In which I criticize Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan

I love Governor Hogan, and I think he’s doing a great job in Maryland.  I love that he’s been able to balance the budget without raising our taxes again. Reducing the tolls, while it doesn’t affect me, seems like a great move to make MD more friendly to tourists and truckers.  I personally appreciate the military retirement tax relief increase.  This particular post has become even harder to write after the Governor announced he had Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, and just started chemo to treat & hopefully beat his cancer.  Lord knows my prayers are with him and his family as they go through this difficult time.

hogan-raintaxrepealBut I’ve got a major beef with his current push to take credit for repealing the “rain tax.”  He did not repeal the tax. He repealed the state mandate that the affected counties had to charge a fee.  The federal mandate that those specific counties continue to come up with money to fund the storm water clean up still continues. Three counties have either never enacted the fee in the first place, or repealed their “rain tax” fee.  Baltimore County reduced its fee by a third.  But so far, none of the other counties have tried to repeal their fees. In my home county of Prince George’s, the County Executive Rushern Baker has already said that he will not attempt to reduce or repeal the fee in PG County.  He told the Baltimore Sun that he’d have to slash things like education to come up with the federally mandated funds. So it is disingenuous for Governor Hogan and his team to sit in Annapolis and brag about “repealing the rain tax.”

Then there’s the purple line fiasco. The Governor rightly rejected the Red line in Baltimore as the money-pit that it is, but he said the Purple line would go forward, provided Montgomery and PG County pony up more cash.  Really, he should have just vetoed it outright.  The counties now have to decide if they think it’s worth it to raise taxes in order to pay for it, because neither county has any extra cash to throw at this project.  Montgomery County is dealing with the fall out from a double-taxation lawsuit they lost. PG County barely got a budget passed after they raised property taxes for the first time since 1979, possibly in violation of TRIM. It’s once again disingenuous for Governor Hogan and his team to say they approved the Purple Line.  In reality, it’s been approved conditionally, and those conditions are very unlikely to be met without counties raising taxes on their citizens.   I’m hoping this is just some sort of strategic move on his part to try to save the state some money and appease some voters while turning public sentiment against the idea.

All in all, I like Governor Hogan, and I think he’s doing the best job he can.  His handling of the Baltimore Riots was spot on, despite all the shade Mayor Rawlings-Blake tries to throw at him for it.  I wish him nothing but the best of luck in getting cooperation out of the Democratic-controlled General Assembly.  He tried to get the automatic increase in the gas tax stopped, but couldn’t get it through the General Assembly. I just wish that he would take this opportunity to educate the people about the federal mandates that kill the state and local budgets.  I also hope that his wording of the “rain tax repeal” doesn’t come back to bite him in the rear.

 

PG County Executive & Council Chairman in a Pissing Match; Taxpayers Get Soaked.

Short version:

The PG County Executive, Rushern Baker, wants a double-digit property tax increase to fund schools, and is using a 2012 state law to get around the limits and requirements in the PG County Charter. The Council, led by Chairman Mel Franklin, vetoed the 15% increase, replaced it with a 4% increase, and added a penny increase to the Parks & Planning tax rate. Mr. Baker said that wasn’t good enough, vetoed the Council’s budget. The Council overrode his veto, which pissed Mr. Baker off. So he vetoed their budget again, and sent back one with an 11% increase in Property tax, and threatened legal action if the council didn’t pass his budget. The Council has once again overridden the County Executive’s budget, and passed their version.

Meanwhile, the taxpayers will see their property taxes increase, as well as their phone bills and the cost of various permits and licenses, despite very public outcry against the increases. Taxpayers are left feeling like no one is listening, and the only question now is how much will taxes increase.

 

pgcopissingmatch-sm

The TL;DR version:

Back in 1978, the citizens of Prince George’s County did something absolutely brilliant.  They passed a law that capped their property tax rate at the 1979 rate, affectionately known as TRIM (Tax Reform Initiative by Marylanders).  When TRIM was challenged in 1996, the voters in this very blue county not only upheld TRIM, but also passed into law the Approval of New or Additional Taxes by Referendum, which said the county government could NOT raise any taxes without asking the public to vote on it.

People who have been involved in PG County Politics much longer than I remember the Park & Planning Surplus scheme.  Fast forward to the height of the housing bubble in about 2005/2006. Maryland has this thing called the “Homestead Tax Credit” which was very helpful to families who saw their property assessments soaring.  The Homestead Tax Credit capped the amount your property tax bill could rise each year to 10% of the previous year’s assessment.  Thing was, the PG County half of the Maryland-National Capitol Park & Planning Commission had long before decided that the Homestead Tax Credit did NOT apply to it.  So P&P was taxing people on the full assessed property values, not the Homestead Tax Credit capped values.  This resulted in a HUGE surplus of cash sitting in the PG M-NCPPC account.  Once the folks in the county government realized how much extra there was, they started lining up with their hands out and a list of projects to do.  P&P also had ideas for the money, as they had their own list of maintenance issues and whatnot that needed attention.  Everything was rolling along so well.

Then the housing bubble burst. When the county went to the state delegation for funding, the state delegates took one look at the beefy account in P&P, and said use that money to plug the holes until the economy turns around.  That right there was a violation of the taxpayer’s trust, as money that had been taken for use in parks and such was now being used to fill the holes all across the county budget. But the economy didn’t recover as fast as hoped, and the county had to keep raiding the P&P fund to fund the budget.  That is until Martin O’Malley signed a bill restricting Park & Planning to the Homestead Tax Credit assessed value levels in 2010.  After that, the money quickly dried up, and P&P was left with a HUGE list of projects, and an ever-shrinking bank account to fund everything.

In 2012, one of the constant attempts by government officials to circumvent TRIM got approved in Annapolis, under Martin O’Malley.  The State Delegation from PG County supported SB 848 2012, also known as the Education Maintenance of Effort bill. SB848 allows county governments to violate the taxing restrictions in their charters for the express purpose of “maintaining the effort” for the county school system.  “Maintenance of Effort” is defined in the bill as the level of funding from last year, and the bill makes it next to impossible to cut education spending at all.  Any reduction in education spending must be granted a waiver from the state.  Operating any large system like this and not allowing the potential for cuts leads to a situation ripe for corruption, cronyism, and abuse.  Just recently the entire school board gave up their county credit cards because of wasteful, fraudulent spending on the part of several members.

County Executive Baker has his eyes on higher office.  It’s well known to anyone who follows PG County politics that Mr. Baker wants to take a shot at the Governor’s Mansion.  According to the Washington Post, “He told residents and business leaders that rehabilitating the education system would be the centerpiece of his legacy.”  He needs to drastically improve the school system, especially since he took it over just a few years ago, in order to have something he can use in his campaign for Governor.  So SB 848 2012 is the bill that Mr. Baker is using to claim he can raise property taxes in PG County by whatever amount he deems necessary for the school system.  Mr. Baker wants to is increase school funding dramatically, and he assumes that the citizens will go along with it because “it’s for the kids.”  He started asking for a 133 million dollar increase, then tried to settle for a 65 million dollar increase. The County Council will only approve a 34 million dollar increase.  There is a group of citizens, PG Tax Watch, who want to fight any increase, claiming that SB 848 2012 doesn’t apply here, and they may be right.  However, they will face an uphill battle as the State’s Attorney General’s office has already come down on the side of the County Executive. The one thing the letter from the AG’s office does not address though, is whether SB 848 2012 can be used to increase school funding. PG County has more than enough in the budget to fund the school at last year’s level without raising taxes, therefore, neither increase is needed to meet the Maintenance of Effort.

Meanwhile, the County Council, led by Chairman Mel Franklin, have declared that simply throwing money at the school system is not going to fix the myriad of problems there.  They want to increase funding for P&P instead. It seems that P&P told the Council & Executive that they are operating in a deficit this year, but have enough in the bank to cover next year.  After that though, they will be in big trouble, financially.  Councilman Franklin is rumored to have his eyes on the County Executive job when they both term limit out in 2018.  The last thing he wants to do right now is enforce a double digit increase in the property tax.  He realizes that’s political suicide. Instead, he wants to do a much smaller increase, a 4% increase that looks completely reasonable up against Mr. Baker’s proposal of 15%. He also wants to plug that hole in P&P because one of the projects that has gotten underway is a HUGE new aquatic & recreation center near Gwynn Park High School.  It’s one of the things he promised to bring to the area, and he wants to deliver.

Baker’s original proposed budget got shot down by Franklin & Co.  He got upset and vetoed their version of the budget, and resubmitted his own again.  They overrode his veto, and sent their budget back to him.  Baker then got really upset and vetoed the Council’s budget a second time, and vaguely threatened legal action if they don’t pass his budget.  The Franklin-led council promptly overrode Baker’s veto a second time, and essential told Baker to “bring it.”  Now the county’s budget is in limbo while we all await the County Executive’s next move.

29 Hours is the New 39 Hours

It seems that WaPo is just now discovering something that many folks in the workforce have known for some time – that Obamacare regulations are directly responsible for so many businesses cutting the definition of Part-Time from 39 hours, to 29 hours.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration delayed the employer insurance requirement until January 2015. But the state of Virginia, like some other employers around the country that capped part-timers’ hours in anticipation of the initial deadline, has no plans to abandon its new 29-hour-a-week limit.

The impact on Pace and thousands of other workers in Virginia is an unintended consequence of the health law, which, as the most sweeping social program in decades, is beginning to reshape aspects of American life.

Under the law, companies with 50 or more workers will be required to provide health insurance to all their full-time employees, or face significant fines.

The decision to delay that requirement was welcomed by business groups, which said companies needed more time to adapt to the law. But the delay has emboldened the law’s critics, who say it is evidence the statute is ill-conceived and should be repealed.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll finds that the country, which remains deeply divided about the law, is similarly split about the delay in the employer requirement. Fifty-one percent say they support the delay, while 45 percent say they do not. The public is also divided over whether the setback means the law is fatally flawed.

But why 29 hours? Why did the authors of Obamacare decide to change the definition of part-time? The answer is pretty simple, they had no clue how business works. They had no idea that so many businesses in this country survive because of part-time work.

Part of the dilemma lies in the definition of “full-time,” which diverges from the industry standard of 40 hours per week. Advocates say the 30-hour bar was supposed to discourage employers from simply shaving a few minutes off a full-time worker’s hours to skirt the law. But it turns out that “an awful lot of people work less than 40 hours a week,” said Timothy Jost, a health policy expert and consumer advocate.

They also completely ignored the enormous financial burden they would be placing on business. The article uses the state of Virginia to brilliantly explain why so many people are finding their hours cut as businesses prepare for the coming regulations:

Virginia’s situation provides a good lens on why. The state has more than 37,000 part-time, hourly wage employees, with as many as 10,000 working more than 30 hours a week. Offering coverage to those workers, who include nurses, park rangers and adjunct professors, would have been prohibitively expensive, state officials said, costing as much as $110 million.

“It was all about the money,” said Sara Redding Wilson, director of Virginia’s Department of Human Resources Management. “If we could cover everyone, we would.”

That’s $110 Million dollars, just for one year of coverage for the State’s part-time staff. In my own city, Suffolk, the school system found out it will cost $182,000 for the first year that the mandates are in place, and that is with taking all measures possible to reduce hours for the part-timers below 29 a week. This from a school district that is already greatly underfunded, and overburdened by state and federal mandates. If my city’s school system is struggling with funding this, it’s a good bet that other cities’ school systems will be as well.

Support for Obamacare is falling. Remember Ms. Pelosi’s statement? “We have to pass the bill so you can find out what is in it.” Well, they used some political tricks, and got the thing passed. The more we find out about what is in it, the more people do NOT like it!

 

Sources:

Health-care law is tied to new caps on work hours for part-timers – The Washington Post.

Schools Weigh Affordable Care Act – Suffolk News Herald

$34 Million Dollar building likely to be torn down

So, sequestration means we can’t have public tours of the Whitehouse anymore, but, despite protests, we have no problem blowing big money on a building in Afghanistan that the military said they did not need.

The windowless, two-story structure, which is larger than a football field, was completed this year at a cost of $34 million. But the military has no plans to ever use it. Commanders in the area, who insisted three years ago that they did not need the building, now are in the process of withdrawing forces and see no reason to move into the new facility.

So what will happen to this $34 million dollar building?

The military, which has opened a formal investigation into the decisions that led to the contract, is considering two options for the building: demolishing it or giving it to the Afghan army. Although the handoff sounds appealing, U.S. officials doubt the Afghans will be able to sustain the structure. It has complex heating and air-conditioning systems that demand significant amounts of electricity, which, in turn, require costly fuel purchases for generators. The building is wired for 110-volt appliances, not the 220-volt equipment used by Afghans. And, the officials note, the U.S. military recently built a new headquarters building on the Afghan base that adjoins Leatherneck.

via A brand-new U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan. And nobody to use it. – The Washington Post.

 

Boenher needs to go!

 

Cry-Baby Boehner has got to go. Not only does he “absolutely” trust Obama, He doesn’t think the debt crisis is an “immediate threat” & says that he is part of Obama’s “common-sense caucus.”  Somebody in the conservative movement needs to primary his butt.

Read it all at Breitbart.com.

Because the Obama Administration sees women as nothing but their “bits”

This was on the official Obama campaign Tumblr account:

 

Because, as a woman nothing else matters, right?  Certainly not:

Fast & Furious.
16 Trillion in debt. (That’s $16,000,000,000,000.00!!!)
8+% Unemployment that is really 16% unemployment.
The Obama Administration lying to the American People about the Benghazi Terrorist attack.
Obama’s Attorney General having ties to the Black Panthers & possibly terrorism.

I could go on, and on, and on, and on. But I don’t have enough time right now.

Code Pink, dressed as Giant Lady Parts.

But according to our President’s campaign – the same campaign that has made a 30-something activist law student the star of their campaign because she wants the government to pay for her birth control – according to the President’s campaign, women are nothing more than their “lady parts” and the only issue that matters is Birth Control (read: Abortion).

So, the democrats see me as nothing but a giant walking vay-jay-jay, but it’s the Republicans who don’t respect women and are waging a War on Women?

After blaming GOP for leaving him with the theoretical dinner bill, Obama forgets to pay his dinner tab.

Tuesday afternoon President Obama mixed his metaphors a bit at a fundraiser in Baltimore. (emphasis mine)

“If they start trying to give you a bunch of facts and figures suggesting that it’s true, what they’re not telling you is they baked all this stuff into the cake,” he said.

“I love listening to these guys give us lectures about debt and deficits. I inherited a trillion-dollar deficit. We had a surplus, they turned it into a deficit, built it into a structural deficit that lasts for decades, and — isn’t that something?” President Obama said at a fundraiser today.

“This notion that somehow we caused the deficits is just wrong. It’s just not true. Anybody who looks at the math will tell you it’s not true. If they start trying to give you a bunch of facts and figures suggesting that it’s true, what they’re not telling you is they baked all this stuff into the cake with those tax cuts and a prescription drug plan that they didn’t pay for and the wars,” he said.

“So all of this stuff is baked in, with all the interest payments for it, it’s like somebody goes to the restaurant, orders a big steak dinner, martini, all that stuff and then just as you’re sitting down, they leave and accuse you of running up the tab. That’s what they do,” he said.  (Via RealClearPolitics H/T Salon.com)

The following day, after basically accusing the GOP of skipping out on the bill for a steak dinner & martinis, our Illustrious Leader went out for some BBQ with a few guys, and proceeded to skip out on the bill.  Not.  Kidding.

Amid the bustle of President Obama’s surprise stop for barbecue Wednesday the White House apparently overlooked one key detail: the bill.

Celebrating Father’s Day early, the president had lunch with two service members and two local barbers at Kenny’s BBQ on Capitol Hill.

As the group chatted about fatherhood, the president enjoyed a steaming plate of pork ribs with hot sauce, collard greens, red beans and rice and cornbread.

The bill for the president and his four guests was $55.58, but was left unpaid at the point of sale, according to pool reports.

The White House corrected the oversight and settled up the tab by the end of the business day.  (Via ABCNews, h/t WeaselZippers)

You can’t make this stuff up.

 

UPDATE:  Gateway Pundit gave me a hat tip in his story here.

Because nothing says “Respect for the Presidency” like pounding the President’s face into the ground over & over again.

At yesterday’s Easter Egg Roll at the White House, President Obama’s staff had a very special treat for the kids: a basketball clinic featuring NBA players. And there was a second special treat for the children: the basketball itself featured the stern mug of one Barack Obama, as tweeted by ABC News’ Jake Tapper. As Keith Koffler points out at White House Dossier, “Apparently, the basketball lesson doesn’t include instruction in humility.”

via Breitbart.com.

Seriously?? So much did we the tax payer shell out?  Not just for the custom printed basketballs, but also for the NBA Players’ appearances?

 

Update:  Jake Tapper reports on Twitter that the Obama-Balls were NOT bought using Taxpayer money: