It’s been a very good few months for Maryland taxpayers. For years, we’ve strained under a very heavy load of taxation – on our income, our purchases, and, despite local efforts to reduce it, our property. This crushing burden funded profligate spending at the state level by Governor O’Malley and his allies running Annapolis. But despite increases in income taxes, sales taxes, property tax, gas taxes, and cigarette taxes, Maryland’s government was still running deficits.
So, on dozens of occasions, Governor O’Malley turned to raising or creating fees for government services. Things like birth and death certificate fees (they got us coming and going), doubling the flush fee, and dramatically increasing tolls affecting not just the Bay Bridge but several other important commuter bridges and tunnels around the state. Certain fees do have to go up from time to time to cover cost of providing documents, certain services, or information. But what happened over the last eight years was that fees were artificially raised in several cases with the overage being siphoned into the state’s general fund.
Of course I and many other legislators objected and voted against these increases – many of which were buried in the state budget that has to be passed each year. However, with no fear of accountability at the ballot box, the Democratic majority, led by Governor O’Malley, increased spending by over 30% and we still were facing a long-term budget deficit of over $1 Billion.
Enter Larry Hogan as Governor. In just a few months, starting with a budget that I was proud to support, he’s put us on a fiscally responsible path, cutting out hundreds of millions in new spending and keeping budget growth under the rate of inflation – shrinking the size of government. We repealed the Rain Tax mandate. The Hogan administration has followed that up with finding $84 million in savings within the state agencies. But perhaps the thing that has poked the entrenched Annapolis establishment the most has been the most recent announcement of $51 million in cuts to fees as well as his earlier announcement cutting back the O’Malley toll hikes of 2012.
These fees were artificially raised – the government agencies that collect them didn’t need them to be so high - but they were used to squeeze nickels and dimes hoping that taxpayers wouldn’t notice or care. That’s where they are wrong. Working families, retirees, and small business people know when they are getting a raw deal and every dollar you unnecessarily take out of the economy is a dollar that’s not being invested in creating jobs, saving, or spending on family needs. It’s refreshing to have a governor in Larry Hogan who understands the principle of the money you make being yours. The government doesn’t give us an allowance – we give it an allowance. The results are already showing with over 32,000 jobs new jobs created this year and Maryland’s budget balanced and on track to eliminate the structural deficit next year.
There are more exciting reforms to come, including some things that I’m actively working on with the Hogan administration and other Senators and Delegates who want to see Maryland government be smarter with your tax dollars and get better results for the important services that it does provide. I invite readers to contact me at Justin.Ready@senate.state.md.us or 410-841-3683 with their thoughts about making government more efficient. We are all in this together. I look forward to hear from you.
The writer is a State Senator representing District 5