Above: Sen. Ed Kasemeyer, Dels.-elect Terri Hill, Trent Kittleman, Clarence Lam
By Len Lazarick
New Democratic legislators from Howard County said they “got the message” on spending and taxes from the election of Republican Larry Hogan Jr. as governor.
“I think we got the message,” Del.-elect Clarence Lam told a Howard County Chamber of Commerce breakfast Tuesday. “We understand folks want to move in a different direction.”
Lam is one of two physicians elected to the House of Delegates from District 12 in a Democrat-leaning county that not only went with Hogan but also elected Republican Sen. Allan Kittleman as county executive.
“Maryland sent a message with the election of this governor,” said Democratic Del.-elect Vanessa Atterbeary, a lawyer elected in District 13. “Both sides have to be committed to working together.”
The message wasn’t lost on veteran Democratic leaders either.
A positive thing
Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chairman Ed Kasemeyer said: “My perspective, along with many of my colleagues, we view this as a positive thing that the people have made a statement about the things we have been doing.”
“We look forward to a very positive relationship” with Hogan, Kasemeyer said, with more compromise and less of the confrontation that happened with the last Republican governor, Bob Ehrlich, for whom Hogan was appointments secretary.
Kasemeyer pointed out that Maryland’s looming budget deficits were not unique, with Pennsylvania and Virginia both experiencing shortfalls in their budgets.
Legislative analysts said last week there is a $300 million deficit projected in Maryland’s budget this year and a $600 million shortfall next year,
“This is a new reality,” Kasemeyer said. “Certainly the federal government has really screwed the deal for Maryland,” with cutbacks in federal spending.
Doubts about tax cuts
“We need to hold down spending,” conceded Del. Frank Turner, District 13, vice-chair of the House Ways & Means Committee that handles tax legislation. “We need to keep within spending affordability guidelines.”
While Turner saw the need for keeping a lid on spending, he was dubious about Hogan’s push for tax cuts.
“You’ve got to have revenues from somewhere,” Turner said. “I don’t see any major reductions” in taxes this year.
Republicans were more optimistic.
“We have a governor who is committed to controlling spending,” said Sen.-elect Gail Bates, a delegate elected to fill Kittleman’s seat. The structural deficits in years ahead represent “things that we would like to do. That assumes we continue to do what we have done before.”
Republican Del. Warren Miller said the state budget was “a target-rich environment.”
In door knocking in his western Howard County district he found many people ready to move out of the state, and he said there were too many “Maryland license plates in front of all those big office parks” in northern Virginia.
“We have a lot of work to do … to be a competitive state again,” Miller said.
Lam suggested that tax credits given to targeted businesses, such as the coal mine credit, would be a good place to look for tax changes.