Too Big For Its Britches

by John J. Walters

APRIL 26, 2012 Bookmark and Share

The more times you do something, the easier it gets (generally speaking). So you’d think that our elected officials would have gotten used to passing a budget and getting their work done within 90 days. That’s the way it’s worked for years upon years – and many of our elected officials have spent quite a few terms in the Maryland legislature. Surely they should be used to the system by now, right?

Not so, apparently. In case you missed it two weeks ago, the Legislative Session ended before a consensus could be reached on the budget and on expanding state-sponsored gambling. The result? We passed a so-called “Doomsday Budget” with $500 million in spending cuts, which as Gabriel J. Michael pointed out still grows the overall budget by $700 million. And since then politicians have been throwing blame this way and that; arguing about what should be done.

There’s been three factions weighing in on what happened with this year’s Legislative Session over the past two weeks...

<> Conservatives say nothing went wrong at all. The system worked as it should. Nobody could agree on the proper way to raise taxes to fund all the proposed spending, so leaving taxes alone and not spending the extra money at all makes the most sense. They argue that there is no Special Session necessary.

<> Some Democrats say that they just need a little bit more time to finalize the budget (read: raise income taxes on 25% of MD residents) and then everything will be perfect. They don’t want to focus on anything besides the budget during the Special Session, and they want to get it over with as soon as possible.

<> Other Democrats favor a longer Special Session so that they can tackle a few other issues. Most notably: expanded gambling. Still undecided is a bill that would allow all Maryland residents to vote on whether to allow table games at Maryland casinos and to build a sixth casino in PG County. They claim that the extra revenue from this bill makes it well worth our while.

The news from Tuesday suggests that it looks like both camps on the Left will be getting what they want (because, honestly, when do Conservative dreams come true in this state?). That’s right! We’re looking at not one but two Special Sessions this year – one to focus on the budget and another to focus on expanding gambling.

All this has me wondering, though: isn’t the fact that our legislators couldn’t get all their work done in the standard amount of time an indication that the government has gotten a little too big for its britches?

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