To The Point

June 25, 2008

Paycheck piffle

One of the more peculiar complaints of late from Maryland's GOP leadership is that Gov. Martin O'Malley's interim secretary of state is earning more money than if he were the actual secretary of state. It's not that this is factually incorrect - Dennis C. Schnepfe, a career state employee, earns about $16,000 more per year than the secretary of state is due under law - but the consequences of this seem entirely unremarkable.

Mr. O'Malley is expected to announce his selection for the Cabinet post in a matter of weeks, and insiders say the secretary will earn exactly what the law allows. If the governor deserves criticism, it should be for taking so long to make an appointment of modest consequence (secretaries of state tend to act mostly as roving salesmen for an administration's viewpoint) and for not pressing the General Assembly to update the secretary's salary to the $90,000 level recommended by commission several years ago.

O'Malley Cabinet raises have already been politicized beyond reason. If there's a lesson from political scandals past, it's the wisdom of paying public servants a fair wage over the table to discourage those regrettable transactions under it.

For amusement only

State Comptroller Peter Franchot tossed out a puzzling warning last week when he announced his office would be cracking down on video poker machines.

We don't condone the machines, which may be advertised as "for amusement only" but are too often set up as ersatz gambling devices in taverns and bars. But it's curious for the state's chief tax collector to anoint himself the Eliot Ness of video poker.

That's because Mr. Franchot simply doesn't have the authority to prosecute illegal gambling. He can surely offer assistance to local government and pursue liquor law infractions where justified, as he says he intends, but the chances of this crackdown having much of an effect are altogether slight.

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