A Word from the Other Guy

Former Governor Bob Ehrlich responds to Martin O’Malley’s insistence that the guy who left office a year ago is to blame for next year’s budget deficit.

In 2002, as state revenues steadily dwindled, the General Assembly enacted a $1.3 billion education law. Legislators passed it knowing they had no money to pay for it. They also passed a budget that overspent by $616 million. This massive new spending, combined with an economic downturn and rising health care costs, created a long-term deficit. My administration inherited that deficit in 2003 and, four years later, left state government with a budget surplus.

We cut government spending by more than $700 million in our first six months. We cut the size of the executive branch workforce by 7 percent. We defeated $7.5 billion in proposed new taxes. We directed state agencies to budget under the assumption they would receive 12 percent less money than the previous year. These decisions were wildly unpopular with the lawmakers who created the budget crisis, but I took these steps to end their “cocktail party” spending in Annapolis.

We also proposed to place slot machines at Maryland racetracks. Had the leaders of the Maryland House of Delegates not rejected this bipartisan proposal for four straight years, Maryland would be enjoying an estimated $800 million in additional non-tax revenue each year.

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Despite inheriting a raft of new spending programs, my administration left Maryland in strong fiscal health. We nearly tripled the Rainy Day Fund to $1.4 billion, and at the end of fiscal year 2006, Maryland enjoyed a $1 billion budget surplus and remarkably low unemployment. As recently as December of 2006, general fund revenues were up despite high gas prices and a slowdown in the housing market. We also preserved Maryland’s Triple A bond rating, which saves residents money by allowing the state to borrow at low rates.

That O’Malley has been able to successfully pin the responsibility for a deficit in his second budget on Bob Ehrlich simply underscores the supine nature of the Maryland press and O’Malley’s lacking of a sense of shame. I have no doubt that he’ll blame the tax increases he is ramrodding through the General Assembly on Governor Ehrlich, too.

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