ANNAPOLIS – Gov. Martin O’Malley released his 2015 budget Wednesday, featuring job creation measures, spending cuts an end to the revenue shortfall and no tax increases for residents during his last year in office.
Overall, O’Malley boasts a “fiscally responsible” $39 billion budget that will cut $457 million in expenditures and generate $163 million in revenue from sales, transfers and payments that will close a $584 million budget shortfall, he said. He also plans to reduce the structural deficit that has been looming over this state for several years, eventually landing at a $31 million surplus by fiscal year 2017.
His budget proposal also calls for a 3 percent increase in in-state college tuition rates since last year, as well as increased expenditures on health care, public safety and sustainability efforts, but O’Malley placed his emphasis on job creation and the prosperity of the middle class.
“This is a jobs budget, so there are 48,000 jobs that are supported by this budget,” most of which result from public school construction, rental housing works, the bay restoration fund and transportation capital budget, O’Malley said. “We’re also going to be doing more, rather than less, to accelerate Maryland’s advantages in terms of job creation through innovation,” he added, citing the state’s plans to increase the biotech and life sciences, cyber security and research and development tax credits.
However, O’Malley’s optimism hasn’t gone unmet by Republican opposition.
“So far the proof hasn’t been in the pudding. We believe the biggest problem we have in Maryland is that the state’s tax structure is too high, the heavy hand of taxes — it’s making people flee,” said Delegate Nic Kipke, R-Anne Arundel, the House Minority Leader. “IRS data tells us that Maryland families are getting out of here and they’re taking job opportunities with them. … Well the problem is we’re not competitive, our tax rates aren’t competitive, so people aren’t creating jobs in the state at a rate that they could be.”
But O’Malley said that Maryland’s job creation rate was “almost twice” as high as Virginia’s last year. However, Maryland’s 6.4 percent unemployment rate was higher than Virginia’s 5.4 percent in November, according to the most recent statistics from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
O’Malley said that the state has cut a cumulative total of $9.1 billion since 2007, when he first became governor. Some Republicans, however, disagreed with his statistics.
“It’s very false to say he has a balanced budget when it is very clear there is not,” said Harford County Executive David Craig, a Republican who is running in the 2014 gubernatorial election. “The fact that he says he has cut $9.1 billion in spending means he does not know math. … [former Maryland Gov.] Bob Ehrlich left him $1.2 billion as a surplus and he spent it.”
Craig added that O’Malley “raised taxes 21 times in 2013,” and is only cutting less this year because it is an election year. “It is all to try to help his anointed one to become governor,” he said, referring to Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown’s candidacy.
Delegate Ron George, R-Anne Arundel, who is also running for governor, agreed that O’Malley’s numbers were “not factual.”
“[O’Malley] says he’s had the lowest budget growth and he’s comparing himself to Ehrlich, but his budget has grown from $27.8 billion in 2007 to [more than] $38 billion — that’s a big increase for 8 years,” George said. “That’s a lot to ask of people in a down economy.”
Capital News Service video by Emily Stern and Mike Kettelberger.