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What the Washington Post Failed to Say

A Response to the February 4th Story Published in the Washington Post

By Raquel Guillory, Director of Communications

According to The Post

“…This would be the year O’Malley (D) would be remembered, backers thought, for taking the lead on legalizing same-sex marriage, advancing offshore wind power and tackling other progressive policy goals that would resonate with Maryland’s liberal base and bolster his political ambitions beyond the state…”

In fact…

Just weeks after last year’s legislative session ended, Governor O’Malley began bringing stakeholders together to discuss Maryland’s critical infrastructure needs. 

On May 4, 2011 – just days after meeting with the Blue Ribbon Commission on Transportation Funding, Governor O’Malley addressed the Maryland Chamber of Commerce on Maryland’s most pressing need.

…Which brings me to the third reason I wanted to stop by, and that is to share some thoughts with you on a big challenge that we, together, have ahead of us when it comes to forging and putting together that precious consensus necessary to address our State’s transportation needs…

…Somehow, though the time is not ideal, we’ve got to find a way forward. What I’ve always liked about our State is that even in times of adversity we don’t make excuses, we make progress. These are the realities that we face.  There are not easy choices.  There is no “easy button” to press.  There is no simple or cost-free or even cost-neutral solution…

…We are all in this together.  Whether we pay for our infrastructure or whether we pay in so many other ways, the choice is ours…

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According to The Post

“…Maryland’s ongoing budget imbalance is crowding his [the Governor’s] agenda, and with time slipping away in a second term bereft of big accomplishments, O’Malley’s year has been focused on an array of proposed tax, fee and rate increases…”

In fact…

Governor O’Malley has responsibly led the State out of an era of recession, foreclosure and shrinking State revenues by making the tough choices while also making critical investments in job creation, public education, college affordability and the State’s infrastructure.

The Governor’s proposed budget, along with actions in last year’s budget, would eliminate 75% of Maryland’s structural deficit, which grew under the previous administration.

The Governor’s proposed budget would bring total spending reductions to $7.5 Billion over a six-year period – the largest in Maryland history.

At the same time, Maryland is now creating jobs again – at twice the rate of our neighbors in Virginia – and has driven down home foreclosures to the second lowest level since the recession started. Unemployment in Maryland has been driven down to a three year low.

From the Baltimore Sun:  “It is true that Governor O’Malley has relied far more on spending cuts than on tax increases to keep the state budget balanced since the start of the recession — it’s even true of this year’s proposal.”

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According to The Post

“…O’Malley last week asked the legislature to raise income taxes on anyone making $100,000 or more…”

In fact…

Governor O’Malley’s plan does not raise income tax rates.

For 80% of Maryland tax filers, it makes no change. It asks higher earners to do a little bit more through slightly capping deductions and phasing out exemptions.

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According to The Post

“…He [the Governor] also proposed that the state begin charging a sales tax on certain Internet purchases…”

In fact…

The Governor’s proposal is not a new tax.  This is about leveling the playing field between online retailers and their physical counterparts.  The Governor’s proposal would not impact business services provided over the Internet, online courses and educational services, computer hardware or software installation, or maintenance and repair.

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According to The Post….

“…[The Governor] said he would seek 18 cents more a gallon in state gasoline taxes to fund increases in road and transit construction that would create jobs…”

In fact…

Governor O’Malley’s proposal would lift the current sales tax exemption on the gasoline tax over 3 years.

The Governor’s plan would include a “braking” mechanism to prevent the sales tax from increasing if the cost of gasoline spikes.

Maryland has some of the worst traffic in America. In fact, the average daily commute for Marylanders is now nearly 32 minutes—the longest daily commute in the country. Its two metropolitan regions are in the top 6 worst for traffic congestion.

And Maryland’s infrastructure investment has not kept pace with its population growth. The primary revenue source is a flat 23.5 cents a gallon gas tax – which hasn’t been raised in two decades.

As the Baltimore Sun writes, “If Maryland continues to embrace a 1992 tax rate; it will have to settle for crumbling 1992-era infrastructure.”

The Post assumed in its analysis of the Governor’s plan to generate more revenue for transportation projects that all Maryland families commute alone in their cars, when in reality, according to the US Census, over one in four Maryland commuters get to work by another means (e.g., public transportation, carpooling, bicycling, walking).

The Governor’s Transportation plan will support an additional 7,500 jobs, on top of the 52,000 jobs Maryland’s capital budget already supports.

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According to The Post

“…He also asked lawmakers to double water bill fees, boost electric rates and increase state borrowing for environmental projects, affordable housing and school construction…”

In fact…

The Governor rejected calls from the Task Force on Sustainable Growth and Wastewater to triple the Bay Restoration residential fee. Instead, his plan shifts to a consumption-based fee structure which means that the more you use, the more you pay and the less you use, the less you pay.

The Governor’s plan on wind seeks to harness homegrown energy, produced off of Maryland’s shores, to create thousands of construction, manufacturing and maintenance jobs in a new offshore wind industry. It would specifically limit the average rate impact to $2.00 per month, but because it is consumption-based, those ratepayers who use less energy, like people living in smaller apartments, would pay even less – which the Post does not include in its analysis.

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According to The Post

“…O’Malley said the spending would position Maryland for growth and propel it out of the post-recession slump ahead of others…”

In fact…

Governor O’Malley has cut record amounts of spending. Governor O’Malley has cut more spending in his six years than ever before – $7.5 billion.

And Maryland is creating jobs again. In 2011, Maryland created 30,300 new jobs – the vast majority of them in the private sector – at twice the rate of neighboring Virginia.

Including the proposed FY2013 budget, Governor O’Malley has taken actions over the last six years that reduced ongoing spending by almost $2 for each additional $1 of revenue changes.

Governor O’Malley has responsibly taken action to close 75% of the ongoing, structural deficit (including actions in the proposed FY2013 budget) even while the recession has cut more than $14 billion out of State revenues over the last six years.

In the just released FY2013 proposed budget, General Fund budget cuts—$610 million—are twice the amount of revenue increases.

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According to The Post

“…When they [Governor’s budget proposals] are taken together, and while the economy remains shaky, the burden of at least $951 million in new costs to the state’s households…”

In fact…

Governor O’Malley’s proposed budget does not include $951 million in new taxes.

With $610 million in cuts to General Fund spending, it cuts twice as much as it generates in new revenues.

The proposed budget invests in the State’s households, with 84% of every dollar going to public education, public safety, and public health.

The proposed budget invests $4 billion of operating and capital spending in jobs and job creation.

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According to The Post

“…O’Malley’s revenue proposals combined would rival his record-setting 2007 package…”

In fact…

Governor O’Malley has set records during his tenure for the amount of State spending he has cut. He’s cut more spending over six years than any previous governor.

Including the proposed FY2013 budget, Governor O’Malley has taken actions over the last six years that reduce ongoing spending by almost $2 for each additional $1 of revenue changes.

This is not the record of a “tax-and-spend” Governor.

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According to The Post

“…More damaging, however, than attacks from Republicans, who are a small minority in the state legislature, is the criticism that aspects of the governor’s proposals have drawn from key Democratic lawmakers…”

In fact…

The fact is that enhanced transportation revenue has broad support, including from leading business groups like the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, which considers it essential to the “employment, business, quality of life, environment and safety needs of the state.”

The Blue Ribbon Commission on Maryland Transportation Funding, a nonpartisan advisory group composed of a diverse array of stakeholders from business and government, concluded that the State needed to generate an additional $870 million in transportation revenue per year. 

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As the Governor said two weeks ago…

“…As we discussed last year: there are costs and there are values.  We cannot kid ourselves into thinking that by failing to invest in our future, we are somehow saving resources, that we are being ‘clever’ somehow and saving money.  For everything has a cost. Consumption has a cost.  Inaction has a huge cost.  Failing to make decisions that are consistent with the best interests of the next generation, this too has a cost…”

The Washington Post’s Robert McCartney called the Governor’s willingness to confront the challenges facing our state “political courage.”

The Baltimore Sun’s editorial board called the Governor’s budget plan “tough,” but said it “moves the state toward fiscal sustainability without unduly burdening the poor.”

“…But nobody else is going to do this for us,… except for us…”