Is O’Malley Running for President While Running the Old Line State into the Ground?

Sean Kennedy Jul 17, 2012

Over the weekend, Politico, an inside politics DC-based trade paper for lobbyists and hill staffers, profiled Governor Martin O’Malley ahead of the National Governor’s Association conference in Williamsburg, VA. The story focuses on how much time and effort Martin O’Malley is spending as “perhaps the sharpest-tongued, most enthusiastic and aggressive advocate for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign,” according to Politico’s Alexander Burns.

O’Malley found the time to give extended quotes to Politico for the piece, which heaps praise on the governor without citing specific accomplishments from his tenure in Annapolis. Buried near the bottom of the story, Ohio’s ex-governor Ted Strickland says “I think he could very well be president someday.”

Strickland’s suggestion is not without precedent. Bill Clinton, Evan Bayh, Howard Dean, and Bill Richardson all used the chairmanship of the Democratic Governors’ Association, which O’Malley now holds, as a stepping stone for a White House bid.

But what of O’Malley’s record and the Maryland Miracle? As Change Maryland points out, O’Malley’s policies cost the Old Line state 31,000 residents and $1.7 billion in lost revenue from 2007 to 2010. The 24 new taxes and fees imposed by O’Malley and his backers in the statehouse have made Maryland one of the most unfriendly states for individuals and businesses. According to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, “for overall tax structure, Maryland is near the bottom: an unfriendly 42nd out of the 50 states.” Embarrassing, the Tax Foundation had to correct an O’Malley press release that incorrectly stated tax rates in Virginia and altogether omitted Maryland’s neighbor Delaware from a regional comparison.

The State Integrity Investigation also ranked Maryland near the bottom for its corruption policies with a D- (61%). For transparency in public information and state pension fund management, Maryland altogether failed.

Obama campaign spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter praised O’Malley as a job-creator like Obama, “He and the president share similar beliefs on how to rebuild our economy by first restoring the security of the middle class and creating jobs of the future.”

Again, Maryland is not creating new jobs. The Tax Foundation ranks Maryland as 46th in new business taxes. O’Malley has been nickel and diming working class Marylanders as well with new taxes or fee increases on everything from cigarettes and car titling to death and birth certificates.

For the living, non-smoking, non-driving residents of the Old Line state, Maryland’s bureaucratic rules make working difficult. Occupational licensing rules are onerous and expensive. Maryland ranks as the 10th most burdensome state for these licenses requiring $200 in fees and 15 months of state-mandated training. You want to sample milk or pick fruit in the summer – there’s a license and a fee for that in Maryland.

But labor leaders and their allies are excited about O’Malley’s future on the national stage. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says of O’Malley:

“I think he has a real national following right now because of DGA and because of other things he’s done – the candidates that he’s helped across the country, whether it’s [Missouri Gov. Jay] Nixon or [Vermont Gov.] Peter Shumlin or Steve Bullock in Montana or [Jay] Inslee in Washington … He’s there whenever it counts.”

Wisconsin State Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate, who spent much of the last two years trying to unseat Scott Walker, is a “big, big fan” of O’Malley.

According to the Calvert Institute’s George Liebman, part of it may be because of, “the O'Malley administration's failure to face facts, capitulation to various rent-seekers, and efforts to use risky investments to reach unattainable targets” in funding the state’s pensions.

Instead of reforming state pensions, the General Assembly increased contributions and wages simultaneously – eliminating any savings to the state’s taxpayers. The bill will come due for Marylanders, though, since Maryland owes a combined $71 billion to its state employee retirees in healthcare and pensions. Only 64% of the pensions costs are covered right now and only 1% of taxpayers’ future health liability according to the Pew Center for the States.

Under O’Malley’s watch, state workers will never have to worry about paying for their pension and healthcare costs if taxpayers are still there (a big IF at this rate) to foot the bill. O’Malley is probably hoping that the bill comes due when he is sitting behind a desk at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.