Red Maryland's fact check of O'Malley's last State of the State

January 24, 2014|By Mark Newgent

Yesterday, Governor O’Malley delivered his eighth—and thankfully—final state of the state address of his administration.  And, as usual, his speech was filled with so much that isn’t so. 

Now, I’ve done a few O’Malley fact checks over the years, including his recent tussle with Gov. Rick Perry of Texas and his lead balloon of a speech to the 2012 Democratic National Convention. 

However, fact checking O’Malley’s 2014 state of the state speech required a trip to Home Depot for an extra large shovel to sift through seven years of O’Malley spin  -- piled high and deep.

So get your gloves on and breathe through your mouth as we sift through some of the waste.

We have cut spending by $9.1 billion dollars.

We have made more cuts than any administration in modern Maryland history.

Today, we now have the smallest executive branch since 1973 -- and the budget I presented to you last week puts us on a track to totally eliminate that structural deficit without the need for any new fees or taxes.

We remain one of only seven states that has maintained a triple-A bond rating all through the recession, and to this day.

We have built up our Rainy Day Fund to $800 million dollars, and we have placed this year in our general reserve an operating surplus of $37 million dollars.

Umm no.  In my Sun oped last week I used a sophisticated mathematical formula called subtraction to demonstrate that this is simply not true.  Maryland’s budget when O’Malley took office was $28.8 billion; his fiscal year 2015 budget proposal will spend $39.2 billion, that’s an increase of $10.4 billion. 

The $9.1 billion in cuts are pure fiction.  At his budget briefing last week, O’Malley admitted this number is really a reduction in the rate of spending growth.  Yet he quickly returned to calling it a cut.

Using a gimmick similar to his budget cut fiction, O’Malley can claim a smaller executive branch only by counting the elimination of vacant positions.

Sure, Maryland has a triple-A bond rating. However, the ratings agencies like Moody’s are wary of Maryland’s massive pension liabilities

And just how did O’Malley balance the budget this year?  By cutting $100 million from the state’s payments to the pension fund!

O’Malley made sure to wring every dollar he could out of that triple A bond rating -- $1.4 billion worth -- so he could swap cash out of capital and special accounts to plug general fund deficits.

Why is he bragging about $37 million in reserve, when his own agencies used dodgy accounting practices to close out their 2013 budgets, requiring $96 million in deficiency appropriations?

But cuts are only part of our story.

No state has ever cut its way to greater prosperity.

Growth requires investment.

This is what a balanced approach is all about.  

What balance?  What cuts?  O’Malley increased spending by $10.4 billion and raised $9.5 billion in taxes and fees.

Maryland today is number one in our students’ AP success for seven years in a row;

Number one in education five years in a row;

Number one in holding down the cost of college tuition;

Number one in innovation and entrepreneurship for two years in a row, according to the United States Chamber of Commerce;

Number one in Ph.D. scientists and researchers;

Number one in businesses owned by women;

And number one in median household income.

Maryland’s “number one” schools consistently fail its most vulnerable students.

During the last two years Education Week when ranked Maryland number one, the same report also noted that the state ranked dead last on the 8th grade math poverty gap.   

Students First, an education reform group led by Michelle Rhee, the former chief of Washington, D.C’s public schools gave Maryland a grade of D+ and a GPA of 1.35 based on metrics of elevating teaching, empowering parents, and spending wisely and governing well.

Maryland has done well on NAEP reading tests, but only because the Maryland State Department of Education excluded special needs students from the exam at the highest rate in the nation.

Here are some other data and rankings that failed to make it into O’Malley’s speech:

Setting goals. Measuring performance. Hitting deadlines. Getting Results. Making the work of progress visible for you to see, and for me to see. … Progress requires accountability. But accountability means putting your commitment out there, for all of us to know and see, and hopefully to help drive.

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