By Len Lazarick
Gov. Martin O’Malley told reporters Monday that it is his “hope” and “intent” not to raise taxes in the next four years, despite Republican claims that his budget makes tax hikes necessary next year.
But he refused to make a campaign pledge not to hike state revenues.
“I think it’s irresponsible in a time of war to make that pledge, but I certainly hope I never have to do that again,” he said, referring to the multiple tax increases in a 2007 special session.
In a review of this session of the legislature, O’Malley also said he was surprised to find “less partisan negativity this year.”
He cited the bipartisan coalitions that worked on legislation related to unemployment insurance, Medicaid fraud, child sex predators and a new job creation tax credit.
“I think the partisan acrimony that we heard in the first session has not been there in this session,” he said.
The governor said he would deal with mounting obligations to state retirees if re-elected this fall. He said the state also must come up with a plan to support transportation and deal with the state’s deteriorating bridges and tunnels.
But O’Malley, who has had to cut the budget repeatedly in the face of falling revenues, said he had the “informed hope” that March revenues might actually show “a slight uptick,” perhaps in the order of .6 percent. That would be the first increase in months.
A lot of future spending depends on “how quickly the economy comes back in Maryland,” he said.
“We could be facing a couple more years of even more severe cuts,” O’Malley said. “We’ve proven ourselves capable of making those tough decisions.”
Among those tough decisions have been three state years of mandatory furloughs for state employees, essentially temporary pay cuts.
“It’s not unusual for and certainly understandable for state employees to approach me and say I really don’t like these furloughs. I answer them honestly and quickly that I like layoffs even worse,” O’Malley said.