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A town hall about Maryland’s budget

Nick Loffer was there and he forwarded me this report:

Yesterday, Tuesday, December 1, 2009, may go down as one of the landmark days in AFP-Maryland’s still-young history. About 75 members traveled to Annapolis to participate in a public discussion about the upcoming legislative session of the Maryland General Assembly, featuring Speaker of the House Mike Busch and Senate President Mike Miller. When we arrived, some members were effectively barred from taking part in the discussion.

First, we were told we could not enter because the room was full, even though there were clearly empty seats in the Joint Hearing Room. Then we were told that all questions would have to be submitted in writing to a panel that would decide which ones would be asked. Many of our questions went unasked and unanswered. Only after the event ended were some of our members allowed to personally address Speaker Busch. Of the questions that were asked, Speaker Busch and President Miller were clueless when it came to jobs, taxes and the budget (my commentary is in parenthesis).

  • When asked about how they plan to help small businesses create jobs, Speaker Busch said there was nothing the General Assembly could do – they had already done everything possible. (With record unemployment, I find that incredibly hard to believe)
  • When asked about taxes, President Miller said that taxes are “the dues we pay to live in a society.” (I would love for President Miller to find that phrase in the Constitution)
  • When asked about the impending $2 billion budget deficit, neither Busch nor Miller would take responsibility – and instead blamed the lack of revenue on slots! No coherent plans on how to solve the budget were revealed. (I would like to refer these guys back to 2007 when they jammed the largest tax increase in Maryland history down our throats. Afterward, they both proclaimed that the structural deficit was “solved”)

We learned two important lessons yesterday that will guide us as we make plans to bring common sense to Annapolis.

First, we witnessed the lengths Maryland’s liberal political elite will go to avoid face-to-face questioning and dissent. Rather than engage taxpayers in an open and honest discussion – as they and promised to do last night — Miller and Busch hid behind a pre-selected panel. They decided at the last minute that the only open and honest discussions they were interested in could only take place with people who agree with them.

Think for a minute of what these leaders are going to do when the session starts and they see us every day, in every hearing, talking to every legislator, about every spending and tax priority.

The second thing we saw last night was the power of the people. Members of AFP-Maryland are hard-working people, tax paying mothers, fathers, and entrepreneurs. We took time away from our families to travel to Annapolis last night to let the elite liberals in charge of Maryland know that the days of out of control spending and ever higher taxes must end. They succeeded in shutting us down last night – but this is only the beginning! We must continue to our trips to Annapolis and let the politicians know we are not going away until they clean up their act. Remember, we have the power. In 2006, these folks were voted into office. In 2010, we can vote them out!

You can watch highlights of the town hall meeting on our YouTube page.

Thanks, Nick. Now it’s my turn.

And you were expecting something else?

The Democrats have held the General Assembly not for a term, not for a decade or even a century, but since the Civil War! They didn’t get where they were by listening to the people so much as from giving them goodies from the treasury, and that’s not going to stop anytime soon if they’re left in charge.

As I noted in today’s earlier post, whoever is elected Governor will get control of the state’s purse strings because that’s part of the Governor’s job description (unlike most other states and our Congress, where their legislature does the job.) So in a way, asking the General Assembly about taxation and the budget is barking up the wrong tree.

I say that not to discourage public input – as it was, the conduct of Speaker Busch and Senate President Miller appears to have been deplorable – but to note that there’s not a lot they can do with the budget because, sure enough, Governor O’Malley will submit another bloated one and dare the General Assembly (in an election year) to make unpopular cuts. Even Governor Ehrlich’s last budget was significantly higher than the previous three.

The only way they’re going to listen in Annapolis will be if enough recalcitrant legislators find themselves out of a job, and that can’t occur until about midway through the FY11 budget cycle. Those same people who stacked the deck in the town hall, though, will have their own special interests throwing their two cents into the discussion (more like thousands of dollars) and that can’t be discounted either.

Lowering taxes sounds like a good idea, but the longer-term goal for AFP and those who agree with them should be to educate the public on the benefits of limited government, convincing them to shake their complacency and take the leap across the chasm of doubt instilled in them by government dependence. Once the majority of voters are convinced about that it’s much easier to make the General Assembly work for us and not the moneyed special interests currently running the not-so-Free State into the ground.

Crossposted on monoblogue.






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