January 16, 2008

The Budget Toolbox

A couple days ago the Baltimore Sun reported on Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley's (D) sagging approval numbers in the wake of his successful tax reform in the fall special session. The convention for some pundits and professionals on the Democratic side is that if must be done, the take hike should happen ASAP, so the new governor can spend the next three years boosting his or her popularity in time for the re-election campaign.

There are alternatives to settling the state account: slots (due for referendum in Maryland November 2008), raising fees (on the campaign trail in 2006, Mayor O'Malley loved to joke that MD had become the "Fee State" under Bob Ehrlich), drawing cash from the rainy day fund, etc.

To me, the most interesting part of the whole budget band-aid process is the salesmanship, because that's alway different. Whether you like raising fees Mitt Romney-style, or you're worrying about keeping the horse industry in your state, or you're talking up trips to Disney World, "going public" with your budget fix can be entertaining.

Gov. Chiles holding up a three-legged stool--symbolizing the separation of powers--in his 1991 State of the State Address is the event I connect to his first budget.

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