The Baltimore Sun ran an editorial this morning criticizing Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett for his attempts to protect his county from a reduction in state aid. Montgomery County should not be the “ATM machine for the rest of Maryland” he said, something that the Sun’s editorial board is predictably out of touch with since the protection of state aid for Montgomery County would theoretically hurt other, poorer subdivisions such as Baltimore City.
As is typical of the Sun, however, they completely miss the greater point of why discussing the nuances of reductions of state aid to counties should merely part of the budgetary sideshow.
The truth of the matter is that there is a $1.6 billion budgetary shortfall for next year (not that anybody should be surprised by that, nevermind the protestations of Governor O’Malley during the campaign). Yet we already seem to have artificially limited ourselves to what potential solutions would be under serious consideration. Reductions in state aid, mainly shifting the burden of teacher pensions from the state to the counties, seem to be at the top of the pecking order because they are the simplest solutions to make.
What Maryland really needs right now is a discussion about government services and what the people expect from the state and from their localities. A $1.6 billion shortfall should be reasonably easy to fix when you really start taking the scalpel to government, streamline government services, find effective cost savings, and get government out of certain ventures. Such cost savings would be applicable not just to next year but future years as well, as we would be looking for responsible change proposals instead of just doing a typical O’Malley quick fix proposal to assuage the Democrats special interest backers.
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Ike Leggett is right in that Montgomery County (or no county, for that matter) should be the ATM for the rest of the state. But we need to make sure that such statements are backed with a responsible reorganization of government, and responsible cuts in the size and scope of government. If the Sun really wants to be outraged with the budgetary situation, their outrage is misplaced on Leggett, and should be focused on the incapability of Martin O’Malley to manage a budget.