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October 13, 2008

O'Malley vs. Ehrlich: Who cut more?

Gov. O'Malley is set to go before the Board of Public Works this week to push for hundreds of millions in cuts to this year's budget to plug a $432 million hole brought on by the tanking economy. It is, by my count, the fourth major haircut the budget has taken since O'Malley became governor.

Nonetheless, O'Malley hasn't exactly won a reputation as a budget cutter, at least among his critics, who tend to focus more on the $1.3 billion in new taxes he pushed through rather than the money he's hacked out of the budget. Republicans continue to hit him hard on spending, saying he should have been cutting more, sooner. The idea they've been pushing for a while is a spending freeze, kind of like what John McCain has been suggesting on the federal level.

In that light, it's interesting to look back at what happened when the GOP controlled the governor's office under similar circumstances. When Bob Ehrlich took office, the financial situation was terrible. The economy was still in the post-9/11 doldrums, the Thornton education funding plan was kicking in and the bill for hefty Glendening-era spending was coming due. Making matters worse for him, the legislature, in what was to become an annual tradition, rejected his slots plan.

Ehrlich's response? In his first two years in office, he cut $932 million in general fund spending.

(He also increased taxes and fees by a little over $1 billion, a fact his defenders tend to gloss over but which the Democrats will be more than happy to remind you of.)

So how does O'Malley  stack up?

In his first session, O'Malley proposed spending about $232 million less than the state's baseline estimates. (That's the same methodology I used above to get the figures for Ehrlich when I wrote about it a couple of years ago.) In the summer of 2007, O'Malley came back to the Board of Public Works and got them to cut $213 million or so from the General Fund. In November's special session, the legislature mandated more spending cuts, which amounted to about $509 million in reductions this spring.

All told, that comes to $954 million, or pretty darn close to the same amount Ehrlich cut over a comparable amount of time in office (though slightly less in percentage terms).

Unfortunately for O'Malley, that's where the comparison ends.

About this time in Ehrlich's term, the real estate market went nuts, and state revenues went through the roof. In his last two years in office, Ehrlich got to make massive increases in state spending (way more than Glendening ever did), just the sort of thing that can help a politician heading into a tough re-election battle. (Though, in this case, maybe not enough.)

O'Malley, on the other hand, is catching the downside of that hot real estate market and the global financial meltdown it helped create. The structural budget deficit O'Malley thought he'd fixed last year is back, to the tune of $432 million this year and $1 billion (at least) next year. On Wednesday, O'Malley will be proposing between $200 million and $250 million in cuts and will probably be back for more before the year is out. And that may only be the beginning.

Andrew A. Green

Posted by Andy Green at 10:38 AM | | Comments (7)


Ehrlich isn't governor anymore, so who cares?

Both of O'Malley's budgets were positive. Ehrlich's first operating budget was actually negative--in other words less money than the year before. Be upfront with people Andy. All of this information is online at DBM. People should look at the baseline numbers between FY03 & FY04 versus FY07 and FY08.

Wow how how shocking the Baltimore Sun supports O'Malley even in his failings. That raise in sales and business taxes have really paid off

Brad - Mostly because people like to constantly trot out how O'Malley has done nothing but increase spending and taxes compared to Ehrlich, so providing some amount of analysis into the numbers between the two would provide something either to confirm or repudiate the rhetoric.

Idiots, they think by playing the numbers game they can continue to blame the previous admin. But thats typical of the Baltimore Scum. Anytime they can bash Bob they will. I have no respect for them. I only read sports and politics and their political coverage even sucks because its so one sided. I will be glad when the Sun no longer exists.

MOM has raised taxes and raised spending. If it wasn't for MOM social agenda, the budget shortfall wouldn't be as bad. However, in typical People's Republic of Maryland fashion, money needs to be taken from those in MD who make money to be given to whose who do nothing but bleed this State dry.

Here is an idea. CUT THE SOCIAL PROGRAMS. I don't mean reduce the amount of the increase each year but cut them. Reduce the money spent. Send people a food basket and make them pull up themselves.

However, we all know that MOM bought the election with promises of free money to those who don't deserve it. He knows unless he gives them the payout, he won't stand a chance at reelection.

The special session was a slap in the face to every tax paying voter in MD.

The "flush tax" was a necessary evil to repair our badly degrading infrastructure and clean up the bay- which is something that everyone also conveniently forgets.

The sales tax increase - the biggest single tax increase in state history.

The so called "structural deficit" exists in large part due to the mandated growth of the state government. When government grows faster than revenues, you have yourself a structural deficit. Cutting things is one thing - halting the unabated growth of government OR taking a real look at the state GOP's budgets, which I am told can be funded with the revenue would be a good thing.

Thanks to all the legislators who ignore the good faith efforts of the Republicans in the state house who put together a budget that works. But what if it doesn't? I can hear people saying already, well you won't know till you try.

Our state government is a joke.Let's keep reelecting and gerrymandering! Long Live the People's Republic of Maryland!

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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