No Money, Mo' Problems
The Post reports on the looming budget deficits awaiting Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley and the General Assembly next year:
In addition, the slowdown in the housing market is going to take the wind out of the economy, both in Maryland and nationally. And for his part, Bob Ehrlich mainly delayed the inevitable, by raiding funds meant for transportation and land preservation, while benefitting from a fortunate economic climate during his term.
According to analysts' projections, the state faces a shortfall of $413 million for fiscal 2008, which starts in July. That gap could be closed, lawmakers and fiscal analysts said, with relatively modest spending cuts or by dipping well into the state's "rainy day" fund.
Far more difficult choices are likely to occur in fiscal 2009, when projected spending is expected to exceed projected revenue by $1.6 billion.
The gulf, analysts said, remains largely attributable to major increases in education spending mandated by a 2002 law that was passed without a funding source.
Since there's only so many state programs that can be trimmed, and since O'Malley has a bunch of new policies he wants to fund, the debate is going to focus on how best to raise revenue, which, given the last few years, means talking yet again about slot machines. I had been meaning to comment on O'Malley's slots plan, as reported last week, and I hope that bringing slots just to race tracks will kill enthusiasm for the larger slots programs that Sen. Mike Miller and others have proposed. I've no beef with gambling as such, but as everyone should know, legalizing gambling as a means to raise money basically amounts to a regressive tax, to say nothing about the negative externalities associated with gambling. Unfortunately, something in human nature seems to regard direct taxation, no matter how fair, as distasteful, while not minding more harmful back-door taxes.