Liberal pushback on budget cuts
Gov. O'Malley's latest round of proposed cuts hits some of the groups in his liberal base (teachers, labor unions, etc.), and he's starting to get a little resistance from the left.
Disabilities activists (led by indefatigable white hat lobbyist Susan O'Brien) are rallying before tomorrow's Board of Public Works meeting on Lawyers Mall to try to get Peter Franchot and Nancy Kopp to vote against cuts to services for the disabled. (Franchot has been known to raise a stink in similar circumstances, but he's signalling this time that he'll go along with the cuts.)
Susan writes: "These services are already underfunded, with more than 18,000 Maryland citizens waiting for DDA services and hourly wages for service providers to the disabled and mentally ill at some of the lowest rates among health care workers. Cuts to these programs will devastate Maryland’s most vulnerable citizens and force Maryland’s 'working poor' who serve them to find jobs elsewhere."
Earlier today, the left-leaning Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute sent out an analysis of the proposed cuts, including a section titled, "A few really bad ideas." Among them are plans to cut substance abuse treatment, child care subsidies and school breakfast programs.
What will be interesting going forward is what happens when and if O'Malley actually goes through with some of hte more sensitive items on the potential cuts list: six-day furloughs for state workers and reductions to the Geographic Cost of Education Indexing plan. (What is this, you may ask? The important thing to know is it's an optional part of Thornton that teachers and people from Montgomery County really, really want funded.) The indications we're getting are that he isn't going to seek a vote on those tomorrow but may do so later in the year after talking to the appropriate stakeholders. State employees and Montgomery County voters are hugely important parts of O'Malley's base, and they'd be likely to make a lot more noise than a rally on Lawyers Mall.
The way things are going, it might seem like those cuts are inevitable -- they total almost $100 million by themselves -- but I wouldn't be surprised if, given their political sensitivity, O'Malley waits to decide on them until after the slots referendum. After all, why antagonize the foot-soldiers who he has already convinced to back slots?
If the referndum passes, he may feel like he has a little more fiscal breathing room -- or, at least, more time to rebuild relations if he angers the unions. If slots fail, those groups may be the least of his problems.
Andrew A. Green