of the county central committee as well. Get the picture.

Storm and his ally Dan Worth claim that their opposition to the ordinance is all about democracy. Worth writes:

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have an opportunity to vote to fill a County Commissioner vacancy rather than have the selection made by who knows who.

Does Dan Worth, an active ally and neighbor of Sveinn Storm really think he can fool people into thinking he actually doesn’t know who is on the Queen Anne’s County Republican Central Committee? Quite cheeky for a guy who was busted for impersonating an elected official to be talking about “who knows who.”

In a letter so full of specious legal reasoning not seen since William O. Douglas wrote about emanations from penumbras, Storm demanded the committee turn over documents under the Maryland Public Information Act. An official from the Attorney General’s office assured me that county political central committees are not subject the law.

What Storm, Worth and the anti-growthers are really worried about is power. The commissioner’s election didn’t go their way, so they’re left with nothing but juvenile tricks and smear campaigns.

Storm and his anti-growth crowd are a fifth column, in what Senator EJ Pipkin and, Delegate Mike Smigiel call the war on rural Maryland.

Economic growth no matter how sensible or how needed is spat upon, and property rights are held in contempt--except their own of course. They know no boundary of decency or propriety, opponents are to be demonized at all costs.

Read more at the Queen Anne's Torch

More below the fold.

AFSCME's Truthiness Problem

Just before Maryland public sector unions held a solidarity rally in Annapolis for their peers in Wisconsin, Patrick Moran, Director of the Maryland chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) was kind enough to answer some questions. See video below

I asked Moran about the connection between public sector employee collective bargaining and the huge pension and retiree healthcare liabilities that not just Wisconsin but the entire nation faces. Moran replied that Wisconsin’s pension plan is 98 percent funded. However, that is only true if you believe overly optimistic government assumptions.

In 2010, official estimates did state Wisconsin’s pension system was 100 percent funding. However, analysis by the Manhattan Institute revealed that the Wisconsin Retirement System is only 72% funded. Using more accurate asset growth projection rates—required for private sector plans—and accounting for WRS’ use of “smoothing,” an accounting gimmick, which allows pension systems to hide losses, the Manhattan Institute found a $10.9 billion shortfall.

Maryland’s State Retirement and Pension System recently adopted smoothing to hide $4.7 billion in system losses between 2008-2009. The system’s outgoing investment officer received over $95,000 in bonuses for this performance. Maryland’s pension system is underfunded by $18 billion. Add that to the $16 billion in underfunded retiree health care benefits and taxpayers are on the hook for $34 billion in pension and health care costs. That gap is roughly the same size as Governor Martin O’Malley’s fiscal year 2012 budget proposal.

The Pew Center for the States estimates a trillion dollar gap nationally between what the states owe in pension obligations and the amount actually funded.

Moran also argued that the issue isn’t about Wisconsin’s budget deficit as Governor Scott Walker has stated. Moran said Walker “just gave huge corporate tax breaks to businesses and corporations, so of course there’s a funding problem there now.” Yet again Mr. Moran isn’t entirely right on the facts. While Walker did indeed offer business tax credits, they did not cause Wisconsin’s budget deficit. As Politifact noted in rebuking MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, the idea that Walker’s tax credits created the deficit is false because they haven’t taken effect yet and are not part of the current deficit.

The truth of the matter is that through collective bargaining, public sector unions, in Wisconsin and elsewhere, arrogate more and more money from the taxpayers. Turning involuntary dues into campaign cash, public sector unions purchase the very Democratic politicians (ostensibly there to represent the taxpayers) they sit across the negotiating table with to divvy up even more taxpayer money.

At the rally Senate President Mike Miller said, “This is about power.” He’s right because taxpayers have finally decided to stop subsidizing the political power of public sector unions.

More below the fold.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why Marriage Matters and Why Moral Libertarianism is a Recipe for Political and Practical Failure

For those reading this blog as we have occasionally dealt with the issue of gay marriage, etc. in this year's session, you may have come to the conclusion that our "Premier blog of conservative and Republican politics and ideas" is a libertarian shell devoid of any positive acknowledgement of the traditionalists who are so vital to our conservative cause.

If so, let me, in the paragraphs that follow, destroy that notion. Let me also rebut the political advice of my friend Mr. Griffiths, who does not believe that our movement is served by the determined and principled defense of traditional marriage or, I expect, most other cultural issues emanating from what he politely dismisses as our "moral or religious objections".

The determined opposition by conservatives to the most radical gay marriage bill ever seriously considered by the General Assembly is, despite my erstwhile colleague's admonition to the contrary, both good policy and good politics.

Let us keep in mind, the purpose of this bill is not to provide homosexual couples the same rights as married heterosexual couples, something that could be accomplished by an alternative civil union. Its clear and unambiguous purpose is to redefine the institution of marriage in Maryland and make homosexuality the moral equivalent of heterosexuality. It is not in the eyes of the law alone that the "gay rights" movement has been pushing for such recognition. Their revolution has been ongoing for years in not only every statehouse but every classroom, courtroom, house of worship and in every institution from the American Psychiatric Association to the Boy Scouts. The end of this movement is not the tolerance of homosexuality, that already exists. It is the moral recognition and compelled acceptance of the lifestyle. A fact evidenced by the need to disingenuously title this bill the "Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Act". The sponsors of this legislation were forced to amend their proposal obstensibly to prevent clergy from being forced to perform marriages which have never been legal in Maryland's nearly 400 year existence. But these protections are inadequate and are not designed to prevent the irreversible damage which will be done to a great many institutions caused by the passage of this bill.

Given the radical nature of this proposal, all Republican members of the General Assembly should oppose it with all of their energies, including an attempt at filibuster. Conservatives must remember those who were complicit in allowing the institution of marriage to be redefined and the fundamental building block of our civil society to be not only further eroded but perhaps irretrievably broken. They should not allow those who claim to be against the proposal to vote for cloture only to later vote against the bill. This is an old trick and a shameful one.

The fallout from the passage of this bill will not be the glorious explosion of freedom and civil rights asserted by its supporters. Nor will it be the benign alteration of an anachronistic and individual arrangement that those, like my well-meaning friend Mr. Griffiths, believe it will be.

Look at any part of this country where the traditional family is weakest, where you have the fewest number of children raised by a mother and a father who are married to each other. Those communities are the least prosperous, the least safe and the least free. It isn't that gay marriage will in and of itself destroy communities. It is that the degradation of traditional marriage and the traditional family unit has undeniably resulted the destruction of a great many communities and the perpetuation of this societal trend cannot honestly be expected to lead to a brighter future.

Failing to fight to defend the traditional institution of marriage is also bad politics. The passage of this legislation will spark a backlash and electrify morally conservative voters as no issue in Maryland ever has. The electoral casualties from this vote will not be Republicans who voted against the measure or who fought it tooth and nail but any member Republican or Democrat haling from anything short of the most culturally liberal of enclaves. Many a faux conservative Democrat will be exposed by allowing this measure to be voted upon. If this were not the case, the Democratic leadership of the General Assembly would not have avoided allowing such a bill to advance in the past and would not have convinced their most liberal members to hold off in hope, ultimately forlorn, that the courts would take them "off the hook." These same leaders would not still oppose the bill being proposed.

Remember also that every state where there has been a direct vote to allow gay marriage traditional marriage has prevailed, even in liberal strongholds like California. There is no evidence that popular sentiment on this issue is so vastly different in Maryland that Republicans and conservatives should not see this debate as anything other than a political opportunity.

But Brian's sentiments are not unique within our movement. The alternative guiding political philosophy favored by my friend, which seeks to demur to the culturally radical elements of our liberal opponents is what I will describe and term "Moral Libertarianism". As Brian analyzes it

"1.Young voters don't buy into it. In my position on the Executive Board of the Maryland Young Republicans I speak often with voters who are fiscally conservative, but do not buy into the idea of using the apparatus of the state to deny individual liberties to anybody, especially when two consenting adults who aren't hurting anybody else are involved.

2.The Tea Party. Guess what? A lot of tea partiers are libertarian leaners who don't believe that the apparatus of the state should be used to punish individuals, either. Tea Partiers are folks who believe in less government and personal responsibility, and that is their ideological lodestar. Opposition to gay marriage oft-times runs opposite of that. "

Brian is an unapologetic advocate of a secular, libertarian strain of conservatism. The Moral Libertarian sees talk of "moral issues" as a barrier to growing the conservative movement. After all, young people"don't buy it". By this rationale, the culture wars of today, including gay marriage, will be a quaint historical relic of the past in another 20 or so years as the Hegelian wheel of history advances a new generation not interested in such trivialities.

While it is easy to see why a political philosophy that opposes any moral restriction, that says you can do what you want with whomever you want, smoke what you want and generally opposing anything that may harsh one's mellow would be popular in a late night dorm room discussion, it isn't much of a basis to form a society. Legalizing drugs, prostitution, promoting abortion on demand, elimination any sexual prohibition including even the eradication of marriage itself may seem radically liberating but it ain't a world most people would want to live in let alone try to raise children. And let's face it, that is a major focus of the lives of most adults and they really are not interested in voting for people who are antithetically opposed to making that job a little easier.

The founders of this country believed in limited government with defined constitutional powers and checks and balances to prevent the accumulation of power. They also recognized, as Adams put it,

"We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other." --October 11, 1798

Moral Libertarianism ignores this admonition. It is a recipe for Political and Practical Failure.

More below the fold.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Wrong Hill

More than likely this is the week that the State Senate will take up the gay marriage bill, probably starting on Wednesday. I think my position on gay marriage is reasonably well established going back several years, and that's part of the point that I am making here today.

One of the things that is being discussed is that opponents will launch a filibuster to stop the bill. No don't get me wrong, I may support gay marriage but I do respect the opinions of my Republican friends and colleagues who have moral or religious objections to gay marriage. But with all of that being said, this is the wrong hill to die on: Republicans should not filibuster this bill.

Now you might take that with a grain of salt coming from somebody who supports gay marriage: don't get my wrong, I think opposing the bill is bad policy and bad politics. But a filibuster is purely bad politics, and there is very good reason for that. Whether or not the filibuster is successful (which I have a feeling that several of those opposing the bill WILL vote for cloture), the bill is going to pass. If the bill does pass, foes of gay marriage will undoubtedly be able to collect the signatures to petition the bill to ballot; this isn't an esoteric issue like speed cameras, so there will be droves of people who are willing to sign their name to such a petition drive.

So what does it mean? It means that filibuster or not, we wind up in the same place. So as far as the filibuster goes, gay marriage is the wrong hill to die on.

That being said, there is a place for the filibuster in Annapolis this year; the multitude of tax increases that are worming their way through the General Assembly. The reason that this is a more appropriate place for a filibuster is simple; fiscal bills such as tax increases cannot be petitioned to referendum. The filibuster is the only weapon that the fiscally responsible have to stop the infliction of further harm on Maryland's middle and working class families. And Democrats who are inclined to oppose further tax increases are not going to put themselves into a position that would see them support two filibusters during the same General Assembly session.

Gay marriage is the wrong issue to use the filibuster on this year; it's the tax increases where we should be using this particular weapon.

More below the fold.

Krugman Sophistry

--Richard E. Vatz

There has long been a special contempt in my heart for The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman because he is an extremely intelligent man, and the illogic which inhabits his columns is nowhere near as evident (I did not say it was non-existent) in his appearances on This Week, wherein George F. Will apparently keeps him only mildly specious. Thus, he appears to know when he exercises his sophistry.

So, I am simply going to provide you, conservative reader (or just honest reader), with his column today with my annotations.

Wisconsin Power Play

February 21, 2011

Last week, in the face of protest demonstrations [no reference to their incivility which liberal Democrats claim to be the province of conservative Tea Party members] against Wisconsin’s new union-busting governor, Scott Walker — demonstrations that continued through the weekend, with huge crowds on Saturday — Representative Paul Ryan made an unintentionally apt comparison: “It’s like Cairo has moved to Madison.” [Fine, it is inapt; typical belaboring of a writing weak point that is irrelevant to the issue.]

It wasn’t the smartest thing for Mr. Ryan to say, since he probably didn’t mean to compare Mr. Walker, a fellow Republican, to Hosni Mubarak. Or maybe he did — after all, quite a few prominent conservatives, including Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Rick Santorum, denounced the uprising in Egypt and insist that President Obama should have helped the Mubarak regime suppress it. [We're now two paragraphs into the column on this irrelevancy.]

In any case, however, Mr. Ryan was more right than he knew. For what’s happening in Wisconsin isn’t about the state budget, despite Mr. Walker’s pretense that he’s just trying to be fiscally responsible. It is, instead, about power. [They are simply not mutually exclusive. Is there a power component? Yes. Is it the primary issue? What is the evidence that it is?] What Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to do is to make Wisconsin — and eventually, America — less of a functioning democracy and more of a third-world-style oligarchy. [name-calling...will there be any substantive support of this argument? Republicans won the election and seats; it was the Democrats who left town; what is anti-democratic about what they’ve (Walker and Republicans) done?] And that’s why anyone who believes that we need some counterweight to the political power of big money should be on the demonstrators’ side. [non-sequitur and begging the question of whose "big money" is the issue]

Some background: Wisconsin is indeed facing a budget crunch, although its difficulties are less severe than those facing many other states. [latter point is not relevant to the issue] Revenue has fallen in the face of a weak economy, while stimulus funds, which helped close the gap in 2009 and 2010, have faded away.

In this situation, it makes sense to call for shared sacrifice, including monetary concessions from state workers. And union leaders have signaled that they are, in fact, willing to make such concessions. [Oh? Mr. Krugman, precisely what concessions by union leaders -- say Mark Miller -- are being bandied about, and when were they bandied?]

But Mr. Walker isn’t interested in making a deal. [he won the election – what specific compromise is democratic and what policy is not? When unions had untrammeled power, what compromise did they make?] Partly that’s because he doesn’t want to share the sacrifice: even as he proclaims that Wisconsin faces a terrible fiscal crisis, he has been pushing through tax cuts that make the deficit worse. Mainly, however, he has made it clear that rather than bargaining with workers, he wants to end workers’ ability to bargain. [No, they can still bargain on wages, just not at the public trough for health and retirement, and the public can reject demands for wages, like any employer.]

The bill that has inspired the demonstrations would strip away collective bargaining rights for many of the state’s workers, in effect busting public-employee unions [why should public employee unions have power to hold the public hostage when there is insufficient representation of the citizens of the state? If a union demands too much in the private sector, the employees run the risk of bankrupting the company.]. Tellingly, some workers — namely, those who tend to be Republican-leaning [give some examples if you’re going to make the argument of preferential treatment – a potentially acceptable argument]— are exempted from the ban; it’s as if Mr. Walker were flaunting the political nature of his actions.

Why bust the unions [Mr. Krugman, you don’t phrase a utilitarian argument by citing possible ancillary effects – say why the original position is incorrect. If one is arguing that public unions are stealing money from the public, the answer isn’t, “Hey stop! You’re going to cripple the unions]” ? As I said, it has nothing to do with helping Wisconsin deal with its current fiscal crisis. Nor is it likely to help the state’s budget prospects even in the long run: contrary to what you may have heard, public-sector workers in Wisconsin and elsewhere are paid somewhat less than private-sector workers with comparable qualifications, so there’s not much room for further pay squeezes. [Not an irrelevant claim, but the opposite has been argued – provide evidence, and one should be suspicious of the phrase “somewhat less”]

So it’s not about the budget; it’s about the power. [Again, the article's seminal non sequitur]

In principle, every American citizen has an equal say in our political process. In practice, of course, some of us are more equal than others. Billionaires can field armies of lobbyists; they can finance think tanks that put the desired spin on policy issues; they can funnel cash to politicians with sympathetic views (as the Koch brothers did in the case of Mr. Walker). On paper, we’re a one-person-one-vote nation; in reality, we’re more than a bit of an oligarchy, in which a handful of wealthy people dominate. [Right, there is inequality in influence everywhere; here, it’s the union-benefitting political inequality that has characterized Wisconsin politics at least since the birth of the AFL-CIO]

Given this reality, it’s important to have institutions that can act as counterweights to the power of big money. And unions are among the most important of these institutions.

You don’t have to love unions, you don’t have to believe that their policy positions are always right, to recognize that they’re among the few influential players in our political system representing the interests of middle- and working-class Americans, as opposed to the wealthy [how is making the average citizen of the state pay you more a counterweight to “the wealthy?” George Will would eat Krugman for lunch, but he would not make such arguments without significant qualifiers in front of Will. Indeed, if America has become more oligarchic and less democratic over the last 30 years — which it has — that’s to an important extent due to the decline of private-sector unions.

And now Mr. Walker and his backers are trying to get rid of public-sector unions, too.

There’s a bitter irony here. The fiscal crisis in Wisconsin, as in other states, was largely caused by the increasing power of America’s oligarchy. After all, it was superwealthy players, not the general public, who pushed for financial deregulation and thereby set the stage for the economic crisis of 2008-9, a crisis whose aftermath is the main reason for the current budget crunch. And now the political right is trying to exploit that very crisis, using it to remove one of the few remaining checks on oligarchic influence.

So will the attack on unions succeed? I don’t know. But anyone who cares about retaining government of the people by the people [This argument is intended to link a god-term to Krugman's unsupported thesis; nowhere does he demonstrate that Gov. Walker's bill is inconsistent with "government by the people"] should hope that it doesn’t.

More below the fold.


Tomorrow there are going to be rallies around the country in support of the teachers in Wisconsin who are illegally striking against Governor Scott Walker's common sense reforms to get that state's budget under control. For whatever reason, there is going to be one such rally in Annapolis tomorrow at 12 Noon. (No word, of course, if these state employees are going to be protesting on state time or if they are going to be required to take time off of work to go to Annapolis and protest.....but I can only assume).

However, the Maryland Conservative Action Network is trying to gin up a counterprotest tomorrow if you can make it down to Lawyer's Mall in Annapolis tomorrow morning at 11:30 am. Click here to see additional details about their efforts.

I know that most of our readers have real jobs and can't take time off of work on the fly, get a fake doctor's note, or go to a protest while on their bosses dollar. But please spread the word and make it down if possible and if you're in the area.

A victory in Madison today will set us up for victory in Annapolis tomorrow....

More below the fold. Interview with Tony O'Donnell posted an interesting and extensive interview with House Minority Leader Tony O'Donnell this morning which is worth taking a look at to get some perspective from the adults in Annapolis:

More below the fold.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tom Schaller, call your office

Hey, remember when Tom Schaller said that the left was full of peace-loving activists and that the right was full of vitriolic rage?

Maybe you should join me in telling him to put this in his pipe and smoke it:

More below the fold.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Ethical and Practical Demands of a Death Penalty in Maryland

--Richard E. Vatz, Ph.D.

I have told my students off and on for 35 years that when they become grandparents, the issue of capital punishment would still be debated (I said virtually the same thing regarding fights over abortion). Some have already confirmed my prediction.

The reason I have always said that with such confidence is that there is no evidentiary resolution possible of the seminal arguments of either side: opponents of capital punishment argue that the death penalty can lead to the execution of an innocent defendant, and proponents of capital punishment claim that there are some crimes and multiples of crimes that are so heinous that the perpetrator needs to pay for the crime(s) with his/her life.

In a solid lead article by Julie Bykowicz in The Baltimore Sun (February 13, 2011) titled in the print version "A Slow Death," she summarizes the political background of the death penalty in Maryland. She includes arguments pro and con and highlights the individual suffering of both convicted killers under death sentence and their victims' loved ones and friends; both of these groups are condemned to fight the long battles respectively to avoid their execution or to expedite the convicts' execution.

The article details as well the legal battles over the availability and Constitutionality of specific means of execution in Maryland, including the specific lethal chemicals used to effect the ultimate punishment. Governor Martin O'Malley claims that the problems and stresses finding a legal means validates concerns over the "laborious and complicated and time-consuming, resource-wasting legal process" inherent in "carrying out the death penalty."

Days earlier, Baltimore County State's Attorney Scott Shellenberger wrote in the Sun of the stresses and problems of crime victims' family members. Even though he was discussing life sentences and not capital punishment, State's Attorney Shellenberger pointed out mutatis mutandis that relatives and friends of victims can never relax due to the vagaries of Maryland's criminal justice system in which "punishment" lacks certainty and their suffering takes a back seat in some politicians' and pundits' hierarchy of worries.

This is essentially what struggles over capital punishment come down to: where are you going to locate the misery -- in perpetrators of what my late, conservative cousin in Pennsylvania, Judge Samuel Strauss, called "the most heinous crimes produced in our society," or in the victims of those crimes.

The stories of victims' kin experiencing life-long sentences of misery in Bykowicz's article shred your heart: people who must spend decades prodding the justice system just to protect its citizens and mete out the punishment and effects it promises: incapacitation, deterrence and retribution -- not just rehabilitation. Deterrence is always in dispute, but the preponderance of the evidence establishes that when the death penalty is applied consistently and in reasonable time that homicide rates recede somewhat.

Bykowicz also recounts the 2009 Maryland legislative compromise which irresponsibly reduced the use of capital punishment to cases wherein there is "DNA evidence, a videotape of the crime or a videorecorded confession by the killer." Note to killers' resourceful lawyers who know how to navigate legal roadmaps: don't let your clients confess. These incredibly shortsighted legal restrictions also endanger witnesses even further.

There is no recent confirmed case of an incorrect execution in the United States, and certainly in cases of multiple murders or murders committed or ordered by incarcerated killers, there will be no executions of innocent people.

Maryland needs to have a death penalty option that lessens appeal requirements and is carried out in a timely fashion. Will there be stresses? Yes, among the most despicable citizens Maryland produces, but many fewer among the innocent victims' families and friends.

Professor Vatz teaches rhetoric and communication at Towson University

More below the fold.

Alex Mooney Interviewed At CPAC

Moe Lane of Redstate and caught up with MD GOP Chair Alex Mooney at CPAC.

More below the fold.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I know Maryland Counties are Hurting for Cash, but This Is Odd, Even for Montgomery County

You've seen them and probably ignored them. Maybe you are more of a giver than I, and will reach into your car's change holder or your wallet and give that panhandler some money. While I question whether these people are truly poor or truly in need of cash, the fact that they are panhandling doesn't bother me at all.

Apparently it bothers Ike Legget to the point that the Montgomery County executive wants to regulate panhandling. Seriously.

Montgomery County panhandlers such as Garnes would have to apply for
permits to ask drivers for spare change under legislation Leggett is requesting
from state lawmakers.

Leggett said panhandlers often stand in the median strip of county roads --
which is allowed under county law -- but that many approach drivers by walking
into the street, which is not.

In the county, panhandling is legal, but aggressive panhandling is
not. Aggressive panhandling invovles using verbal or physical threats when
seeking donations.

A permitting system would allow the government to better regulate
panhandling and other solicitations -- from medians or roadsides -- by
tracking panhandlers and educating them on the rules.

Yeah, you read that right- "tracking" panhandlers. Handing out permits--which will come with rules and almost certainly a fee of some sort-- is meant to track people nothing more right now.  But the next step will be a tax on panhandling receipts--you can almost hear Leggett's thinking on it.

I am not a big fan of panhandlers, but so long as they ask for money without verbal abuse, then I don't really give a toss one way or the other about their activities. I don't have to give them money.  They have freedom to ask and I have freedom to say no.

Having said that, I firmly believe that they have the right to engage in the activity so long as it is legal. If Leggett wants to ban panhandling--pass a law banning panhandling and allow the police to enforce it. Otherwise, stop trying to "track panhandlers."

Seriously, Leggett, you make Big Brother look positively near sighted.

More below the fold.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Md. Teacher Accused of Choking First Graders

Teacher placed on administrative leave but not fired.

How can this woman not be fired. I don't care if she hasn't been proven guilty for an actual crime (which is a different legal standard) but this is clearly misconduct. If I did this to a co-worker or client, whether convicted or not, I would expect that my belongings would be shipped to me instead of giving me time to pack my stuff.

Despicable conduct like this, while admittedly isolated, is protected by a teacher's union. I would suggest that if the union wants to save its image, they should immediately disavow this woman. If there was enough to place her on administrative leave (with full pay no doubt), there was enough to fire her.

More below the fold.

O'Malley bashes PEPCO while his cronies aid utility with power line project

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has been flogging PEPCO over reliability and power restoration quite a bit of late. He blasted them in his recent state of the state address, and last summer, when severe thunderstorms rocked Maryland, O’Malley compared PECPCO’s service to that of a developing nation.

However, that rocky relationship did not stop PEPCO from engaging the services of Kearney O’Doherty Public Affairs, the well connected political strategy firm led by O’Malley’s former communications director, Steve Kearney.

PEPCO spokesman Clay Anderson confirmed to me that the utility has worked with KO for several months on messaging for the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway (MAPP), a proposed $1.2 billion, 152 mile electric transmission line stretching from Virginia, across southern Maryland, under the Chesapeake Bay, across part of Maryland’s Eastern Shore and ending in Millsboro Delaware. Customers throughout the 13-state PJM Interconnection grid will share the cost burden of the project, which must be approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC), whose members are chosen by O’Malley.

As first reported this week by Bryan Sears at, KO was behind the successful Astroturf operation to lobby the Baltimore County Council to increase the number of speed cameras in the county. KO’s client ACS State and Local Solutions, is the county’s speed camera vendor, which stands to gain financially from the legislation. As Sears reported:

Kearney O’Doherty (KO) Public Affairs, the politically connected strategy firm hired by ACS, has helped Slow Down for Baltimore County Schools communicate with County Council members and expand its base of support by establishing a separate website that sends e-mails to the elected officials and drives more “likes” to the Facebook page.

Kearney’s partner, Damian O’Doherty, was a top aide to former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith.

Similar to what they did with speed cameras, KO set up a Facebook Page called Shore Power to generate a grassroots buzz around MAPP, as well as blog by the same name with posts penned by an anonymous author. Delmarva Power, a subsidiary of PEPCO’s parent company also brought in public relations consultant, Cathy Bassett, who set up a MAPP Facebook page that bills itself as “a group of citizens who support the construction of the Mid-Atlantic Power Pathway.” Bassett is former congressman Wayne Gilchrest’s communication’s director.

If approved, MAPP would be vital transmission line to the western side of the Chesapeake Bay for proposed wind projects off Maryland’s coast. Markian Melynk, of Atlantic Wind Connection (ACW) the project firm constructing a massive offshore wind network along the Mid-Atlantic seaboard to harvest energy from offshore wind farms, said he sees the two projects as complimentary. “We see MAPP as beneficial because it would provide a path for a large amount of offshore wind energy to make its way across the Delmarva Peninsula to parts of Maryland and Virginia that lie to the west of the Chesapeake Bay.” Melynk said.

Melynk said Delmarva Power’s Indian River substation, where MAPP would end, is close to where their cables would come ashore to connect to the existing electricity grid.

Look at the image below, on the left is the planned ACW network and MAPP on the right. The ACW cables come ashore at the same location where MAPP ends in Millsboro.

Google is heavily invested in the $5 billion ACW project.

Energy companies are lining up to bid for leases from the federal government for wind farms off Maryland’s coast. One of those companies is run by Kearney’s former colleague in the O’Malley administration, Michael Enright. Enright served as O’Malley’s chief of staff, and is now a managing partner with Beowulf Energy, which is a partner in Maryland Offshore LLC, one of the firms vying for a lease.

A mandate requiring state utilities enter into long term contracts to procure electricity from offshore wind is top priority for O’Malley this legislative session.

ACW’s Melynk also happens to be the husband of state delegate Joseline Pena Melynk from Prince George’s County. Pena Melynk would be voting on O’Malley’s offshore wind legislation, unless she recuses herself.

Although Maryland would have little say in the federal government’s decision to award leases, O’Malley’s proposal mandating utilities procure power from offshore wind is what makes the wind farms, and transmission grids financially workable. No mandate, no demand for the turbines, or the grid.

Like MAPP, ratepayers will bear the costs of O’Malley’s wind mandate as utilities will pass the cost of long term contracts on to their customers.

While MAPP is much needed upgrade to Maryland’s electric grid infrastructure, KO’s involvement adds a stench to the project given O’Malley’s pandering on PEPCO.

Only in Martin O’Malley’s “One Maryland” can the governor publicly bash a utility while his cronies shepherd it’s project to approval by his own PSC, and mandate demand for a form of energy, which very well may be supplied by his former top aide’s energy company.

Pena-Melynk did not vote on the 2013 Offshore Wind Act, which passed the legislature in 2013.

More below the fold.

Monday, February 7, 2011

You Go First

We've already chronicled a number of misguided statements by Vinny DeMarco and the health care racket in supporting the the huge increases in alcohol taxes. Well the DeMarco crowd is going to love this because one wine store in Baltimore is actually coming out in support of this ridiculous tax hike:

Hampden's popular liquor store The Wine Source today became the latest backer of the dime-a-drink increase to the state alcohol taxes.

Store owner David Wells said in a statement that passage of the measure would help him "sleep better at night" because he thinks the tax increase could curb alcohol abuse. He also predicted the higher costs to consumers will not impact his business.

Wells has a personal connection -- he said some of his family members have abused alcohol.
"It is time for our industry to do its fair share to reduce the deaths and societal problems caused by the misuse of our product," Wells said.

David Wells (who probably is in no way related to this alcohol connoisseur) has a problem. The problem is that David Wells is a sick man.

Wells seems to have a problem sleeping well at night because the taxes on alcohol are too low. Mind you, he doesn't seem to be particularly bothered by the fact that he is selling alcohol, which in an of itself is enabling alcohol abuse. He doesn't seem to want to take any proactive activities to stop it, or be a leader in his industry to do their party to reduce the problems that are caused by misuse.

No, he wants to embrace the corporatism that is running rampant in the Maryland Democratic Party these days. Using the hammer of government to produce change that could just as easily be brought about by example.

If David Wells is so hellbent on reducing the metaphorical blood on his hands from those who abuse the products that he sells them, I encourage him to go first. He can go ahead and apply the post-tax-hike prices to his products before the Governor signs any such legislation. I encourage Wells to raise the prices of his beer to account for the 1289% tax increase, the 740% tax increase on wine, or the 668% tax increase on spirits.

Go ahead Mr. Wells. Nobody is stopping your from raising your prices. If you are that intent on supporting a tax increase for the middle and working class Marylanders who buy your products, feel free to show us the way. I'm sure that your customers would be delighted to show themselves the way to another store...

More below the fold.

The Maryland Democrat Political Complex

Towson Patch has an excellent article on the politically connected Maryland public relations firm, coordinating an allegedly grassroots campaign to secure passage of Baltimore County legislation to add more speed cameras on behalf of the camera vendor.

But the grassroots effort to win council support has a powerful friend not found on its Facebook page: ACS State and Local Solutions, the company that holds the county’s speed camera contract and stands to financially benefit from the pending legislation.

Kearney O’Doherty (KO) Public Affairs, the politically connected strategy firm hired by ACS, has helped Slow Down for Baltimore County Schools communicate with County Council members and expand its base of support by establishing a separate website that sends e-mails to the elected officials and drives more “likes” to the Facebook page.

Damian O’Doherty, a KO Public Affairs partner and former county government official, told
Patch in December that his political strategy firm has been working with ACS and a coalition of “educators, parents and elected officials to bring (speed cameras) to Maryland.”

O’Doherty was a top aide for former Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, and his partner Steve Kearney is Governor Martin O’Malley’s former communications director. O’Doherty’s brother Ryan is the spokesman for Baltimore Mayor, Stephanie Rawlings Blake. Longtime Maryland political watchers know Ryan O’Doherty by his nom de cyber MD4Bush.

Late in the 2010 gubernatorial election, Kearney and O’Doherty emailed invitations to high dollar fund raisers for O’Malley featuring Vice President Joe Biden, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and musician Graham Nash.

The connections do not stop there. According to the Maryland Funding Accountability and Transparency website, ACS has received tens of millions of dollars in state contracts since 2008. ACS president, John Brophy’s son also named John, is O’Malley’s high school classmate from Gonzaga and has set up fund raisers for the governor at the exclusive Columbia Country Club in Chevy Chase, where he is an officer. Ironically it was O’Malley who demonized his campaign opponent, former Governor Bob Ehrlich, for quashing the Purple Line on behalf of wealthy Columbia Country Club members.

Also, KO Public Affairs is the parent company for the allegedly straight news site Center Maryland. Center Maryland bills itself as “the news you need straight down the middle” even though the site is essentially a news aggregator and the original work it does publish is mostly political opinion and commentary, not reporting. KO Public Affairs does not disclose its clients, and Center Maryland’s editor, Howard Libit a former Baltimore Sun editor involved in the Baltimore County speed camera campaign, never responded to my inquiry if Center Maryland featured stories connected to its parent company’s clients.

However, we are still left with the question, just how many other “grass roots” efforts in Maryland are in fact corporate Astroturf campaigns run by KO Public Affairs?

More below the fold.

MD DNR Plays Big Brother

The Maryland Department of the Environment admitted this past weekend to placing tracking devices on the boats of Eastern Shore watermen.

During Friday's meeting with the Eastern Shore delegation of state lawmakers in Annapolis, the DNR admitted its police force placed the boxes there legally to track repeat violators.

Rep. Michael Smigiel asked DNR Secretary John R. Griffin, "Were court orders obtained before any tracking devices obtained before placing?"

Griffin replied, "I think my best answer is we followed all necessary law and procedures."Smigiel asked Griffin if the DNR when to court to get permission. Griffin replied to the affirmative.

Smigiel confirmed Griffin’s response, but told me there was “a long pregnant pause” before Griffin answered his question. Smigiel said he would “be very interested to see him [Griffin] provide verification his agency went to court and the probable cause for obtaining GPS tracking devices.”

According to the Easton Star Democrat, (subscription required) several watermen were extremely upset at finding strange brackets and boxes attached to their vessels earlier this week. DNR police stopped and searched the boat of one waterman, who reported the brackets attached to his vessel.

It is not known if the watermen are indeed “repeat violators” DNR seeks to track. Last week the Baltimore Sun reported that DNR seized illegal nets containing over three tons of rock fish, off Kent Island. According to the report, DNR Police would use the sale of the seized rock fish to purchase surveillance equipment to track poachers. Cpl Roy Rafter, the officer who found the nets said DNR Police had their suspicions about the identity of the poachers, but said it would be “hard to prove.”

“It’s clear DNR and the environmentalists have declared war on the watermen,” Smigiel said. Smigiel contends that through its policies and regulations DNR is taking away the livelihood and heritage of the watermen, thereby creating the very poachers they are tasked to stop.

More below the fold.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Sincere Sincerity of Ronald Reagan, the Best President of the Last 100 Years

--Richard E. Vatz, Ph.D.

There is little a professor of political rhetoric can say that is new regarding the finest conservative president of our time, and, in this professor's opinion, the finest president of the last 100 years, Ronald Reagan.

I want to commemorate the 100th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's birth by referencing an observation I made with my co-author Lee S. Weinberg in a Baltimore Sun op-ed piece on August 20, 1981 titled "Reaganspeak and the New Imperial Presidency;" namely, that Ronald Reagan was a unique presidential character respecting his rhetorical sincerity.

Sincerity has always been a fascinating character dimension to me -- oversimplified, it means the lack of deception.

The great majority of people we meet in a lifetime seem to us as acting out of utilitarian goals -- what advantages them or what advantages their policies.

Fewer people act on behalf of principles -- mostly conservatives, but not only conservatives (see the late Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone). Paradoxically, one of the least sincere presidents -- and that is a pretty high standard -- was Richard Nixon, famous for his locution, "It would have been politically easy to do "X," but we did "Y" because it was the "right thing to do."

But, again, few presidents are ingenuous sorts: when Barack Obama gets angry in a speech, it sounds as if he has made a strategic decision to get angry to energize his support.

On the rare occasion when Ronald Reagan sounded hot under the collar, no one suspected he was acting: in the 1980 presidential debate when he was threatened with the turning off of his sound, then-Governor Reagan furiously asserted, "I paid for this microphone!" Similarly, when he famously said, countermanding some of the advice from his aides, to Mikhail Gorbachev at Brandenburg Gate in West Berlin, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall," no one entertained even the thought that President Reagan didn't have the courage of his convictions.

Finally, let me reference the slander made famous by perennial Democratic aide and consultant Clark Clifford that Ronald Reagan was an "amiable dunce." Resisting the urge to look at irresponsible policies Mr. Clifford supported, it is interesting to examine the intelligence-judgment dichotomy that I discuss with my classes each term.

I once asked William F. Buckley (sorry for the name-dropping, but I was on his Firing Line show in 1985) what he thought of the criticism that President Reagan was "unintelligent."

He replied that if you had given President Reagan a standard I.Q. test that he would do about "average," but that his judgment was his real stock-in-trade. I was not surprised at his answer; Mr. Buckley often talked about the misperception of perspicacity inferred from "intelligent" but misguided intellectuals -- see his God and Man at Yale among many other writings which made this point.

Again, specific successes are widely known and acknowledged: President Reagan's victorious consistency in foreign policy; his laying the groundwork for the fall of the Soviet Union; his conservative fiscal policies; and his pragmatic conservatism without ugliness. And, yes, there are no two-term presidents without failures, such as the bombing and killing of 241 Marines in Lebanon, followed by a precipitous withdrawal.

But, most of all I shall remember his personal countenance: the sincere sincerity of a political man who knew what he believed and didn't need to consult opinion polls to discover what was prudent public policy.

His was in toto a conservative's conservative: he believed in hard work and reward; individual responsibility; the moral and political responsibility of the world's greatest superpower, and the power of principle.

We shall not likely see his like again in the presidency.

Professor Vatz is professor of rhetoric and communication at Towson University

More below the fold.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Christie slams O'Malley

Martin O'Malley tried one of his signature straw man arguments against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. Christie would have none of it.

Contrasting his initiatives with the more aggressive measures proposed by Christie, O'Malley said on WTOP radio that the New Jersey Republican "delights in being abusive towards public employees."

Christie is now striking back.During a taped appearance on the FOX Business Network's "Cavuto," Christie says O'Malley "doesn't know what he's talking about." And that's about the nicest thing he has to say.

"I heard that pabulum Governor O'Malley was spewing down in Maryland," Christie says, according to a transcript provided by the program, which is scheduled to air Thursday at 6 p.m. "He doesn't know what he is talking about. Come to New Jersey and listen to what I am saying rather than listening to his Democratic consultants. We are shining a bright light on what these things cost, and they cost a lot of money. Governor O'Malley calls that picking on public sector workers. I call that telling the people who are paying the bills the truth and not kissing up to every special interest you want to have on your side to get electoral success."

Maryland Republicans take note. This is how you deal with a sanctimonious Democratic governor, who misrepresents everything you stand for.

More below the fold.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

And now, the Adult Perspective

House Minority Leader Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio gave the adult perspective of our state's situation by delivering the Republican Response to the Governor's State of the State Address today. Take a look....


More below the fold.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another Energy Tax

Two Montgomery County state Senators, Rob Garagiola and Roger Manno, both Democrats have introduced legislation that will increase Maryland utility bills.

SB 304 establishes a $0.0013 per kilowatt hour renewable energy surcharge on residential retail utility customers who exceed 1,000 kilowatt hours of usage a month. The Public Service Commission would authorize utilities to place the surcharge on customer bills and place the funds in the Maryland Renewable Energy Benefit Fund.

The fund will then redistribute money to Maryland’s solar, wind and geothermal grant programs, efficiency, and renewable energy programs.

Utilities may rebate charged customers, who choose to purchase electricity purchased from a Tier 1 renewable energy source, $0.01 per kilowatt hour. Maryland’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) defines Tier 1 sources as: solar, wind, biomass, landfill and waste water methane, geothermal, ocean energy from waves, tides, currents, fuel cells powered by methane or biomass, and small hydroelectric plants, and poultry-litter incineration facilities.

Maryland’s RPS law—increased by Governor Martin O’Malley in 2008—mandates state utilities generate 20 percent of their retail electric sales from renewable sources by 2022. Renewable energy sources are more expensive to generate and transmit. Studies in Massachusetts, Montana, and North Carolina, have shown those RPS laws lead to higher utility rates and cost ratepayers millions of dollars. Given that Maryland generates 60 percent of its electricity from coal the state’s RPS mandates are sure to similarly hike utility bills.

In 2009, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger increased California’s RPS mandate to 33 percent renewable energy by 2030 because the Golden State’s utilities could not meet the original RPS mandate of 20 percent by 2010. California had to implement special feed-in tariffs for renewable energy sources to spur their use.

It appears that Garagiola and Manno’s legislation is a tax designed to prop up an unachievable government mandate.

O’Malley is expected to introduce legislation mandating state utilities enter into long-term contracts to purchase offshore wind energy. In addition to mandating utilities purchase costlier and unreliable wind power, the legislation would help ensure a return for Google on its multibillion dollar investment in a Mid-Atlantic offshore wind transmission grid. Also, the mandate could possibly benefit the energy company run by O’Malley’s former chief of staff Michael Enright. Enright left the O’Malley administration in 2010 to become managing director of Beowulf Energy, which is one half of the Maryland Offshore LLC partnership vying for federal leases for offshore wind projects.

More below the fold.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Smigiel Introduces Bill to Take Tax Increases to Referendum

Governor O’Malley’s promise to submit a budget without a tax increase reached its expiration date before the ink on the budget book was dry. Now we learn that O’Malley may have to raise the state property tax by 56 percent to make up for all debt his administration has incurred papering over the deficits it has rung up.

The property tax goes towards Maryland’s debt service. O’Malley’s replacement of cash with bond debt to fund general fund spending increases has pushed the state perilously close to the state’s debt limit of 8 percent of revenues. Over the next five years state debt service is expected to exceed $1 billion while property tax revenues will decline to $715 million according to a report by the state’s Department of Legislative Services.

During the election, O’Malley lambasted Bob Ehrlich for hiking the property tax by a similar amount.

If Delegate Mike Smigiel (R-Cecil County) has his way, Marylanders would have the right to repeal any property tax increase through referendum. Smigiel has introduced a bill which would add to the state constitution the right of the people to repeal any legislative appropriation. If the bill passes the General Assembly it would go on the ballot for the November 2012 election.

The committee hearing for the bill is set for today at 1:00 pm, you can view the hearing online here.

More below the fold.