Today, The Gazette continues its endorsements for contested races in the June 24 party primaries.
Gov. Martin O’Malley has left Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown with a legacy that could be the foundation of any campaign in True Blue Maryland: death penalty repeal, same-sex marriage, minimum wage increase. Unfortunately, the O’Malley legacy also includes the increase or creation of so many taxes that even the state’s left-leaning have to take notice.
The perception of Maryland has become it isn’t a place where businesses can grow and add jobs; instead, it seems to be a place where the state government will pass and increase taxes with impunity. The administration will argue that the perception discounts a number of positives about doing business in the Free State. We agree that Maryland is a great place to live and work, but when an outsider sees increases in income, corporate, gas, “flush” and sales taxes as well as the creation of the “rain tax” and the “millionaire’s tax,” the perception has a lot to support it.
Brown says he wants to create a comprehensive tax commission to look at Maryland levies. Yet, in our interview with him, he refused to share his opinion on any of the tax increases that occurred during O’Malley’s tenure. The perception is Brown doesn’t think the state needs to make major tax cuts anytime soon.
This election was Brown’s to lose. With the taxes — and the fiasco surrounding the state’s health care website that he was tasked with overseeing — we believe he has.
Of the other candidates, Del. Heather Mizeur told us she doesn’t want to change any of the state’s taxes, save an income tax increase on the remaining millionaires to provide some modest tax relief to individuals at the other end of the income spectrum. She’s also quick to legalize marijuana, despite Maryland’s opportunity to wait and learn from other states already testing the waters.
Attorney General Douglas Gansler calls for a cut in the corporate income tax. He would phase it in, which would protect the revenue that supports important programs while giving businesses an incentive to take advantage of tax savings to grow. He’s also the only Democrat looking critically at state spending, listing $1.5 billion in potential savings.
We think Gansler will be a better manager of public funds, and therefore earns The Gazette’s endorsement.
Gansler has always been known to speak his mind, and his tongue has gotten him into trouble from time to time. So what? It’s refreshing to have a politician whose speeches haven’t been predigested by a focus group. He also took some heat for pictures of him stopping by a teenage party where underage drinking was suspected. We can debate the parenting decisions of the candidates, but it’s more important to focus on the best decisions being made for the state when selecting a governor.
Gansler represents a better choice for Maryland Democrats.
The Republican Party is offering four candidates — Harford County Executive David Craig, Del. Ronald George, Change Maryland founder Larry Hogan and Charles County businessman Charles Lollar — who are all hammering the same theme of cutting taxes. They barely mention social issues — abortion, gun control, gay rights — that seem locked up in the state. It’s a good strategy. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the last Republican to lead the state, was pro-choice and favored gun control. Those kinds of Republicans are few and far between, even in Maryland, so it makes sense the candidates are doing their best not to mention social issues.
Of the four, we think three stand out particularly. Lollar shows great enthusiasm and an ability to fire up supporters. Hogan has built a strong organization that can challenge the Democrats in November. And Craig has years of service as a teacher and in elected positions at the city, county and state levels.
In his tax plan, Craig calls for the elimination of personal income taxes entirely. It’s bold, but we don’t think it’s possible.
Hogan, on the other hand, wants to find spending cuts and reduce taxes gradually. We think that approach is more reasonable. For that reason, we favor Hogan and give him The Gazette endorsement.
Hogan was part of the inner workings of state government, as Ehrlich’s appointments secretary. From that vantage, he has experience on how to run a state government. Maryland voters can hope he learned a few lessons on how not to run a state government, too. As a Republican governor with a Democratic legislature, Ehrlich spent so much time picking political fights with the opposition that he never got around to governing the state.
During his four years in office, Ehrlich vetoed a number of bills, and the General Assembly overturned many of his vetoes. We can hope that a Republican in charge doesn’t have to be conciliatory with Democrats, but at least be congenial enough to find common ground to move the state forward.
Hogan is the best Republican candidate for the job.