Delegate Conway needs to focus on spending cuts

Originally published in

Marc Kilmer Feb 27, 2013

I have no doubt that Delegate Norman H. Conway is a man of great integrity and character, as a recent Daily Times story says, but he has been responsible for spending policies that are harmful to Maryland and the Lower Shore. Marylanders would be better served if Conway focused less on pork-barrel spending and more on finding real solutions to the state’s budget issues.

During his tenure as Appropriations Committee chairman, Conway faced fiscal fallout from both the recession and higher spending levels legislated for education and Medicaid programs. Yet he and Gov. Martin O’Malley did not deal with these problems by cutting spending. In January, the governor proposed a budget of $37.2 billion for this coming fiscal year, a 29 percent increase over the state’s $28.8 billion budget when he entered office.

While other states have reduced spending, privatized services and restructured government programs to address their deficits, Maryland politicians chose to fund their spending increases by hiking taxes and fees, borrowing, and shifting costs to local government. As chairman of the Appropriations Committee, Conway played a key role in shaping these decisions.

Since 2007, legislators have imposed a variety of tax and fee hikes, including both income and sales tax increases. They also stripped local governments of almost all transportation funding and shifted the burden of funding teacher pensions to county governments. With these actions, O’Malley and Conway found money for the state budget but forced local governments to raise taxes.

Even with the tax hikes and funding shifts, the state could still not afford the spending passed by Conway’s committee. That’s why in this year’s budget, O’Malley is proposing that between now and 2020, the state borrow hundreds of millions of dollars to fund spending and repay money that lawmakers raided from trust funds.

These types of schemes demonstrate irresponsible budgeting by gimmick. They have made Maryland less attractive to business, caused severe fiscal strains on local governments and burdened tomorrow’s taxpayers with paying for the spending of today and yesterday.

Conway may be hard-working and bring home the bacon, but the budget policies he championed in his position as chairman have been harmful, not only for residents of the Lower Shore, but for the entire state.

Marc Kilmer of Salisbury is a senior fellow at the Maryland Public Policy Institute, a think tank based in Rockville, Md.