Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 25, 2005

State's surplus was achieved at a high cost

On July 20, The Sun reported on Maryland's unexpected surplus, and indicated that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. claimed some credit for it ("Ehrlich says Maryland has surplus of $1 billion," July 20).

Of course, a better budget situation can be attributed to both increased revenues and decreased expenses.

On the revenue side, closing the Delaware tax loophole, which was a legislative initiative, and increasing the state property tax, which was the governor's initiative, both contributed significantly to increased revenues.

On the expense side, Mr. Ehrlich sought to balance the budget on the backs of the state work force.

One of his first acts in office was to refuse to comply with a collectively bargained 2 percent pay raise for state employees. Next, in spite of a campaign promise not to lay off employees, Mr. Ehrlich terminated hundreds of state employees with little or no notice.

Still not satisfied, Mr. Ehrlich shifted the burden of health insurance onto state retirees and employees by increasing basic health care costs and recently demanding more than $60 million in shifted costs for prescription drugs. Many employee and retiree prescriptions now cost literally 10 times what they cost one month ago.

The increased costs are not even covered by cost-of-living raises for many employees.

What do such policies mean for the average state taxpayer?

There are fewer correctional officers and there is more violence in Maryland prisons. Caseloads in social services, parole and probation, juvenile services continue to skyrocket. Tuition at state universities is higher.

Such cuts not only hurt state employees and higher-education workers, they also damage the quality of life of Maryland's residents.

A revolving door of state employees does not serve the citizens well.

Now is the time to reverse this trend.

We ask Mr. Ehrlich to begin to pay state and higher-education employees what they are really worth. To acknowledge the dire need for increased staff and staff training. To restore critical services that have been cut.

Then Maryland will have something to be proud about.

Ron Bailey

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of AFSCME Council 92.

Ehrlich right to hold the line on taxes

I love it. Our state government estimates that it will have a $1 billion budget surplus, but critics say Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. deserves none of the credit ("Ehrlich says Maryland has surplus of $1 billion," July 20).

These are among the same critics who said we needed to raise taxes to solve our budget problems. They sure are quiet about that these days.

Maybe the critics have a point. Perhaps the real estate market is a big reason our state budget is doing better. But it takes a strong leader to recognize that we don't need to raise taxes to get us out of our problems.

Maybe Mr. Ehrlich isn't the reason we have a $1 billion budget surplus. But he is certainly the reason we haven't raised the income or sales tax.

And you know what? I'll take that. Because it puts money back into my pocket and sends the message to government to learn to deal with both the highs and the lows of the economy.

Erik Atas

Baltimore

Time for a thaw in hiring freeze?

Now that we have a nice state budget surplus, will we see the almost 4-year-old state hiring freeze lifted ("Ehrlich says Maryland has surplus of $1 billion," July 20)?

Doing so would provide much-needed jobs and allow the state to fill positions for which it has been creating eligibility lists for years.

And if not now, when?

Nikki Brockhoff

Baltimore

Arbitrary jailings undermine liberty

The Bush administration would have us believe that we live in such dangerous times that parts of the Constitution no longer apply, and that perceived threats such as Jose Padilla can be held indefinitely without charges ("Arguments put forth in Padilla case," July 20).

But that's the argument of totalitarian governments, who use security as a pretense to roll back civil liberties, crack down on newspapers and jail political opponents.

We're not there yet, but the longer the administration pursues its "enemy combatant" argument, the further we slide down that slippery slope.

Do we really want to be known as a nation that dismisses dissent while hiding individuals from lawyers, their families or the public?

Robert J. Inlow

Charlottesville, Va.

Using atomic bomb saved millions of lives

Shigeko Sasamori's story of her suffering and scarred body from the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima and thus her objection to the National Atomic Museum observance is arresting ("As a girl, she suffered in Hiroshima; today, she calls for end to war," July 17). You feel her pain and understand her feelings.

But Imperial Japan's aggression from 1931 to 1945 killed, maimed and otherwise victimized many tens of millions, including children, throughout invaded and subjugated Korea, China, Southeast Asia and Pacific Ocean islands.

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