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Fraser Smith's Essay: December 6, 2012
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December 6, 2012
Gambling is, for the moment, behind them, but it’s still all about the money for our lawmakers in Annapolis. WYPR’s Senior News Analyst Fraser Smith comments in his weekly essay.
The state needs money for road projects – maintenance, as always. and new construction, as always, to keep commerce flowing. But how to raise that money? The Transportation Trust Fund has done its work in other areas, filling the annual budget gaps until, finally, the end is near. The fund is on the verge of empty.
In the last legislative session, Governor O’Malley wanted to apply the state sales tax to gasoline. The assembly did not. New or higher taxes remain toxic. So, who knows what source will be eyed this year?
Maryland learned this week that federal funds may not be available to restore areas damaged by Hurricane Sandy. Compared with New Jersey and New York, the toll here is not compelling. States like ours find themselves well back in the line for federal help.
And finally the revolving door between public service and the really big money has begun to spin. The governor loses two loyal aides: Rick Abbruzzese and Joe Bryce, his chief legislative aide. Both men are joining the lobbyist ranks.
When you’ve worked for a governor, you know more than process. You know where the bodies are buried, of course. More importantly, you know where the live bodies are located – the senate president, the house speaker and the committee chairs.
These the men and women who can kill or give life to a bill – just what your new bosses need.
Finally, legislators will not be burdened with fund raising chores of their own. Having finally understood it was tacky to take campaign contributions from businessmen, the assembly outlawed fundraising while the laws are being made. Conflicts of interest had been unavoidable.
Many assembly members, therefore, hang their stockings in December, before the ban. Take Senate President Mike Miller. The once and future Senate President – raised $200,000 at a fund raiser recently in Montgomery County.
Maybe these givers can help bail out the Transportation Trust Fund.
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