Blog: GOP “tough medicine” on budget might be too much for Democrats to take

Republican delegates Tuesday will be offering their annual dose of “tough medicine” in the form of perhaps $1 billion in budget cuts, but it is unlikely that Democrats are any more willing to swallow the bitter pills than they were in past years.

Trotting out charts showing the steady uphill climb of state spending, House Minority Leader Tony O’Donnell said, “it’s always going up… it’s always growing … it never stops, it never gets cut.”

Even in the face of an economy that is barely growing, the overall state budget of $34 billion is still up slightly from last year, but without the federal aid that helped avoid major cuts the last two years.

Del. Tony O'Donnell

General Assembly leaders have already pledged to cut $670 million this year and for the next two to eliminate the state persistent $2 billion “structural” deficit due to future spending established by law. At the same time, the Democratic leadership rejected GOP efforts to totally eliminate structural deficit in the coming year.

The GOP leaders did not specify what they would propose to cut at Tuesday’s budget hearing, but said they spending cuts would lead to “a significant fund balance” in future years.

Using the same “tough medicine” language last year, Republican leaders proposed 1,500 layoffs of state workers and over $800 million in education spending cuts to fix “the long term affliction” of overspending and deficits. They also wanted to get rid of another 1,000 people in the state university system, which had seen its employees grow by 2,800 in just three years.

A year ago, the House GOP also proposed eliminating the $11 million legislative scholarship program, cutting the travel budget in half at the universities ($27 million), abolishing a $20 million Chesapeake Bay fund and stem cell research funds ($12 million), reducing the salaries of all executives who get more than the governor’s $150,000 salary, and eliminating $100 million in highway funds for Baltimore City.

They may propose similar actions Tuesday.  Because Maryland has such a strong “executive budget,” only allowing lawmakers to cut from the governor’s proposal, the Republicans have to work with what Gov. Martin O’Malley has put on the table.

“If we were rewriting the governor’s budget from scratch, it would be dramatically different,” O’Donnell
As might be expected, on Monday, O’Donnell said, “We think all the talk of taxes is exactly the wrong prescription.”

Given the Democrats’ unwillingness to swallow the GOP medicine, why do Republicans keep pushing the cure?

O’Donnell said the Republicans were willing to “try again and again and again” to get the majority party to listen, rather than standing on the sidelines and throwing bombs, as he admitted they have done in the past.

They’re hoping some day the Democrats may come to their senses and take what’s good for what ails them, but at least “we’re back at the table again,” O’Donnell said, even if Democrats don’t like what they’re dishing out.

—Len Lazarick

About The Author

Len Lazarick

Len Lazarick was the founding editor and publisher of and is currently the president of its nonprofit corporation and chairman of its board He was formerly the State House bureau chief of the daily Baltimore Examiner from its start in April 2006 to its demise in February 2009. He was a copy editor on the national desk of the Washington Post for eight years before that, and has spent decades covering Maryland politics and government.


  1. Whcampbell

    I have read the entire FY 2012 budget that Governor O’Malley submitted. It does not contain any of the tough choices that he promised to voters in the general election. It piles on more unfunded spending, and forces the General Assembly to either cut this bloated wish list, or raise about $1 billion in taxes, fees and fines. Based on past performance the General Assembly will not cut spending. We continue the fraud of raising special funds, such as motor fuel taxes for transportation, and prop up the general fund. Then critical transportation infrastructure crumbles and there is a cry that we need to raise the gas tax. Maryland needs to zero base the State budget and start from scratch. Until we get our spending under control we will not have a strong economic revival.

    • JayKAY

      I think somebody is finally getting it; the government is suppose to be big……so why don’t you run for office, I’ll support you!

  2. Richard Baldwin Cook

    GOP budget cutting pronouncements are inconsistent with GOP pronouncements about restrict education and health care services to predominantly non-White residents of Maryland – which is what Delegate O’Donnell and many (most? all?) of his GOP colleagues want to do – by restricting services only to people who can show “legal” status.

    If thousands of Maryland residents are denied treatment for communicable, contagious disease, does Mr. O’Donnell think he and his constituents won’t get sick? Does he think desperately ill people won’t troop to emergency rooms? ER care is by far the most expensive health care option – paid for by tax dollars. Why make this the only option?

    Maryland best not adopt Mississippi-style public policies, which may look cheap but which in the long run cost far more by maintaining a debilitated, impoverished, ill-educated and sickly population, with a wealthy elite sitting atop the mire.

    It costs money – but is cheaper in both the long and the short run – to maintain a well managed, well governed, well educated state, that provides needed services and protects the public from preventable workplace injury, environmental degradation and controllable diseases.

    GOP posturing about the need to limit services and never, never, never raise taxes does not get done the complicated job of managing state government.

    • JayKay

      With all due respect Mr. Cook, Minority Leader O’Donnell is correct. We cannot afford these programs.

      Secondly, government is the PRIMARY reason for the uncontrollable increase in the cost of health care just as government is the PRIMARY reason for education increases. There is a large body of scholarly research that clearly details why health care, and college costs are rising so fast and it’s because the government constantly subsidizes health care and education, as indicated by the CATO Institute, Hoover Institute, Center for Policy Analysis and many for independent researchers.

      Thirdly, no it does not cost money to maintain a well educated population. Our public school system is a bust; our nation spends more money on education than any other country in world recorded history, and our state spends an incredible amount of money on education, too. If money was the cure/answer to our failing school system the problem would be solved already.

      Finally, the best government is that which governs least. We need to get gov’t out of the way and let the Free Market be free. Cut the structural budget in half, because all that do is transfer wealth from you to government workers who doesn’t produce anything but waste, fraud, and abuse.

      All in all, the federal government has no place in facilitating goods/services that the private sector can do, because as former N.O. Mayor Ray Nagan said during an interview with John Stossel “the private sector does it better” and that’s coming from a Democrat.


  1. House Republicans to Offer Budget Plan « Conduit Street - [...] Appropriations Committee to eliminate the State’s structural budget deficit. As reported by Republican delegates Tuesday will be offering…

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