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Fiscal Policy Richard Falknor on 01 Jun 2011 05:16 pm

But in Annapolis, GOP Notables Still Bring Home the Pork

Yesterday evening, by an overwhelming vote, the U S House of Representatives refused to raise the national debt limit without a plan to cut the deficit.

But Maryland Republicans should not expect that yesterday’s House GOP vote will elicit any kind of stop-the-spending, slow the earmarks model from their notables in the General Assembly.

The 2011 Pork Roll

Click here to see the legislative bond bills approved by this year’s General Assembly – – then print the list out for closer study. For readers who want some recent history about these debt-expanding schemes, here, here and here are the lists for 2010, 2009, and 2008.

Early last February, we asked Who Is Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio? – –

“Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio is the GOP whip in the Maryland House of Delegates, officially the number two person in that chamber’s Republican leadership.” . . . . “Last week she and the GOP House of Delegates Republican leader Tony O’Donnell wrote House Speaker Michael Busch –

‘We are writing to inform you that our caucus has taken the official position recommending against the inclusion of legislative bond bills in the FY 2012 budget.

As you know, bond bills increase the state’s capital debt service which is funded through the property tax revenue and supplemented with general fund dollars. According to the Department of Legislative Services, property tax revenue is projected to be $326 million less than debt service costs by FY 2015. With a projected budget deficit in FY 2015 of $1.8 billion, we will be hard pressed to supplement that shortfall through the General Fund. We realize that the bulk of this shortfall is related to debt already issued, but we feel the focus should be on reversing the damage, not making it worse.’ (Underscoring Forum’s.)

But that didn’t keep Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio from continuing to sponsor two and co-sponsoring three such measures.

We pointed to Haddaway-Riccio (1) because she is in a House of Delegates GOP leadership position and (2) she co-signed the letter to speaker Michael Busch about the House of Delegates GOP caucus “recommending against the inclusion of legislative bond bills in the FY 2012 budget.”

Yet she still did not remove her name from sponsoring or co-sponsoring these bond bills. Not surprisingly, she voted against the Maryland capital budget this year. The likelihood was overwhelming that the budget would pass both chambers of the General Assembly.

Significantly, all five of the projects she sponsored or co-sponsored received some taxpayer money via enlarging Maryland indebtedness: four of them from state senate action, one of them from action by both chambers.  The details can be found here.

Which GOP State Senators Are Still Part of The Pork System?

But let’s not overlook the significant spenders among the GOP members of the Maryland state senate.
Only four GOP state senators Getty, Reilly, Shank, and Simonaire courageously voted this year against the pork-prone capital budget. The capital budget includes the legislative bond bills – – but also other larger expansions of Maryland public debt.

The state senate Republican leader and all three GOP members of the crucial Budget & Taxation panel voted for the capital budget. Of course, state senate GOP leader Nancy Jacobs has, in earlier years, shown her fiscal acuity by voting (2007) for the Maryland Clean Cars Act which measure (see p. 7 in foregoing link) promised to add to the purchase price of cars sold in Maryland.

What an example these four senior GOP state senators are now setting in such dangerous times by supporting questionable capital expenditures!

As Josh Barro explains in his “Dodging the Pension Disaster” (National Affairs) – –

“Consider that the total outstanding bond debt of state and local governments is about $2.4 trillion. If one accounts for pension and health-care debts using the figures supplied by Novy-Marx and Rauh (among others), the total outstanding obligations of the states rises to as much as $6.4 trillion—meaning that our sub-national governments are nearly three times further in the red than they appear to be at first glance.” (Underscoring Forum’s.)

The Good, The Bad, and The Muddled?

Readers may scroll through the final text of HB 71 to make their own judgment about which bond provisions were vital for Maryland infrastructure today, and which ones

  • either should not be built with taxpayer money at all;
  • are already covered by Federal programs, e.g. hospice; or
  • should have to wait until more sober times.

The following caught our eye as meriting much closer scrutiny:

“Baltimore Museum of Art. Provide a grant to the Board of Trustees of the Baltimore Museum of Art for the design, renovation, and reconfiguration of facilities at the Baltimore Museum of Art, subject to the requirement that the grantee provide an equal and matching fund for this purpose (Baltimore City) ….. 2,500,000.”

“East Baltimore Biotechnology Park. Provide a grant to the Mayor and City Council of the City of Baltimore for demolition in the East Baltimore Biotechnology Park area, subject to the requirement that the grantee provide an equal and matching fund for this purpose (Baltimore City) ……………2,500,000.”

“Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts. Provide a grant to the Board of Directors of the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts for the construction of improvements to the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts, subject to the requirement that the grantee provide an equal and matching fund for this purpose (Anne Arundel County) ……250,000.”

(Baltimore County) New Performing Arts and Humanities Facility. Provide funds to construct and equip a new Performing Arts and Humanities Facility ……………31,200,000.”

(Calvert County) Riverside Interpretive Trails and Exhibit Stations. Provide funds to construct a system of trails and exhibits at the Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum ….. 1,001,000.”

Here is the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) “Capital Budget Fiscal Briefing” of January 2011 for those who wish to plumb the details.

Stopping GOP Complicity in Annapolis Spending

Over the years, we have covered GOP-blessed questionable Annapolis spending, from extravagant pension benefits to local and statewide pork here, here, here, and here, to list only four of our posts.

But this political malpractice won’t stop unless the Maryland Tea Partyers and their allies get on the case of individual porkers who sail under the Republican flag.

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