WASHINGTON – Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s handling of state finances earned a “D” on a fiscal policy report card released Friday, making him one of the 10- worst governors for money management in fiscal 2002.
The Cato Institute report, which criticized Glendening for tax increases and high spending, comes as the state faces a $400 million shortfall this year and a possible $1.3 billion deficit in the next fiscal year.
Stephen Slivinski, a co-author of the report, said Glendening’s grade was based on “irresponsible budgeting.”
“He lumps into the budget more and more spending. Comparatively, he is not keeping the budget under control,” said Slivinski, who is also director of tax and budget studies at the Goldwater Institute.
Glendening’s office did not return calls seeking comment Friday. But the governor has boasted in the past about his spending on “progressive” policies.
Where the governor sees progressive spending, however, the report card saw fat budgets that grew 3 percent faster, on average, than inflation and population in the state. Spending included $1 billion for school construction, $800 million for teacher raises, $170 million for a Rural Legacy program and millions more for Smart Growth anti-development initiatives.
The report card cited $32 million the state gave Marriott Corp. for job training and road improvements, as an example of “irresponsible spending.”
The report also ranked Glendening the No. 1 “tax hiker,” for raising the cigarette tax to $1 per pack. Slivinski said that tax, intended for schools, will probably not raise the projected $100 million because people will buy cheaper cigarettes over the Internet or across state lines.
Aides to Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, a frequent critic of Glendening’s, said that while some of the state’s woes can be blamed on a falling stock market, states like Georgia have stayed financially stable during these tough times.
“Glendening has overspent the state into oblivion. He is interested in leaving a legacy of environmental activism rather than taking care of the needs of the people,” said Michael Golden, a spokesman for Schaefer.
State governments faced a combined budget gap of more than $40 billion in fiscal 2002, which the report attributed to overspending in the 1990s. Co-author and Cato fellow Chris Edwards said he is concerned states will try to close the gap with “the worst solution,” broad-based taxing.
The Cato report compared budget and tax records of 42 governors and gave them grades based on 17 measures of fiscal and economic performance, with those that raise spending and taxes getting the lowest grades.
Govs. Bill Owens of Colorado and Jeb Bush of Florida got the only A’s in the report, while California Gov. Gray Davis, Tennessee Gov. Don Sundquist, Ohio Gov. Bob Taft and Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber all got F’s.
The report did not rate Virginia and Pennsylvania, which have relatively new governors. But of Maryland’s other neighbors, Delaware Gov. Ruth Minner got a C and West Virginia Gov. Bob Wise got a D.
Maryland Senate Minority Whip Larry Haines, R-Carroll, said the Cato report treated Glendening “favorably,” and that he really deserved a grade of F. Haines agreed with the report’s warning that the next Maryland governor will have a challenge getting the state “back on track.”
“The next administration is faced with some great challenges. For us to meet budget, more spending is going to have to be reduced. There’s a need to put a hold on the size of government and review agencies for efficiency,” he said.