When addressing the
budget shortfall predicted for this fiscal year, legislators decided this
winter to raise a bunch of taxes to offset that deficit. Although it has been
known for months the quick fix did not work, we found out this week exactly how
much of a failure it was.
The Board of Revenue
Estimates predicts the state will be $432 million in the hole for the current
fiscal year because sales and income taxes have plummeted due to the economy.
Of course, these were the two taxes increased significantly by legislators in a
special session a year ago. It turns out the tax hikes have failed to produce
the revenue originally anticipated.
Consequently, Gov. Martin O’Malley said he’s “preparing to bring
hundreds of millions in cuts before the Board of Public Works in the coming
weeks to address this challenge.”
Now matter how this
deficit is spun in the weeks ahead, it paints a pretty bleak picture and now
state legislators will have even more tough decisions when they reconvene next
In the meantime, the
administration will have to cut spending dramatically to have a balanced budget
at the end of the fiscal year in June because they have no ability to increase
the burden on Marylanders already struggling to get by in the face of soaring
cost of living increases in recent years. If they could, they would, but they
can’t until the next legislature convenes.
These pending spending
cuts will reach far and wide. It has been said recently one plan on the table
is diverting some of the funding responsibility for teacher pension plans from
the state to the county. The state cannot simply shed its duties and responsibilities
in tough times. Placing that burden on the county while simultaneously cutting
funding to local state agencies serving those counties will inevitably hurt all
the citizens of the state. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
The only question is to what degree that will occur.
A dreaded package of
unfunded mandates, grant reductions and significant decreases in operational
budget funding seem certain for local jurisdictions. That’s bad news but likely
a sign of what’s to come. Some noted economists think the economy will get worse
sooner than better and the state is feeling the pinch like everyone.
This upcoming round of
cuts will be felt in all corners of the state but what’s worse is the looming
uncertainty of what the budget deficit will be for the next fiscal year. That
number came to $1.7 billion for the current fiscal year. It won’t be that bad
this year but it its projected the moves needed to make up the shortfall will
make this round of cuts look easy.
Tough decisions lie
ahead in Annapolis.
Local governments will also feel the pinch even without cuts from the state
because property assessments are going to fall significantly, meaning their
coffers will not be as plush. They will need to reduce their spending as well
because any sort of tax increase on the local level would be unacceptable and
unforgivable in today’s tight times.
already went the shameful route of raising as many taxes as possible. They
should be embarrassed and face ridicule because these so-called
revenue-generating increases backfired. Those cowardly acts led to a dead end
and black eyes for those who voted for them. We will now find out what kind of
mettle these folks Marylanders elected have. They need to cut spending and it
needs to be done without disastrous impacts on Marylanders.
History has shown our
state officials prefer making up shortfalls by taking more money out of
Marylanders’ bank accounts. Since they already doing that at unprecedented
levels, they will be forced to go another direction, one that requires
responsibility and accountability.