Thursday, August 16, 2007

Maryland GOP Following Old Dominion into Oblivion?

Republican State Sen. Alex X. Mooney has the look of a man prepping for his congressional campaign. Not too surprising as Roscoe Bartlett, the conservative Republican incumbent in the Sixth District, is 81 and may be pondering retirement as Republicans seem likely to wander further into the minority wilderness in 2008.

Mooney's idea of leadership, other than engaging in ritual gay bashing, appears to be following in lockstep with Grover Norquist--Republican anti-tax icon--in signing up his fellow legislators to take the pledge against any new taxes even as the state faces a deficit of $1.5 billion. Funny that this idea didn't occur to Mooney during the Ehrlich years even as the GOP governor hiked a variety of taxes.

Mooney sent off the following missive to his colleagues:

Dear Legislator,

You are invited to join the more than thirty-five Maryland Legislators who have signed the taxpayer Protection Pledge sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, D.C. Enclosed is a copy of the Pledge form. You can return the form to me. You will join the nation's signers on the web site

The pledge is a promise you make to your constituents. It is not an oath to an organization. It is a statement by you to your voters. You are telling your voters you believe the rate of taxation is high enough to support the government we have. The pledge tells the people who vote for you, you are intending to protect them from an expansion of the size, scope and cost of government.

Grover Norquist, President of ART observed, "No one lost the last election by promising to reduce government spending." ART and President Norquist campaign ceaselessly in Washington and all state capitols for a reduction in the intrusion by government in our lives. ART recognizes the damage done by taxation and works to rein in spending everywhere.

The Taxpayer Protection Caucus will work with you to make the voters aware of your commitment to not spend their money. We have a history and plan. Join with other elected officials from Maryland who are keeping their promise to reduce the burden of government.

Support the rallying point for new candidates for the 2008 elections. Pledge signers can be proud to present a position favoring taxpayers. With all the confusion presented to the voters seize this opportunity to rally together and present a united front. We can prevail united. We can be effective now with a common position opposed to expanded government.

Sign your pledge today, I will forward it to Washington tomorrow.

Senator Alex X. Mooney
Frederick and Washington Counties
The Republican lemming, who notably did not outline his plan for slashing state spending in the letter, has three Democratic followers so far: Sen. Roy Dyson (D-29), Del. John Wood, (D-Dyson's district), Sen. Norman Stone (D-6), and Sen. George Della (D-46).

Della is the really shocking name on this list. He represents an utterly safe Democratic district in Baltimore City (67% for Cardin, 65% for O'Malley, 71% for Franchot, 73% for Gansler). Baltimore City isn't exactly know for being last in line at the State's fiscal trough either.

The others Democrats all represent more marginal districts. The Baltimore County district held by Stone barely voted for O'Malley over Ehrlich (50% for O'Malley), while the Southern Maryland districts held by Dyson and Wood went for Ehrlich by solid margins (41% and 40% for O'Malley, respectively). However, one can work to hone one's moderate image without signing conservative tax pledges crafted by DC Republican politicos.

You may recall that the "no new taxes" drumbeat has not fared so well south of the Potomac in recent years. Republicans went to the mat before caving before Gov. Mark Warner's--and the electorate's--demands to modestly raise taxes to prevent further cuts in state funding and to increase education funding. The electorate punished Democrats by electing more of them to the Virginia legislature and electing another Democrat to the governor's office. Warner is so popular than Democrats are praying for Warner to jump into the Senate race. Former Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore, whose life work appears to be to eliminate Virginia's car tax, has left the presidential race to return to oblivion.

Back in Maryland, Republican legislators and the Gov. Martin O'Malley both appear to be marching on to the slots bandwagon as a solution to the state's fiscal woes. Republican House Leader O'Donnell unveiled GOP support for slots as part of their proposal to balance the budget without raising taxes or explaining specifically what they would cut instead of raising taxes. The GOP must be desperate in its search for funds to balance the budget as I thought many members of the Republican caucus were opposed to slots on moral grounds. Showing Democrats still like a good intraparty rumble, Comptroller Peter Franchot lashed out at Labor Secretary Tom Perez's report on slots as lacking objectivity.