Cuts could imperil open space funding
As representatives of the Maryland Association of Counties accurately noted last week, much of the burden of the budget cuts the state would have to enact to balance the budget if the governor's revenue package does not move ahead would fall on local jurisdictions ("Counties association favors slots," Oct. 26).
Ever since 1969, Maryland's Program Open Space has been pooling the funds generated by the transfer and recordation taxes on land sales for the preservation of open space.
Unfortunately, all too often when the state is hurting financially, these funds have been diverted from land preservation programs to help fill general fund budget gaps.
As our leaders gather in Annapolis for a special session, it is vital that a diversion of this sort does not take place once again.
But the risk of this happening as part of Maryland's fiscal 2009 budget is real. Indeed, one of the cuts noted in Gov. Martin O'Malley's "Cost of Delay" budget would divert the entire local share of Program Open Space funds - nearly $55 million - to help close the budget gap ("O'Malley warns of high `cost of delay,'" Oct. 24).
State elected officials need to find a way to eliminate the budget deficit without crippling Program Open Space.
Protecting open space funds will benefit all of us and future generations of Marylanders.
The writer is chairman of the legislative committee of the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association.
Why can't the state tighten its belt too?
I have been a subscriber of The Sun for more than 20 years. Over the course of that time, there have been a number of proposals from the State House to increase a variety of taxes and fees. But I can hardly recall an occasion when The Sun was not in favor of the proposed increases.
This year, the editorial board seems to be squarely behind Gov. Martin O'Malley's plan to increase taxes and fees. In fact, the editors opined in "Reality-based budgeting" (Oct. 21) that despite billions in state spending, "it's still not enough."
In the same issue of The Sun, business columnist Jay Hancock points to evidence of escalating inflation in the economy ("Inflation haunts grocery aisles," Oct. 21).
He believes, as I do, that the slowing real estate market and a coming spike in inflation will lead to economic hardship for many Marylanders.
Despite this evidence of tough economic times ahead, The Sun advocated increased taxes and spending by government even as most of us will have to tighten our belts.
Why can't state government trim spending when its own citizens must balance their budgets in the same way?
Health research is hurt by budget cuts
We indeed must engage the presidential candidates on the erosion of research funding for the National Institutes of Health ("Science campaigns for cash," Oct. 22). Yet other federal research agencies' budgets have been hit even harder.
Funding for the core programs of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for instance, has been cut more than $200 million since 2005.
And the budget of the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has been flat for years, despite its critical mission to support research to improve the quality, safety and effectiveness of health care.
Investment in these agencies is an investment in reducing the costs - human and financial - of protecting Americans' health and delivering the right care to the right patients.
It is stunning that we continue to invest so little in keeping Americans healthy.
I hope the current field of presidential candidates shows the leadership necessary to make a real difference.
Dr. Georges C. Benjamin
The writer is executive director of the American Public Health Association.
Why should gays be expected to hide?
I was appalled to read Del. Emmett C. Burns Jr.'s comment that "whites can hide their gayness; I cannot hide my blackness" as his excuse for being "bent out of shape" that rights for gays and lesbians is considered a civil rights issue ("Groups seeking black support of gay marriage," Oct. 25).
I would like to ask Mr. Burns just how I can hide my "gayness" - to use his term.
My partner and I have been together for 29 years. We have lived in our current neighborhood for 23 years. We own our home and do the things that any family would do: cut the grass, shop for groceries, go to work and participate in our neighborhood and community activities. We enjoy our neighbors and they enjoy us.
It seems Mr. Burns would be happy if we would hide. But how could we? And why should we?
Mr. Burns states that he ran for office on an "anti-gay and lesbian agenda."
Imagine an elected official declaring an agenda that is "anti" anyone. That harks back to those sad days in American history when far too many elected officials ran on an "anti-black" agenda.
Fortunately, America and most of its elected officials and citizens have evolved to affirm that we do not exclude any citizens from equal civil rights.