From the office of Del. Wayne Norman:
As of the writing of this letter (April 8), the 2010 Session of the Maryland General Assembly is winding down. The Session has been dominated by the State’s current budget mess, with the Governor and his Democratic allies trying to find one-time fixes to mask the true size of the State’s structural deficit.
These short-term “band-aids” are designed to get us through the November election without resorting to tax increases. But be warned: There’s little doubt that Governor O’Malley and his friends in the General Assembly will raise taxes next year should the next election return them to office.
I am extremely proud of my work and the work of my fellow conservatives in offering concrete ways to reduce both short-term and long-term spending. The conservative alternative to the Governor’s Fiscal Year 2011 budget (July 1, 2010 – June 30, 2011) would reduce the size of Maryland’s government permanently and put us on a glide path towards balanced budgets over the next four years. In contrast, beginning next year, the Governor’s budget will produce deficits of roughly $2 BILLION per year, unless more revenue is generated.
During floor consideration of the Governor’s budget, several amendments were offered to reduce State spending and eliminate the structural deficit. I wholeheartedly supported each of them, as well as a resolution to express the intent ofthe General Assembly not to raise, expand, or create new taxes over the next four years. Unfortunately, these proposals were rejected by my liberal colleagues. Therefore, I had no choice but to vote NO on the Governor’s operating and capital budgets.
Federal Bailout: It is important to note that neither last year’s nor this year’s budget would have balanced ifit were not for the so-called “federal stimulus bill.” By creating new federal debt, Congress and the Obama Administration were able to bailout the State’s budget shortfall- at least in the short-term. After this year, the State’s structural deficit (roughly $2 BILLION per year) is forecasted to rematerialize.
The simple truth is that the State of Maryland continues to spend more money than it collects in taxes-which are some of the highest in the country. With the federal bailout funds, the State’s FY2011 budget will actually increase State spending by 2.4% year-over-year. That is unacceptable.
New Unfunded Mandate: What makes the State’s budget situation materially worse is the recent enactment of federal health care legislation. In Maryland alone, under the new federal law, State taxpayers are expected to spend on average over $1 BILLION more per year, starting in 2014, to cover approximately 400,000 new enrollees in the State’s government-run, taxpayer-funded health careprogram (Medicaid). Those costs will climb to about $2 BILLION per year after 2019, according to the Congressional Budget Office. In hailing the new federal law, Governor O’Malley declared that his administration wants to comply with the new federal mandates – instead of challenging them like many states are doing – before the 2014 deadline kicks-in. Unbelievable.
Other Important State Issues
Key votes this year included anti-gang legislation, which I voted for and which is expected to become law, despite strong liberal opposition. I also co-sponsored legislation to define marriage in Maryland as being between a man and a woman. I raised serious objections to Attorney General Doug Gansler’s activist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution that Maryland must recognize same sex marriages performed in other states. Finally, as a sportsman and a champion of individual freedoms, I continue to fight to protect the Second Amendment and the rights of property owners.
I authored a total of 9 bills this year that would give economic and regulatory relief to taxpayers, homeowners and small businesses during the current recession/recovery. At the time of this writing, three of my bills are still “alive.”
Tax Assessments: One of my bills (HB 204) would create a new State task force to review Maryland’s current real estate assessment procedure and assessment appeals process. The ultimate goal of task force would be to recommend a reconstituted assessment system that (a) is more uniform, equitable and transparent, and (b) provides Maryland property owners with greater confidence in the State’s ability to conduct property assessments fairly, accurately and consistently.
I greatly appreciate the hard work of several Harford County residents, including LeRoy Whiteley and Tony Passaro, who gave me the idea for this legislation. They’ve logged a lot of volunteer work ingenerating public support for this proposal. I know Senator Barry Glassman, who cross-filed this legislation in the Senate, appreciates their efforts too.
Military Contractors: Another bill (HB 201) would require the MVA to renew the driver’s license of a military contractor (and any spouse or dependent of that contractor) residing outside the U.S. upon receiving acceptable documentation. While often overlooked and underappreciated, there are tens-of-thousands of military contractors serving our country in foreign lands. They deserve our support.
School Buses: Finally, I’ve sponsored legislation (HB 550) that would allow certain nonprofits like the Boy Scouts and churches to own and operate used school buses without being required to pay for expensive upgrades to those vehicles, which is required under current law. This bill passed the House -by a vote of 138-0 and the Senate by a vote of 47-0, and is expected to be signed into law.
As the relatively “new guy” (3rd most junior legislator) – as well as a principled conservative in a veryliberal institution – this will be the second bill that I’ve authored to become State law in as many years.
In addition, I’d like to note that during this session I was invited by Republican Leader Tony O’Donnell to take part, with the Republican Caucus, in a two day budget retreat held this past fall, and was chosen by Environmental Matters Committee Chair Maggie McIntosh to study foreclosure laws in Maryland. I strive to be an effective lawmaker, while at the same time remaining true to my conservative beliefs.
In February, I was re-elected to serve as the Vice Chair of the Harford County Delegation. I am proud to continue to serve Harford County in this capacity.
Finally, I’ve been very involved in trying to stop a major road construction project in Rocks State Park by the State Highway Administration. I’ve argued that SHA should not pursue any major road construction work that would negatively impact the natural beauty, the unique geological andenvironmental features and/or the recreational activities of one of Harford’s greatest treasures. So far, the legislative delegation from Northern Harford has been successful in holding off any new major road construction projects within the Rocks. Councilman Chad Shrodes deserves accolades for his leadership on this issue.
Thank you for this opportunity to summarize my activities during the past 90 days in Annapolis. Please feel free to contact me at 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3284 (Annapolis), 410-692-9401 (Madonna/Jarrettsville), or firstname.lastname@example.org, if I can be of any service to you.
Delegate Wayne Norman