State's Democrats spend us into hole, want to tax us out

January 15, 2002|By Ellen Sauerbrey

IT IS said that those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it. Does anyone remember the boom days of the late 1980s, followed by the budget deficits of the early '90s and the ensuing tax increases? So here we go again.

Maryland taxpayers should be outraged. After years of profligate spending that blew an enormous budget surplus, Gov. Parris N. Glendening has dug the state once again into a deep fiscal hole.

The Glendening-Townsend administration should be able to muddle through this year by raiding a variety of special funds, withholding the promised tax cut, shifting some committed capital projects from "pay as you go" to general obligation bonds and underfunding programs like Medicaid that will have to be paid for in future years.

Through such budget machinations and some minor belt tightening, it will avoid having to propose a tax increase in an election year. But looming ahead, according to General Assembly budget analysts, are massive deficits of more than $1.5 billion that can not be papered over.

The Sun reports that House Speaker Casper Taylor has announced that his top priority for the 2002 legislative session will be the creation of a commission to study revenue options "so Maryland can keep up with its growing demands in public education, transportation and health care."

How reminiscent this is of the Linowes Commission, which was appointed by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to do the same thing and to report back in December 1990, just after the November gubernatorial election.

That commission focused not on how to make government operate more efficiently but instead on how to raid the taxpayers' pocketbooks.

It recommended raising the personal income tax, the general sales tax, the corporate income tax and the financial institutions franchise tax.

Year after year, Maryland taxpayers have been victimized by a "let the good times roll" spiral.

In good economic times, when revenues are abundant, surpluses lead to vast new spending commitments. Then the economy cools, but the spending programs and the new employees are entrenched. Stagnant revenues are inadequate to pay the bills, and the taxpayer is asked to dig deeper into his pocket for a tax increase.

There are always "unmet needs" for government.

Unfortunately, government needs can be met only by requiring families to make do with less of their own hard-earned money.

When will we shout "enough" and kick the big spenders out of office?

Ellen Sauerbrey is a former Republican leader of the Maryland House of Delegates and twice was her party's candidate for governor.

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