By Glynis Kazanjian


Govs O'Malley and Perry at a Politico forum

Gov. Martin O'Malley and Texas Gov. Rick Perry debate at Politico forum.

WASHINGTON– Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) called Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s efforts to eradicate union employees’ bargaining rights a “drama” and a “circus” during a panel discussion hosted by Politico Friday.

O’Malley said he learned as mayor of Baltimore: “When you’re facing tough challenges, when you have to overcome things like the imbalances in the pension system, I think it best when you bring people together to do that, and I think when you try to vilify or make one side of the equation the enemy I think you’re asking for trouble.”

“We’re asking our public employees in Maryland for many of the same concessions that they’re asking for in Wisconsin, but we’re not asking them to give up their rights to organize or have their voices heard,” O’Malley said. “They’re not happy about [the concessions], but they’re at the table

O’Malley sidestepped moderator Jonathan Martin’s question about the potential blow the Democratic Party would suffer if organized labor’s right to “compulsive dues paying” were stripped away by legislative efforts, since the public employee unions play such a major role in elections.

O’Malley, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, participated in a debate with Texas Gov. Rick Perry, chair of the Republican Governors Association.  The event preceded the start of the National Governors Association’s annual winter meeting.

O’Malley and Perry were cordial to one another during the 45 minute debate, but not surprisingly disagreed on several major issues, including federal health care reform. (A five-minute clip can be found at

O’Malley said Maryland would save $850 million over the next 10 years due to the health care reform and businesses would be able to invest 15 and 20%  more using money saved from health care costs.

“The states that embrace this will become far more attractive to all businesses,” O’Malley said. “The states that resist and fight it will have a difficult time bringing health care costs down, and that’s really the goal here in terms of job creation,”

Perry said the newly implemented health care legislation would cost Texas $30 billion over the next 10 years.  He called the bill’s maintenance of effort requirements devastating, especially to states like California.

“I can’t find anything in the Constitution that says Washington is supposed to tell us in Texas how to deliver health care,” Perry said. “I happen to think the states are the laboratory of innovation … and that states can come up with the best ways to deliver health care.  One shoe fitting all – it just won’t work that way.”

When asked how President Obama’s name on the ballot would affect races for governor in 2012, Perry said he believed there would be a repeat of the 2010 elections.  He said the stimulus money didn’t create the new jobs that the president said it would, and the spending added to a monstrous debt.  He predicted young people would return to the Republican Party.

The election “is going to be driven almost exclusively by their concern about the economy and what this administration has done to their ability to live free,” Perry said.

O’Malley fiercely disagreed on the cause of the deficit.

“By 2019, 55 percent of the federal deficit would have been driven by and created by Bush-era tax cuts.  Thirteen percent of that deficit will be driven by the series of ongoing dessert wars, and only 4 percent would be driven by the Recovery and Reinvestment Act, without which we would have plunged into a second great depression.”

O’Malley said: “George Bush took a surplus situation of a balanced budget by a Democratic president and drove it into the ground and put our country in the position of red ink, with the cost of wars for the first time in our nation’s history, charged to our children’s credit cards.”

Both O’Malley and Perry said they had no plans to run for president in the future when asked, although O’Malley appeared uneasy with the question.

Perry said over the next few years he would work with Republican governors and Democratic governors who privately share his concern, to try and keep the federal government from overstepping its role with too many specific directives.  He said that is what is driving up state deficits and that the federal government should get its job done correctly before imposing on states.

Perry invited Obama to Texas.  “Mr. President, come to Texas and defend our borders,” he said “Then we might have a conversation about some of these other things you want to do.”

The Democratic governors met with Obama Friday morning, and all the governors and their spouses are invited to the White House for dinner Sunday night.