A budget is much more than a balance sheet. Every line, every number, represents urgent priorities and goals. A responsibly drawn budget expresses the collective will of the community.
In Maryland, the Governor presents the budget, and the Assembly can make cuts and adjustments, but it is not allowed to increase spending. It is time that this situation is changed, with legislators working full-time with the ability to increase as well as decrease spending. Making these jobs full-time will increase professional standards and allow for a more diverse group of office holders, not just those who can afford to work part-time, or those whose employers see advantage to their firms having state office holders on the letterhead.
While we lobby to reform the system, we must work within it. The issues that matter most to us must become the core of the public debate. By the time they reach the Governor’s desk, there needs to have been a history of serious discussion, coalition development and evidence-based practice behind them.
To sit back and wait until the budget is presented in late March is to abdicate responsibility, and to handcuff oneself on the most important document to be presented to the legislature each year.
I will do the work of talking - to neighbors, colleagues and leadership - about the budget issues year-round.
I will work for tax fairness, treating people with the respect they deserve, and not treating corporations as people.
I am not, like many Democratic political insiders, resigned to the current tax system, where large corporations are permitted to avoid their taxes, where the wealthy do not pay their fair share, where fear of the Republican mantra of “always cut taxes” determines the boundaries of the debate. We have made great progress on social issues in Maryland; now it’s time for a much more progressive economic agenda. America was once the “can-do” nation; Maryland must lead the nation back to that spirit of achievement.
A fair and progressive tax code can lead to growth throughout Maryland and across all income demographics. This was the formula that brought decades of progress to the country and to our region. Supply-side economics has failed, again and again, and the wealthy need to recognize that a healthy, fair society is just as important to them as to all others. Like Pope Francis, we must stop being afraid to confront the economic policies that have led us to the worst inequality since the 1890’s. As the Pope said:
“Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing
about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world,” Francis wrote in the papal statement. “This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts,
expresses a crude and naive trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system.”
“Meanwhile,” he added, “the excluded are still waiting.”
Finally, the government’s primary responsibility must be to those in greatest need. This should not be a mark of shame, but one of pride. Government is neighbor helping neighbor, be it through the Maryland Health Connection to help everyone obtain quality health insurance while we work to develop a modern and universal single payer system, or improving programs for the developmentally disabled and mentally ill, which routinely get short shrift.
Specifically, I will work to finally close the corporate tax loophole known as combined reporting, and reinstate the millionaire’s tax bracket first introduced in 2007. I will oppose any further giveaways of tax dollars to corporations like Lockheed-Martin, which in 2013 won exemption from paying about $450,000 a year in hotel taxes to Montgomery County. The Assembly managed to run around the Montgomery County Council, which had opposed the exemption.
The middle class of the mid-20 th century was built by a people willing to share the burden of taxation to make it a reality, working alongside a labor movement which gave millions of Americans the dignity they deserved. We can recreate that world.
We are a progressive state, and we can continue to be national leaders, raising our game and setting the example for the rest of the country.