The legislative session is almost over. All that is left now is a few last votes and the parties that mark the end, or Sine Die, of the Maryland General Assembly on April 13th.
This session was unusual in that it was the first session of the four year term with a new governor, a Republican governor at that, and a legislature transformed by 73 new members. So the question on everyone’s mind is what happened?
I was pleasantly surprised. I think the tone was definitely better, more bi-partisan led by a sizeable group of freshman legislators who didn’t know it was out of the ordinary, and a leadership team now forced to work with the other side.
If that was the Governor’s sole accomplishment in his first 75 days then I would say he was a success and had succeeded in his promise to Change Maryland; however, the Governor accomplished much more. He made real progress on refocusing spending priorities and started to implement his campaign promise of reducing taxes.
Mindful that all change must pass a legislature controlled overwhelmingly by the opposite political party, change is a process, usually a long process, even when the governor is of the same party. I would say it is unreasonable for the pundits to demand wholesale reform after 75 days, still I truly believe we made real progress this session.
The budget is the first in eights years that limits spending to the amount of revenues and is not contingent upon, nor contains, tax increases to reach a balance budget. For the last eight years Maryland has repeatedly spent $1+ billion more than it took it by stealing money from dedicated funds or increasing borrowing. Limiting spending to only what you earn may sound like common sense but is a radical reform for our state government. Moreover, I am confident that next year, with all of his department heads in place, the Governor will find even more savings in spending.
Unfortunately on cutting taxes the Governor has had less success. He promised reductions to put more money in the pockets of Marylanders and to make Maryland business more competitive. On reducing taxes the General Assembly has been less cooperative.
The Governor proposed eliminating planned future gas tax increases which include annual inflation increases. The legislature rejected eliminating gas increases but agreed to cap the inflation increases to 3%. The Governor also proposed tax relief for military retirees and small businesses which the legislature has agreed to in part. None of this was dramatic change but a definite start in the right direction.
As the Governor identifies additional savings in spending, the argument for tax cuts will be easier. I am optimistic for the next three years.
Please visit my website at www.Leg33.com, or call me at 410-841-3406, for more information on this or any other topic.