Haddaway-Riccio speaks out

The two pieces following are from Delegate Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio of District 37B. The first is an excerpt from a release she put out last Thursday entitled “The Cost of Rushing” and the second came yesterday as an update to what’s going on with the special session. It’s a good perspective from the inside as it were – apparently judging by the original e-mail address Saturday’s message came straight from her laptop.

Here’s Thursday’s article, “The Cost of Rushing”:

You may have heard the Governor talking about the cost of delay, stating that if we do not act on the budget deficit now, major cuts to services and programs will be unavoidable. This statement is incredibly misleading considering the fact that we have a balanced budget through June 2008. Even the Comptroller of Maryland has said, “There is no relationship whatsoever between the timing of the next General Assembly session and the magnitude of Maryland’s structural budget deficit.” It would have been much more logical to wait until the regular session, when we had an actual budget to work on, to start considering changes in our spending and our revenues. Better yet, we could have started on this process during the last legislative session.

While the Governor talks about the cost of delay, I am more concerned about the cost of rushing – rushing through legislation, rushing through changes in taxation and rushing through votes in hopes that the general public will not know what is going on in Annapolis.

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This was exemplified by the recent actions of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee which added new industries to the list of services that will now be taxed without a public hearing. It will be further exemplified in the coming days as legislative leaders rush forward with late night votes and back room meetings. In my opinion, this is nothing more than a money grab from the citizens of Maryland. These same citizens will be the ones who pay the price for the cost of rushing.

Now yesterday’s mid-afternoon update:

As of yesterday the House’s tax bill was amended by the Ways and Means Committee to include the following actions:

  • Increasing the sales tax to 6%
  • Expanding the sales tax to services that repair any tangible, personal property, including electrical repairs, shoe repair, boat repair, home repair and more
  • Increasing the corporate income tax and instituting combined reporting
  • Increasing the cigarette tax
  • Increasing the hotel tax from 5% to 10%
  • Increasing the vehicle excise tax and offering only a 50% reduction for the trade-in value

While we were supposed to go to the floor at 1pm, we have been informed that we will not go to the floor until 3pm or 4pm. It is rumored that the delay is due to a surprise meeting of the Ways and Means Committee at 2:30pm so they can change the legislation again. They are likely to remove the hotel tax and increase the sales tax to 6.5%.

If you are confused by all of this, you are not alone. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are asking for the process to be slowed down because we can’t even keep up with the changes. Why the disarray? There is still no consensus on the tax increases and many delegates are starting to listen to constituents who are asking us to say NO to new taxes. The moral of the story? Keep up the pressure – your efforts are working!

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I think Jeannie should be a blogger in her spare time. Both of these are very well written and get to the heart of the problem. With the special session underway and no FY2008 budget to work with, the Republicans face the task of shadow boxing with no budget cuts that can be suggested to alleviate the problem and far too few bodies in the General Assembly to stop things. If you look at yesterday’s post you can see what steps Jeannie has taken in an effort to slow down the train, but the wrong party is in charge right now.

To bring this issue up to a more national scale, there are many in the Republican Party who said in 2006 (and say for 2008) that maybe we should let the Democrats be in charge and screw up the country, getting the electorate mad enough to place the GOP back in power at the next election. Unfortunately our state is the canary in the coal mine as to why that’s a bad policy choice. While hindsight is by nature 20/20, it’s all but certain Governor Ehrlich would have found other ways to address the future shortfall. Sadly, Ehrlich was a victim to some extent of a general discontent with the national Republican party, so even with his mid-50’s approval rating he was broomed out and our tax-raising Governor O’Malley ushered in.

And for that decision all of Maryland will soon be paying the price.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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