The budget battle begins anew

While it’s almost certainly an exercise in futility, GOP delegates announced today their budget plan for FY 2009. (Thanks to Carrie Simons-Sparrow for passing this along to me.)

The House Republican Caucus today rolled out their FY 2009 Budget Plan. The Republican proposal slows the rate of growth of State spending, resolves the structural deficit, eliminates computer services tax, and positions the state to withstand a significant economic downturn.

“The current budget course is not sustainable”, said Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell. “The Governor’s budget as proposed leaves the structural deficit unresolved and the Rainy Day Fund depleted. The economic outlook is precarious and further inaction could have catastrophic consequences for the State of Maryland.”

The Republican plan reduces the total budget spending increase from 5.9% to 3.7%. It reduces the ongoing General Fund Budget spending increase from 5.6% to 2.6%. The reductions in spending eliminate the $308 million structural deficit.

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“The 2007 Special Session did not resolve the long term structural deficit”, said Delegate Gail Bates, the ranking Republican member of the House Appropriations Committee. “There were no cuts in overall planned spending and the General Assembly actually created an additional $128 million in net new spending. At the same time, they passed a historic amount of tax increases which enabled state spending to continue to grow excessively.”

“This Administration has ransacked the state’s Rainy Day Fund”, said Minority Whip Christopher Shank. “It is funded only at the statutory minimum and is not well positioned to protect State finances from a significant financial downturn. There will be no place to turn for revenue to fund critical services. November’s Special Session spending spree has emptied the taxpayer’s pockets.”

The Republican’s (sic) proposal adds $400 million to the Rainy Day Fund above the statutory minimum.

“There is still time to exercise fiscal restraint and build reserves”, said Delegate Steve Schuh, a member of the House Appropriations Committee. “All of the major indicators point to a slowing economy. If we experience a significant economic downturn and spending has not been reined in, the only choice will be major cuts to services. This plan is fiscally responsible and it protects the citizens of Maryland against the possible economic storm on the horizon.”

I also got a .ppt file attached, which I assume is a PowerPoint file. Since I don’t have that particular program on my computer, fat lot of good that does me.

So that what our party’s Delegates have to say, and their heart is in the right place. But I feel we need to go further.

That’s not all folks. Read on below the fold, you’ll like it.

Slowing the rate of spending growth is nice, but I want to see actual budget cuts in real dollars. Another thing this does not tell me is whether their revised budget figures are based on revenue from the increased tax rates we now pay (aside from repealing the computer services tax that’s not yet in effect) – if so, then we have just surrendered all of the high ground we could claim as fiscal conservatives. If we’ve given in to that premise that the higher taxes are necessary after trying to fight them during the Special Session, we are doomed to perpetual minority status. Sadly, if their budget plan is based on the O’Malley tax package, this is just a halfway measure, a sort of Democrat-lite.

What I want to see is a call to the Democrats to justify each and every dollar that is spent in this state. There are certain functions the state has to provide (like the court system and law enforcement, state board of elections, etc.) and then there’s extras. For example, how much was added to the budget because of that market-ignorant “living wage” law passed last year? Or, assuming for the sake of argument that the economy is truly slowing down to the point of recession, why are we funding frills like Program Open Space and buying land that comes off the county and state tax rolls? I would think that we could pick up a little revenue by shedding some surplus state land.

Another idea for the savings hopper is privatizing some state services. While I don’t have a beef with the Maryland MVA (having just renewed my plates and updated my driver’s license last week), why not look into turning the function over to a private entity? Perhaps it’s a profit-maker for the state, but it could be a loss leader too. Honestly, I don’t know.

I’m sure it would be a full-time job for several months, but it would be interesting to have a group like the Maryland Public Policy Institute look deeply into the state budget and see where savings could be achieved by getting back to what the state is truly supposed to do and eliminating all of these tasks which may have been noble to begin with but now serve mostly as money pits and opportunities for giving patronage jobs to those who happen to be on the correct political side.

Now THAT’s a budget battle worth fighting. To be sure, it’s a hefty slice of pie-in-the-sky thinking, but I don’t believe in compromising either. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. Smaller, less obtrusive government that’s advocated by people on my side such as my Red Maryland cohorts is right, and the nanny statism supported by lefties such as those who currently run the Maryland General Assembly and the folks at Free State Politics is wrong.

If we really wish to be true to Republican principles and Constitutional government, we need to do more than slow down the rate of spending increase, we need to work on achieving the goal of putting more money in taxpayers’ pockets. If we could pull off the feat of streamlining state government to the extent I’d like to see, it would make the BRAC job increase look like peanuts compared to the influx of residents who would seek a low-tax, entrepreneur-friendly place to live.

Now, a quick change in subject. I indeed sent an e-mail out regarding last night’s post about the in-state tuition for illegals bill, and got my first response back from Page Elmore (R-38A), who said in part:

I certainly agree with your opposition and I will not vote for HB 1236.

That’s one down, ten more to go. Keep up the pressure.

Crossposted on monoblogue.

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