Campaign ads come back to haunt O'Malley

March 29, 2011|By Luke Broadwater

Remember this ad from Gov. Martin O'Malley during last year's gubernatorial campaign?

Well, it's once again relevant.

Former Gov. Robert Ehrlich's argument at the time was that, as governor, he raised some fees (payments on voluntary activities, such as, say, riding the bus) but did not raise taxes, which are mandatory for everyone (except, apparently, General Electric). 

O'Malley said during the campaign that he had "no plans to raise taxes" though he didn't outright say he wouldn't, under any circumstances, raise taxes.

Now, the governor has some deciding to do.

The state is faced with a $1.6 billion budget deficit. To eliminate that gap, the legislature has proposed increasing fees on birth certificates, riding the train or bus, college tuition and buying a car or house.

It's widely believed that O'Malley is likely to sign off on these increased fees.

So, O'Malley, if he wants to keep the spirit of his campaign promise, will have to make the same argument Ehrlich made (and his ad criticized): That increased fees are not the same thing as taxes.

"The governor kept his carefully worded 2010 campaign promise to avoid new taxes, but it's unclear if Marylanders will let him off the hook for the fees he has proposed, or any tax hikes [he] might accept from the General Assembly," wrote Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz in the Baltimore Sun Sunday.

It will be interesting to see if O'Malley refuses to sign off on these increases or if he, like Ehrlich, will adopt the argument that fees are not taxes.

If he does the latter, he must be betting that Marylanders have shorter memories than goldfish.

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