Baltimore Sun Fact Check: Ehrlich-O'Malley debate

Sun staff reviews the facts on spending, job creation, crime, taxes, higher education

  • WJZ TV anchor Denise Koch moderated the debate between Governor Martin O'Malley and Republican challenger, former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
WJZ TV anchor Denise Koch moderated the debate between Governor… (Amy Davis, Baltimore Sun )
October 11, 2010|By Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz, The Baltimore Sun

Competing claims on state spending:

Ehrlich: "We added up your budgets over the four years. Do you know what they added to? $124 billion. Mine? $101 billion. That's not a rounding error."

O'Malley: "We have cut state spending more than any governor in Maryland history."

The facts: The figures for Ehrlich's statement are accurate, though it is unclear how helpful the comparison is.

Ehrlich arrives at his number by adding together all four of O'Malley's budgets and comparing those cumulative figures to his four years of spending. For example, the $101 billion that Ehrlich spent over four years is $21 billion more than what was spent during the last four years of Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening's tenure.

Ehrlich's team has not disputed O'Malley's reference to cutting state spending, which refers to eight trips he made to the Board of Public Works to reduce planned spending that the Maryland General Assembly had approved. The board cut approved spending by $1.6 billion. O'Malley also replaced state tax dollars with federal tax dollars, which replaced $4.5 billion in state spending.

Competing claims on job creation:

Ehrlich: "We have not created one net new job in this state over the past four years … we've doubled our unemployment rate."

O'Malley: "The truth of the matter is we have actually created 33,000 net new jobs." He credits that figure to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The facts: Maryland has lost jobs since O'Malley took office, a reflection of a national trend.

The state's employers have added 33,200 positions since January 2010. O'Malley frequently mentions those increases on the campaign trail in an effort to stress a job-creation trend that started in March and April. But job creation slowed in the ensuing months and moved to negative territory in July and August, when Maryland lost positions. January is also a useful point for O'Malley to start — it is the low-water mark for jobs in Maryland.

But Ehrlich's point requires turning back the clock to January 2007, when O'Malley took office. At that point the state's employers reported having 82,600 more positions than they did in August 2010, the most recent available figures. Ehrlich governed through happier economic times and on his watch the state's employers added 123,000 jobs.

Jobs in January 2003: 2,483,800

Jobs in January 2007: 2,606,600

Jobs in August 2010: 2,524,000

The state's unemployment rate has risen from 3.6 percent when O'Malley took office to 7.3 percent — more than twice as high. At the end of Ehrlich's four years, the state's unemployment rate was one percentage point lower than the national average. Now Maryland's unemployment rate is 2.3 percentage points lower than the national average.

Competing claims on lowering taxes:

O'Malley says Ehrlich "didn't lower taxes one penny," while O'Malley lowered taxes for "41 percent of filers."

Ehrlich says that O'Malley passed the "largest tax increase in the state's history."

The facts: Several niche tax reduction measures favored by Ehrlich passed under his watch, including the expansion of a tax credit for homeowners, a tax credit for using energy-efficient heating systems and a tax credit for biotech companies. Ehrlich also pushed legislation to eliminate the income tax on military retiree pension, and a watered-down version of that legislation passed.

In his 2007 tax package, O'Malley lowered the income tax for lower- and middle-income earners and expanded eligibility for the earned income tax credit. The state's Department of Legislative services estimates that move reduced taxes for 41.1 percent of filers. The same analysis shows that 55.9 percent of taxpayers shouldered a larger tax burden because of the changes. Three percent had no change to their tax bills.

O'Malley's camp has not disputed the claim that the governor's 2007 tax package has made up the majority of the $3.6 billion in new revenue that the state took in during his tenure. Ehrlich also raised taxes and fees, with the state taking in roughly $2.9 billion from new sources of income during his time in office, though that figure includes tax bills he vetoed and the Democrat-led General Assembly overrode.

Competing claims on backlogs in state's DNA crime database:

O'Malley: "When I was elected, we were left a 24,000-sample DNA backlog, a backlog that was allowed to grow under the former governor. A backlog that they never bothered to address. ... There are 270 violent felons that have been charged only because we are doing a better job of backing up our police officers with the technology they need. … We've now cleared that backlog." He also said thousands of DNA samples went uncollected during Ehrlich's term.

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