Representative Wayne Gilchrest strains our credulity when he suggests that Republican primary challenger Dr. Andrew Harris is somehow soft on illegal immigration because of votes in the General Assembly for “omnibus” bond bills that included money for the CASA of Maryland Multi-Cultural Service Center in Prince Georges County. (H/T to Salisbury’s The Daily Times for links to Gilchrest ads.)
CASA is an organization that, charitably put, seeks to advance the fortunes of Hispanic immigrants in Maryland, legal or not.
The good Mr. Gilchrest saw fit in 2004 to come to Annapolis to testify against slots: but where was he when the legislation to prevent illegals from obtaining drivers-permits was before the General Assembly? On March 23 of that year, according to Capital News Service, he urged full funding for the questionable Thornton scheme, and touted the Flush Tax.
Neither the congressman from the first district nor his adversary on slots, then-governor Bob Ehrlich, saw fit, however, to spend political capital on protecting the integrity of Maryland drivers permits. Herb McMillan, however, did some very heavy lifting in the House of Delegates to try to do so. Ron George continues his work. As the Washington Times wrote in December of 2005:
“For the past two years, Republican Delegate Herbert McMillan has introduced legislation that would ensure the state would deny licenses to illegals, and both times the bills were killed by the Democrats. Mr. McMillan plans to introduce a similar bill in next year’s session. The legislation is critical to homeland security and deserves support, but it has no possibility of passing unless Mr. Ehrlich is prepared to endorse it and take an active role in fighting for its passage. We urge the governor to act now.”
Arguably, the current Maryland policy of drivers permits for illegals is the strongest inducement for illegals to come to Maryland. (Recall how drivers permits are also tied in to the Motor Voter Act.) State senator Andy Harris voted against a bad drivers-permit bill in 2003 which the then-governor nonetheless approved, and Harris cosponsored drivers-permit-reform legislation in 2007.
Full disclosure: like most conservatives, my favorite in this nationally important primary competition is state senator Andy Harris. The Baltimore County physician energizes Maryland conservatives in ways I have not seen before. Spoilers in this race and now, reportedly, establishment heavy hitters appearing for the incumbent make Dr. Harris’ run harder. Whatever the outcome, Andy will emerge as one of the strongest credible Maryland conservative politicians.
But so-called negative campaigning is a wonderful engine for bringing out all sorts of issues and facts that would otherwise go unnoticed. In the case of the CASA bond votes, one unintended result of the Gilchrest ad is to highlight the problem of Maryland pork in the state capital budget.
What are the underlying facts of the CASA matter?
There were actually two bond-bill provisions approved, one in 2005 and one in 2006, to fund the CASA facility in Prince Georges County for a total of $400,000. Powerful House of Delegates Ways and Means chief Sheila Hixon and state senator Gwendolyn Britt introduced yet another bond bill in 2007 to provide $500,000 more in state funding for the CASA facility. Perhaps by 2007 the public outrage over illegals was too intense even for these paladins of governmentalism to advance the CASA measure. Thus the 2007 proposal was not funded.
The two approved CASA funding provisions in 2005 and 2006 were part of much larger state capital-budget bills. These omnibus measures had price tags of $665-plus million in 2005, and of $711-plus million in election-year 2006. Included in these state capital-budget bills were packages of legislative bond-bill projects. As the Department of Legislative Services (DLS) explains:
“The Senate and the House of Delegates each funded $12.5 million in legislative projects; individual bond bills were not acted upon by the legislature. Instead, the General Assembly amended the State Capital Budget Bill (HB 340) to specifically list the projects selected for funding.”
And in 2006 (an election year), the DLS declares:
“The Senate and the House of Delegates each funded $15 million in legislative projects; individual bond bills were not acted upon by the legislature. Instead, the General Assembly amended the State Capital Budget Bill (SB 370) to specifically list the projects selected for funding.”
By 2007, according to the DLS,
“The Senate and the House of Delegates each funded $10 million in legislative projects; individual bond bills were not acted upon by the legislature. Instead, the General Assembly amended the State Capital Budget Bill (HB 51) to specifically list the projects selected for funding.”
The moral is that taxpayer-friendly state legislators should insist that the proposed final legislative-project bond package (looking like this one but also linked to relevant bond-bill fact sheets) coming before the General Assembly should be posted timely on the internet so that not only legislators but the voters and the media be able to consider this “legislative projects” package before final action by the General Assembly.
Almost every member of the General Assembly voted for the 2005 and 2006 capital budget bills – - – authorizing state debt for both worthwhile and highly questionable projects. (One senator did not vote on this measure in 2006. Two delegates did not vote in 2005. No member voted against final passage of either capital budget bill.)
The CASA project (click here and here) received approval for $100,000 in state debt in 2005 and for $300,000 in state debt in 2006. Thus a nearly unanimous Maryland General Assembly voted for this project (among very many others) two years running.
Here is what the 2007 bond-bill “fact sheet” submitted by CASA reveals as that organization’s other proposed sources of likely taxpayer or taxpayer-related funds:
“Federal EDI Grant through Prince George’s County
Redevelopment Authority 496,000
DHCD Legacy Fund Grant 150,000
2005 and 2006 Maryland Bond Bills 400,000
DHCD Neighborhood Works Grant 2005 and 2006 78,000
Prince George’s County Grant 500,000
Montgomery County Grant 100,000
Private Donation – Local Hospital 500,000
Local Businesses through MD CITC Program 35,000â€
Does all this signify that every member voting for the two capital budget bills that included the CASA bond provisions (among many other bond provisions) wished to make Maryland a magnet state for illegals? Hardly.
But it does tell us that the Maryland political establishment is still asleep at the fiscal switch when it comes to spending other people’s money, and that both General Assembly parties savor local pork.
Many of the local bond-bill projects are arguably worthy endeavors – - – for private donors. Some may be defensible for public funding. But it is a stretch to burden Maryland taxpayers with debts for undertakings far removed from the core roles of state and local government.
Click here and here and here for more details on recent Maryland local pork. Read here about The Steamboat to Nowhere which received $450,000 just in state money since 2004, and a proposed $300,000 from the Worcester County Commissioners. Click here to read about a Calvert County project, Annemarie Garden, sponsored by the House of Delegates Republican leader which non-profit enterprise has received $250,000 since 2006, just in state money. and a proposed $500,000 from Calvert County.
One expects the Other Team, with its almost religious belief in growing and ever more intrusive government, to provide “bread and circuses” in every way and at all levels imaginable. Just eyeball, for example, current Montgomery County’s legislative bond-bill projects here: a music hall, a riding park, a labor college, and so forth.
And, of course, Representative Gilchrest apparently loves the culture of Federal pork – - – in the US House of Representatives. The Club for Growth gives him a resounding goose egg in its 2007 RePork Card. Even House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer eked out a 2 per cent ranking.
It shows a lack of respect for Maryland voters, however, when General Assembly Republicans decry overspending by governor O’Malley and the Democrats while complicitly pushing their own pet local taxpayer-paid schemes. More and more Congressional Republicans are beginning to get it about pork. It is time for Maryland Republican legislators to follow suit – - – and listen to fiscal-reform leaders like Senator Tom Coburn and Representative Jeff Flake on the national scene.
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