House Minority Leaders in Maryland request Budget Hearing Delay

Again, while our House Minority Leaders in Annapolis stress patience and allowance to put together a good fiscal package, they are constantly met with restrictions from the Left in Annapolis.  The only ones I see really working for the People are our Minority Leaders who stress patience while gathering facts, and working hard not to allow Maryland to be bamboozled by the Arm Twisters in Annapolis.  The Governors Budget, which Senator Don Munson, Republican is always in favor of, is not a long term Fix for Maryland, but merely,  just putting a temporary filling in a cavity.  When will the boys from the Emerald Brigade understand Economics 101?

February 11, 2010
The Honorable Norman H. Conway, Chairman
House Appropriations Committee
6 Bladen Street, Room 120
Annapolis, MD 21401

The Honorable Ulysses Currie, Chairman
Senate Budget and Taxation Committee
3 West Miller Senate Building
11 Bladen Street
Annapolis, MD 21401

Dear Chairman Conway and Chairman Currie:

We have received and read with great interest your letter of January 29th inviting our respective caucus leaders to participate in what you called a “formal opportunity” to present our budget proposals. While we always welcome additional opportunities to provide input on Maryland’s budget crisis – and have consistently offered alternatives over the last three years – we do have some concerns about the timing and the logistics of your request.
Over the last three years, in our opinion, little has been done to address Maryland’s long-term budget crisis. The O’Malley Administration has talked a great deal about fiscal responsibility and tough choices but has made no significant long-term changes to fix Maryland’s budget woes. What the Governor calls “fiscal responsibility” has been characterized by raiding every State savings account and fund balance, passing massive tax increases, advocating for a fatally flawed slots scheme, and begging for bailouts from the federal government.
What little progress we have seen has mainly been a result of the work of the General Assembly, but this body has also been complicit in the Governor’s negligence. This body has passed budgets where total spending has been increased almost 9% over the last three years. This body has not addressed the bulk of the operating budget that is mandated spending, notwithstanding the General Assembly’s involvement in creating those mandates. In December of 2009, the Spending Affordability Committee gave the Governor a recommendation to submit a budget that could be $1 billion over revenue projections, while still satisfying the terms of the recommendation.
When the FY 08 budget was debated during the 2007 session, Chairman Conway said, “I realize that the picture I am painting is not a pretty one, but this is the reality of our situation and as you can see, we have a problem. The question is: Will we step up to the plate and solve it?” Clearly we have not solved the problem, as evidenced by a continuing stream of budget reductions taken before the Board of Public Works and annual structural deficits for the foreseeable future.
In November of 2007, we were called into a Special Session that was supposed to cure Maryland’s budget ills once and for all. Senate President Mike Miller stated after the tax bills were signed, “The state is going to be very well positioned for the next few years.” Clearly, that prediction did not materialize.
As a result of the 2007 special session, the citizens of Maryland were subjected to the largest tax increases in the state’s history. Next, the public was told the Governor’s slots scheme would fund our educational mandates now and into the future. Then, state employees were forced to contribute through furloughs to help fix the problem. But here we are, three years later and not only have the above “solutions” not solved the problem, they have contributed to our economic decline, demoralized our state employees, and severely compromised our business climate; while the structural deficits have continued to grow. The continued reliance on federal bailouts burdens our children with debt and extends these problems into the future indefinitely. While we fully recognize the impact of the national recession, the fiscal actions taken by the Governor and legislative leadership have exacerbated the problem.
The citizens of Maryland are tired of the same old story and are demanding true fiscal leadership. Our caucus welcomes the opportunity to once again offer alternative budget ideas in what we hope will be a more balanced approach to setting the state’s fiscal priorities than has been evidenced in recent years. We look forward to participating in a bipartisan and sincere exchange of ideas, as the people of Maryland would expect no less of their elected leaders.
Since your invitation to us is an unprecedented departure from our normal evaluation of the Governor’s budget submittal, we have some concerns as to the date in question, February 23rd. As you know, in our budget process, the Governor submits his spending priorities and the legislature evaluates and reduces that submittal as appropriate. While we agree we need sufficient time for our proposals to be evaluated, we must also strike a balance with having the full benefit of the DLS analysis of the Governor’s budget. Therefore, we suggest that a more appropriate date for this meeting would be March 9th. This will give all of us the opportunity to have received as much of the DLS fiscal analysis as is reasonably possible.
We believe that there are other reasons that our proposed date change is appropriate. There are many significant policy bill hearings scheduled to occur on February 23rd. Additionally, critical hearing time was lost due to the snow emergency of the past week. We therefore request that this meeting be rescheduled for Tuesday, March 9th at the appropriate time.
Given recent commentary on the Senate floor as well as press accounts covering this invitation, it appears as if some of the details may no longer apply. We respectfully request clarification on these logistics. For instance, we understand Senate President Miller has invited the entire membership of the Senate to participate in such a dialogue. Will this also apply to the entire membership of the House? Do you still envision this to be a joint meeting with both budget committees? In order to adequately prepare, we ask that logistical details be forthcoming.
In addition, we have an invitation of our own. Since the leadership of the minority party will be presenting some constructive ideas on addressing both our immediate and future fiscal challenges, we feel it is entirely appropriate to invite the majority party leadership and the presiding officers to present their own vision of addressing our immediate and future fiscal deficits, including their plans to reduce spending or raise additional revenues. If decisions or recommendations made during this budget cycle have the effect of locking in future tax increases, we believe it is appropriate for such effects to be disclosed now and not hidden from public scrutiny. Our hope with this expanded invitation is to allow sufficient time for both the minority and majority leadership’s ideas and visions to receive a thorough public vetting and consideration.
Finally, we assume that given the nature of our participatory democracy expressed in Article 13 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights, and both parties’ recent and ongoing efforts to expand openness and transparency in the legislative process, that the public will not only be invited, but encouraged to attend, testify, and participate fully in this dialogue. Recent sentiments expressed by Maryland citizens indicate that they too would be eager to share their vision and constructive input into how their hard-earned money is spent.
We look forward to your response as we work together on behalf of the citizens of Maryland.


Anthony J. O’Donnell Christopher B. Shank
House Minority Leader House Minority Whip


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