Monday, March 30, 2009

Ben Kramer’s Record in Annapolis, Part One

Delegate Ben Kramer (D-19) has compiled a significant record in Annapolis over the last three years. In this series, we examine his votes on six subject areas – budget and taxation, slots, labor issues, environmental issues, GLBT rights and crime. We also tap into our spy network to evaluate his reputation in the General Assembly. Is his record suitable for a County Council Member? That’s up to District 4 voters to decide.

Budget and Taxation

Kramer voted for the special session budget but against the special session tax package. He was one of 18 House Democrats to vote against the tax bill, joining Montgomery County legislators Kathleen Dumais (D-15), Brian Feldman (D-15) and Luiz Simmons (D-17). Kramer also voted against the millionaire tax. He was one of 13 House Democrats to do so, joining Charles Barkley (D-39), Al Carr (D-18), Kathleen Dumais (D-15), Brian Feldman (D-15), Bill Frick (D-16), Ana Sol Gutierrez (D-18), Craig Rice (D-15), Luiz Simmons (D-17) and Jeff Waldstreicher (D-18).


In 2006, Kramer was asked about slots by the Gazette:

Do you support slot machines for Maryland? Why or why not?

Slot machines are not a preferred source for raising revenue. However, the state will be facing a projected budget deficit of approximately 4 billion dollars in the next 2-3 years. If funding is not available to provide for the needs of those individuals who do not have the financial resources to pay for necessities (food, health care, housing, etc.), then I would be willing to consider slots at certain Maryland race tracks.
Kramer went on to vote against both the slots amendment and the authorizing bill during the special session. Last year, he said the following to the Montgomery Sentinel:

Kramer voted against the referendum during the special session and said he has some difficulty understanding why many voted for the referendum last year and now claim they oppose it. “I question their rationale,” he said.

Kramer said he would like to see, as an alternative to slots, a repeal of a tax cut that was disapproved.
Kramer later told me he was referring to the 1997 Glendening income tax cut, a major contributor to the structural deficits that have been plaguing the state ever since.

Labor Issues

Progressive Maryland gave Kramer a 92% score in 2007 and a 63% score in 2008. On the positive side, Kramer voted in favor of living wage, re-enfranchising former felons, health care coverage expansion, extending children’s health insurance under their parents’ coverage for four years, flexible leave for employees to take care of sick family members, and foreclosure prevention. But Progressive Maryland’s major problem with Kramer was his vote against progressive income tax reform, which it called, “the most significant pro-working families tax reform in recent Maryland history.” Kramer’s opposition to progressive taxation accounted for the precipitous drop in his score in 2008. In fact, his 2008 score was the lowest of any Montgomery County state legislator other than his sister, District 14 Senator Rona Kramer, who scored 46%.

In Part Two, we’ll examine Kramer’s record on environmental issues, GLBT rights and crime.