Friday, April 6, 2012

A Hole in the Market (Friday LINKS)

I think the next month is going to do a lot to set the stage for the 2014 Gubernatorial Primary.  Every day Marylanders open the newspaper, they are watching lawmakers examine their flank, underside, and shoulders to see which cut of meat will best satisfy their needs.  We've heard about an income tax, sales tax, gas tax, and even a tax on our...ahem...even a flush tax.  Meanwhile, contemporaneous to all of this, lawmakers are also looking to shift existing costs from the State to the County, with the assurance of "Don't worry, we'll lift the tax caps so you can find more income."

Throughout all of this, the average citizen has to wonder if anyone is looking out for them.  That sounds like a political slogan, but I mean it in the most basic sense.  Who is at the table saying "Come on, folks.  Is our best option to shift these costs onto our already struggling taxpayers?  Is this the best we can do?"

With respect to my Republican friends, the practical matter is that this is just not something the Republicans are in a position to fight.  First, they don't have the strength to do so.  Second, they appear to be focused on satisfying a base at the expense of enlarging the tent.  In a State like Maryland, Bob Ehrlich wins, Alex Mooney loses.  Every time.  It may be fun to call people RINO's and protect insularity, but you are doing so at the expense of your party.

What that leaves us with is a situation in 2014 where taxpayers will be paying significantly higher state and local taxes with the possible forecast of additional taxes down the road to address a yet-to-be-reformed unsustainable pension burden.  Regardless of bumper stickers, they are going to be mad.

In the absence of a Republican alternative, voters are going to be looking to the Democratic field for their taxpayer champion.  The likely candidates suggest a clear avenue for Comptroller Peter Franchot to capture this base.  Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown will be stained by an administration that failed to show any interest in lowering tax burdens and has yet to come across a tax it doesn't like.  Doug Gansler will have little to no context in which he will be able to show experience in this area.  While Ken Ulman has been a very good executive in Howard County and put forth responsible (if sometimes "innovative") uses of taxpayer money, the fire tax will not be the last increase he will be forced to levy between now and April 2014.  He will also have the "must be nice to be in Howard County" label, which will be difficult to shed.

Comptroller Franchot has fought against the gas tax and brought attention to irresponsible uses of taxpayer money on more than one occasion.  He is currently focused on recapturing rightly owed State income in unresolved liabilities and cigarette smuggling.  In its most simplest terms, Peter Franchot is capturing a hole in the political market: Anti-tax Democrats.  These folks want the priorities of the Democratic party to be protected (public sector workers, green energy, social safety net), but want responsible management of their money.

This is not to say the other candidates can't share this space, but as of right now, they are far afield.  By the time this need becomes apparent, it may be too late to shift course.


Today is Opening Day for the Baltimore Orioles.  Please, let me have this.  Any comments detracting from the Orange and Black will be deleted.  I am not kidding.

Not to make this into a sports blog, but I also wanted to add that the Capitals are going to the playoffs.  Unfortunately, their goalie(s) are third, fourth, and fifth stringers (basically the Hershey line-up), but playoff hockey is still fun to watch...and unpredictable...right?

Lawmakers have figured out how to raise $191 million of the $1 billion budget shortfall with an income tax increase on all those making over $100,000.  Hmm, I'm thinking the other $800 million is not going to come from the seat cushions.

A bill that would expand gambling in Maryland to allow table games has an all-star line-up of lobbyists to back it up.  I would be fine with the passage of this bill so long as it was renamed "A Tax on the Addicted and Persons Bad at Math."  Joking aside, state-enabled trickery is bad law.  It is hard to describe how disappointed I am at the progression of gambling in this State.  We are trading long term social welfare for short term money.  Even worse, the voters of Maryland were fooled into thinking that gambling would stop with slots.  Lawmakers should be ashamed.

Baltimore County is doing a bizarro impersonation of Howard County with their bill to introduce elected members to the Board of Education.  "Advocates for an elected school board say it would make the panel more accountable to the public, but opponents have raised concerns about issues including minority representation on an elected board." -- "Listen to this dude, Rufus.  He knows what he's talking about."

Featured Blog Post of the Day: Well & Wise offers up some tips about what's going on around town.  Great stuff, especially if you have kids.

That's all for today.  Have a great Friday doing what you love!  And for the observant, have a celebratory and joyous Good Friday!