The whole point of last year's General Assembly special session was to address Maryland's budget problems by fixing the "structural deficit" - so that's something we no longer have to worry about, right?
Wrong. Despite annual tax increases of more than $1 billion adopted in November, and a possible $500 million expected annually from slot machines, a transfer of $125 million from the state's rainy day fund is needed to balance the fiscal 2009 budget now being considered by the Assembly.
Fact is, contrary to what you may have heard, the structural deficit is here to stay - unless legislators can go against their instincts by reducing spending, or at least identifying funding sources for any new spending they propose.
According to the state's Spending Affordability Committee, ongoing spending commitments are expected to exceed ongoing revenues by $319 million in fiscal year 2010 and $254 million the following year. Structural balance is not expected to return until 2012, with a small surplus, thanks to revenue from slot machines (which, let us remember,have not been approved by voters)...
Almost every piece of legislation costs money. During the 2007 regular session, 2,480bills were introduced for consideration and 658 became law. Those bills added $45 million in general fund costs for fiscal 2009 and $35 million for fiscal 2010. Even during the special session, when Gov. Martin O'Malley and the Assembly were "fixing" the structural deficit, legislation requiring more than $500 million of new spending each year was adopted. These included laws funding health care expansion, higher education and Chesapeake Bay restoration...
Until governors and legislators are required to identify how they will pay for each law they propose, the structural deficit will always be with us.
Observers of the state's finances and our spendthrift Democrat legislators must feel like Chief Brody in Jaws 2 trying to convince the Amity town fathers that another great white is stalking its shores. In our case its their insatiable appetite for state spending and their propensity to increase taxes to whet that appetite.
Echoing Chief Brody, all I can say is someone "better do something about this one because I don't intend to go through that hell again."
H/T to JG for the Jaws 2 reference. Although he uses it to expose the danger of Mike Huckabee, it is oh so apt for the marauding spending, and the indifference of Democrat legislators to properly address the problem.