The Maryland Constitution gives state legislators in Annapolis only one duty that they must perform each and every year: pass a balanced budget. Yet for 90 days, senators and delegates danced around this obligation. They have been fixated on their own political well-being instead of what's best for the citizens of Maryland. What a shameful performance! Voters, take note.
All 188 legislators are to blame for forcing an unprecedent extended session -- at $20,000 a day payable by the taxpayers. Gov. William Donald Schaefer must share in this breakdown of representative government, too. It imperils the state's credit rating, leaves counties and Baltimore in a precarious fiscal bind, destroys the state's construction and economic development program, slams the door on any new transportation activity and impacts every government program that touches the average Marylander's life.
House Majority Leader D. Bruce Poole accurately noted that too many lawmakers "bought into the notion you can get something for nothing," that they could, somehow, avoid raising taxes and also avoid making painful cuts to popular programs. It can't be done. Difficult as it may be, legislators were elected to make precisely these kinds of agonizing choices -- either chop programs or raise taxes. But regardless, the constitution says legislators must approve a balanced budget. For the first time in history, Maryland legislators refused to perform this constitutional obligation.