We’re starting another session of the Maryland General Assembly and there several significant issues that are likely to be addressed.
Transportation: An increase in the gas tax is a repeat from last year’s effort by the Governor, who promises to push harder this year. At stake are several promised projects to his political base in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties and Baltimore City. The Governor has promised to build two new subway lines and a new bus line that will put the state on the hook for another $5.3 billion for mass transportation that only a small percentage of Marylanders use, while money already collected to fix roads has been used for other things in balancing the Maryland state budget the last several years. This year the Governor has proposed that a general sales tax might be a better solution to the problem because it would raise more money; however, voters remember that when the Governor last raised the sales tax from 5% to 6%, the Governor promised a portion would go to transportation ($230 million), but once the increase was passed (2007), the Governor quickly moved to spend that on other things. The problem is that transportation dollars (largely raised from automobile owners) is being siphoned off to pay for more and more mass transit or other purposes. Since 2008 more than $1 billion has been diverted from the Transportation Trust Fund to the General Fund. I believe Marylanders are already taxed too high, and I would support moving other funds to transportation and guaranteeing that the gas tax and other dedication funds are spent only on transportation and that a higher percentage goes to support roads and highways that benefits the greatest number of Marylanders.
Gun Control: Recent events in Newtown are greatly disturbing, and the democrat leadership has promised to respond to this incident by introducing a range of gun control bills. Existing state practices can always be improved upon but the rights of responsible, law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms as provided in the US Constitution should not be infringed upon.
Death Penalty: The Governor has proposed to totally repeal the death penalty in Maryland. He already greatly narrowed in 2009 the number of applicable cases when he attempted another repeal effort but had to compromise on the final legislation. I believe the current legislation guarantees that the death penalty is very rare and procedurally guarantees to the maximum extent possible its imposition on an innocent person. I also believe it is needed in the most extreme situations and I will support its retention.
Wind Energy: The Governor’s proposal last year was not competitive. It involved the construction of enormous windmills off the coast of Ocean City. Although we all like the idea of renewable energy and less dependence on foreign oil, the generation costs would have placed too high a burden on ratepayers, but the Governor has promised to try again this session.
Right of Referendum: Under the Maryland Constitution, citizens can petition an act of the General Assembly to the ballot and allow the Maryland voters the final say. Only 21 petition efforts have successfully brought an issue to the ballot in the last 80 years since the provision was adopted; however, in the 2012 election, three laws were successfully petitioned to the ballot. The Governor and the democrat leadership were not amused, and the Governor has proposed to restrict the citizens rights to challenge their government. I will strongly oppose any such action.
Please feel free to contact me if you would like additional information on these or other issues – Delegate Tony McConkey