Texas Gov. Rick Perry visited Maryland this week right in the middle of Martin O’Malley’s self-congratulatory “Better Choices, Better Results” tour. O’Malley is traveling the state (except the rural areas) over the next few months promoting the accomplishments of his gubernatorial term 15 months before it ends.
But Perry’s one-day visit and $500,000 ad blitz luring businesses to low-tax, business-friendly Texas is ruining O’Malley’s victory lap and unnerving O’Malley and the liberal establishment. On the day Perry arrived, The Washington Post dutifully published O’Malley’s slam on Texas, gun-control zealots tried sandbagging Perry and O’Malley kept boasting about “kicking Perry’s [behind].” Hey, what happened to civility?
Funny, no one threatened O’Malley’s behind when he went to Wisconsin, New Jersey, Virginia and South Carolina attacking Republican governors on their home turf.
Wednesday night on CNN the two govs had a “my state’s better than yours” shootout using live statistics. Perry got off the best quip, “We pray for rain in Texas. They tax it in Maryland.”
Actually, Rick Perry and Martin O’Malley have at least three things in common: they are both handsome, ambitious governors, they are both facing imminent unemployment and neither is going to be president of the United States.
According to the national polls, Perry is running seventh (at 6 percent) among Republicans while O’Malley is running sixth (at 2 percent) among Democrats.
So why is Perry targeting Maryland? What makes him think anyone here is unhappy? Perhaps he heard about Maryland’s net loss of 66,000 taxpayers who took their $5.5 billion net taxable incomes with them between 2000 and 2010. O’Malley’s apologists lamely counter that Maryland’s eight top billionaires still live here.
Or perhaps he read about Maryland’s taxaholism problem: 40 different taxes, fees and tolls increased during the past seven years costing taxpayers an additional $3.1 billion a year. Hey, maybe Perry is just coming here to see what a “rain tax” really looks like.
Or perhaps he read about Maryland’s rural counties getting fed up with being bullied by a permanent liberal Democratic majority in Annapolis. Last year seven rural counties created the “Clean Chesapeake Coalition” opposing the environmental extremists who control state government.
Thanks to the green lobby, farmers were hit with harsh, unaffordable new state controls, anti-sprawl measures devalued rural land values, natural gas mining (fracking) was rejected in favor of costly offshore windmills and local governments were stripped of their zoning and land-use authority.
There’s even a grassroots movement in five Western Maryland counties to secede and create a new state. Folks are angry about taxes, gun control, gay marriage, illegal immigration and repeal of the death penalty.
Or perhaps Perry thinks Maryland voters are ready for what just happened in Colorado where three plumbers, using spray-painted lawn signs, started a voter recall effort that successfully unseated two liberal Democrats including the president of the state Senate, despite being outspent, 5 to 1, by wealthy gun control advocates. It was the first voter recall in Colorado history.
And the Colorado uprising wasn’t just about gun control. The new state legislature, the most liberal in Colorado history, passed strict gun-control measures, doubled the renewable energy mandate for rural counties, permitted in-state tuitions for illegal aliens and tried to repeal the death penalty. Sound familiar?
Nor was it a Tea Party rebellion. Both incumbents were defeated in Democratic districts where Democrats voted heavily while ignoring Bill Clinton’s robo calls. In the most Democratic district, the incumbent lost to her Republican replacement, a retired deputy police chief, by 12 percentage points.
Or perhaps Gov. Perry saw through O’Malley’s selective data and happy face claims about Maryland’s fiscal status. O’Malley likes to cherry pick statistics. For instance, he brags that Maryland “leads the nation in innovation and entrepreneurship.” True enough, in CNBC’s recent business climate rankings Maryland is ninth in “technology and innovation” (Texas is second).
But the CNBC study has nine other categories including “cost of doing business” (Maryland ranks 41st) and “business friendliness” (Maryland ranks 45th). When CNBC averaged all 10 categories, Maryland ranked 40th nationally, Texas ranked second.
Likewise, O’Malley is fond of boasting about Maryland’s AAA bond rating while neglecting Moody’s “negative outlook” due to Maryland’s “above average debt burden and large unfunded pension liabilities (double the median liability of other states).”
Some of O’Malley’s fellow-Marylanders share Moody’s concerns. Jerry Wit, chairman of Maryland Business for Responsive Government, a leading business organization, is calling on O’Malley to act because “Maryland’s problem of being an unfriendly state for business is a state problem, we need the state to take charge.”
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot agrees, calls Maryland’s economic recovery “anemic” and warns that new state revenues are coming in below estimates, especially income and sales taxes.”
“We’re almost dead last in the country [in wage growth],” he says, and Maryland’s unemployment rate is 96 percent of the national rate, the highest level since the late 1990s.
Franchot believes that Maryland’s progressive political agenda “is not fiscally responsible” because state revenues cannot keep pace with state government’s runaway spending levels. The problem in Annapolis, Franchot says, is, “If the House [of Delegates] wants to fund a program at $1 million, and the Senate wants to fund it at $2 million, they compromise and fund it at $3 million.”
More rain on O’Malley’s victory parade but from a lifelong liberal Democrat who’s from Takoma Park, not Texas, and who’s not even running for president.
Blair Lee is chairman of the board of Lee Development Group in Silver Spring and a regular commentator for WBAL radio. His column appears Fridays in the Business Gazette. His past columns are available at www.gazette.net/blairlee. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.