When I looked at the long list of tax hiking Democratic Governors back in the spring, I gave an incomplete grade to Maryland’s new Democratic Governor, Martin O’Malley, not out of any illusions about whether he was anything but a standard-issue tax-and-spend liberal but simply because he hadn’t done anything yet.
Well, no need to wait longer for the verdict. E.J. Dionne, predictably, hails O’Malley’s billion-and-a-half dollar tax hike, passed earlier this week:
Facing a $1.7 billion budget deficit, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley — who offered the above observations in an interview — led the legislature this week to approve $1.4 billion in taxes and $550 million in spending cuts. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen that kind of balance from the federal government.
At the same time, the legislature extended health coverage to 100,000 residents and approved new money for transportation, education and cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. . . .
The final budget package contains its share of questionable concessions to this group or that. The middle class bears more of the burden of the tax increases than O’Malley had hoped. The income tax hike for those earning over $500,000 a year — the rate goes from 4.75 percent to 5.5 percent — is a modest step in the right direction.
The fact that even Dionne recognizes that this is three dollars in tax hikes for every dollar in spending cuts, as well as the massive expansion of Medicaid to another 140,000 recipients, should tell you all you need to know about O’Malley’s commitment to protecting the taxpayer. (Also, the $550 million is a apparently a cut in “State spending growth,” not actual spending reductions). Indeed, Dionne hails the Maryland Governor as the man who can bring back the case for big government:
[T]he sound you are hearing not only in Maryland but in state capitals across the nation is the crashing and crumbling of ideology, specifically a right-wing ideology that demonizes taxes and government while preaching that the public interest depends upon solicitude toward the comfortable and the privileged.
Those rebelling against this dying disposition include liberals such as O’Malley and moderates such as Govs. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, both Democrats, and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger of California.
In sorting out his state’s budget mess, O’Malley turned for advice to Sebelius and former Virginia governor Mark Warner, a Democrat who once persuaded a Republican legislature to raise taxes.
Warner, O’Malley said, urged him to take his time to explain the options so voters understood “what the choices are.” O’Malley’s initial budget was thus not adventurous. Both Warner and Sebelius also said requests for new taxes needed to be connected to services that voters wanted government to deliver. “It’s important that you remind people what their state government does and where their taxes go,” O’Malley said.
Yup, a billion-dollar tax hike is exactly Mark Warner’s formula for success; Virginia voters will soon enough be asked whether they want him to pressthat same philosophy nationally. And the fine print goes deeper than just a burden on Marylanders who work hard for their money:
Executives this week cast both brickbats and laurels at Maryland’s new package of business taxes and programs, with several singling out a new state sales tax on computer services for criticism.
The tax was ill-conceived and hastily adopted, say some, who warn it will put Maryland companies at a competitive disadvantage and send the wrong message about the state’s business climate.
Expanding the sales tax to computer businesses handicaps those companies when they compete against those in states that don’t have such a tax, Micheals said.