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Courage of Convictions

Yesterday I received a blast email from the Maryland GOP proclaiming House Republicans Offer Fiscally Responsible Budget Plan With No New Taxes. Is it true? Beats me. There isn’t single specific identified. Personally, I don’t see how you come up with $1.5 billion without cutting spending, restraining growth, and generating income but then again I didn’t get us into this mess so I’m probably missing the big picture.

So what are the Republicans doing? Probably not much and what they will do will be counterproductive.

Keep reading after the jump.

According to the Baltimore Sun:

[Minority leader Delegate Christopher B.] Shank and Del. Anthony J.
O’Donnell, the minority leader from Southern Maryland, pitched their ideas to
Gov. Martin O’Malley over pizza Tuesday night. Although the governor, a
Democrat, pushed them for specifics, he told the Republicans that he welcomed
their help.

[…]

Shank said the Republicans identified specific line items they would cut,
but said they would only share their ideas with the governor and not the public.
“When we tried that with budget amendments in the last session … we got
our heads lopped off,” Shank said. “We’re not just going to let them call in all
the interest groups and make us barricade the doors again.”

Let me preface this by saying the first thing Delegate Shank needs to come to grips with is that the governor is 1) not interested in closing the budget gap or fixing the “structural deficit” by cutting spending or restraining growth and 2) he’s no more interested in being smacked about by the various special interests than is Mr. Shank. News flash. You are not on the same team. You don’t have the same goals.

His minion says as much in the Sun story:

“We appreciate their acknowledgment that a $1.5 billion deficit can’t be closed by cuts alone when 84 percent of the budget is education, health care and public safety,” O’Malley spokesman Steve Kearney said yesterday.

“The governor is willing to work with Democrats and Republicans alike to get our fiscal house in order,” he said. “We’ve made $283 million in cuts so far and are interested in any specific suggestions for spending reductions the Republicans may eventually have to offer, in addition to their ideas on slots.”

What the governor is interested in is political cover for the massive tax increase he will be forced to propose in the next legislative session. By making proposals like those identified in the Sun:

The GOP would allow significant growth in Medicaid — 8.3 percent rather than the 10 percent budget analysts expect. Spending on other health programs, public safety and higher education would also increase by amounts ranging from 5.7 percent to 7.6 percent.

and

A key part of the Republicans’ argument is the notion that they are not cutting spending, though documents the delegates released with their plan indicate they would cut funding to some agencies by 0.6 percent.

The choice of the Republican caucus is to either go along on the tax increases or let the Democrats shoulder the responsibility alone. Call me a narrow-minded partisan but I don’t see what the Republicans gain by being the powerless party in favor of more taxes and higher spending when we can vote for the powerful party in favor of more taxes and higher spending.

The upcoming legislative session offers the Republican caucus an opportunity to call into question the size and scope of every single program in the state. They can do so without running afoul of interest groups (my gosh, where do we find people to elect who run scared at the thought of fighting special interests?) and they can make sure that every single tax increase passes without a single Republican vote.

They can either take a page out of the Newt Gingrich playbook and refuse to be complict in the ongoing mugging of Maryland taxpayers or they can remain supine and go along to get along.

They can either stand up for what the national Republican party believes in or they can assume a fetal position in the corner. Is anyone taking bets?






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