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Opinion: Trump a Dilemma for Maryland Republicans By Laslo Boyd


When Maryland’s Presidential Primary takes place next month, Donald Trump will be leading the field already narrowed to three with the departure of Marco Rubio. Early on many people did not take his candidacy seriously and therefore did little to oppose him. Now, however, he is stirring anxiety and alarm among increasing numbers of the party faithful.

Some argue that Trump is not a true conservative. Others are appalled at his demagogic language and the increasing violence accompanying his public events.

Fact checking does not seem to lessen the enthusiasm of his supporters. Calls by prominent Republican leaders to reject Trump have not slowed his momentum and may, in fact, have been counterproductive.

When asked recently whom he would be supporting among the Republican candidates, Governor Larry Hogan ducked the question. Given his earlier enthusiastic backing for New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie, it’s hard for Hogan to claim that he doesn’t want to get involved in national politics.

At his press conference, he said he was “disgusted” at what is going on with both parties during this election. That, of course, is also evasive since there was never a chance that he would be supporting Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, much less Martin O’Malley.

A lose/lose proposition

Hogan’s challenge is hardly unique. What are moderate and conservative Republicans to do about Trump’s candidacy? Right now, it looks like a lose/lose proposition. Many analysts see a Republican electoral disaster looming if Trump is at the top of the ticket in the fall. It’s not hard to imagine the party losing control of the Senate and having a significant chunk of its large House majority eroded.

The other side of the equation doesn’t look much better. If the New York billionaire were to prevail in the General Election, the Republican Party as it has historically existed would be one of the losers. And, of even greater significance, this country would be a very scary place.

Can Larry Hogan and other leaders of the Republican Party prevent a Trump nomination? That’s not at all clear at this point. Those party leaders have been both timid and ineffectual in opposing Trump.

As many have argued, the failure of elected Republicans to follow through on promises made to their supporters during previous elections is one of the sources of Trump’s popularity.

A second factor, more disturbing, has been their tolerance, at times encouragement, of appeals to racial bias, demonizing of immigrants and calls for a return to a past that will never exist again. Their complicity in the “birther” movement and the assertions that Barack Obama is really Muslim have contributed directly to the Trump movement.

Political courage needed

Do reasonable Republicans—I include Hogan in that category even though I disagree with some of his policies—have the political courage and judgment to stand up to Trump? The first line of attack is to try to deny him the Republican nomination, although it might be already too late to succeed in that endeavor.

Moreover, that undertaking raises the risk that he might run as an independent if denied the party’s nomination. A second possibility is that his supporters, a considerable plurality of voters in Republican primaries, will sit out the election.

The original error of the Republican establishment was to hope it could keep Trump’s supporters without keeping him. That’s probably not going to happen.

Ultimately, the key to guaranteeing that Trump won’t become president is for Republicans who are uneasy with his candidacy to decide that it’s better to have one of the Democratic candidates as president than to run the risk of electing Trump.

That would require them to distance themselves from his fall campaign. Indeed, that may be the only way Republicans like Hogan can reclaim the party from the insurgency that Trump is riding.

National Republicans are already splitting on what to do. Both Ben Carson and Chris Christie have picked expedience over principle by endorsing Trump. Hogan has the opportunity to step out from Christie’s considerable shadow and stake a claim as a thoughtful leader in the party.

To do that, however, he will need to publicly oppose Trump even if that means risking a barrage of invective from the reality show star. Staying quiet at a time like this is not a sign of leadership. Trump appeals to the worst in people and has openly challenged some of the most important values of our constitutional system.

If Hogan remains silent, he will be making the same mistake that others in the party have made, wanting Trump’s supporters at any cost. Between now and the April 26 Primary, Hogan has a wonderful opportunity to show that he has the political courage to do what is right rather than what is expedient.

Maryland Redistricting Reform Tries to Stay Alive Despite Leadership Opposition


Reforming the way congressional and legislative districts are carved up in Maryland may have been declared dead on arrival by Democratic leaders, but the Hogan administration and a few progressive Democratic legislators are keeping the issue alive at hearings this week.

Screen Shot 2016-03-03 at 7.09.12 AMThe co-chairs of the governor’s redistricting commission presented their proposal for a new commission completely independent of politicians, HB358, to the House Rules Committee.

Del. Kirill Reznik, D-Montgomery, is proposing his own version of an independent commission, HB467, to be made up of the nonpartisan legislative staff. But that commission would only go into effect if Virginia and Pennsylvania form similar commissions. He has allied with two Democratic legislators from those states sponsoring similar bills.

Del. Terri Hill, D-Howard and Baltimore counties, is proposing an independent commission in HB408 for legislative redistricting, completely changing the purpose of her original bill to study the process.

Finally, in resolution HJ4, Reznik along with 46 other Democratic delegates, is calling on the Congress and president to establish “uniform standards and procedures applicable to each state for the creation of the districts for the election of the members of the United States Congress.”

Very gerrymandered state

All of this is designed to tackle Maryland’s status as one of the most gerrymandered states in the nation, with Republican representation now reduced to just one seat out of eight in the U.S. House of Representatives, 12.5% — while 36% of voters are registered Republicans.

Senate President Mike Miller, a Democrat who has played a key role in both legislative and congressional redistricting for three decades, has adamantly opposed any change to Maryland’s system while Republican-controlled states continue to draw districts for partisan gain.

But Hogan’s commission, the bill the administration proposed based on its work, and the Democratic legislation is keeping the conversation alive about a topic that is often only revisited every 10 years, after the Census produces the latest population figures.
Testifying to the House Rules Committee Monday were, from left, Walter Olson and Alexander Williams, co-chairs of Gov. Hogan’s Redistricting Reform Commission; and Joe Getty, Hogan’s chief legislative officer.

“It may look like static trench warfare, but there are destabilizing factors,” said Walter Olson, co-chair of the commission, in an interview after the hearing. “There is a strong constituency for this [redistricting reform] in the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party.”

To make that point to the Rules Committee, Olson quoted from President Barack Obama’s January State of the Union address to Congress.

“I think we’ve got to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. Let a bipartisan group do it,” the president said, drawing a standing ovation from Democrats, while Republicans remained seated.

“We had senators and delegates who came out to speak against their own party” for redistricting reform, said retired federal judge Alexander Williams Jr., the other co-chair of the Hogan redistricting commission. He thought the incumbent members of Congress “will continue to be reelected” regardless of how the lines are drawn.

An October Goucher College poll found 73% of Maryland voters prefer a system where legislative and congressional districts are set by an independent commission, as Hogan has proposed; 21% prefer a system where district lines are drawn by elected officials, as is now done after each Census.

One witness opposed

The only witness testifying against the legislation was Ken Stevens of Columbia, a retiree and longtime Democratic activist.

“Nothing is more partisan than redistricting,” Stevens said. “You have to wait till everybody does it the same way at the same time,” reiterating a common Democratic position against “unilateral disarmament” on gerrymandering.

The House Rules and Executive Nominations Committee is made up largely of members of the House leadership; only five of 24 members are Republicans.

Last year, it held a March 2 hearing on five bills related to redistricting, all but one sponsored by Republican delegates. None of the bills even got a recorded vote in committee.

The Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee will hold a hearing on Thursday on the Senate version of redistricting bills, including Chair Joan Carter Conway’s joint resolution with the same language as Reznik’s call for federal standards.

Conway served on Hogan’s redistricting commission, but did not agree with its recommendations.

By Len Lazarick

Annapolis Proposal to Limit School Testing to 2% of Class Time


Instead of waiting for a state commission to finish studying overtesting in Maryland’s public schools, legislators working with teachers and parents are pushing a standardized testing limit of 2% of annual instructional time.

Organizations representing school superintendents and school boards across Maryland are urging lawmakers to reject the proposal, HB141, and wait for the testing commission’s initial recommendations due July 1.

Del. Eric Luedtke, a former middle school social science teacher in Montgomery County and now a Democrat representing District 14, is lead sponsor of the bill. On Thursday, he told the House Ways and Means Committee on which he serves that the amount of testing required by federal, state and local authorities has crowded out real learning and instructional time.

Losing instructional time

Casey Day-Kells, a 5th grade teacher in Frederick County, reinforced that message.

“Over the last four weeks, I was required to administer a writing test, an individualized reading test for every child, a computer-based reading test, a computer-based math test, and another pencil and paper math test,” Day-Wells told the committee. “Overall, in those last four weeks, this testing has taken over 17 hours of my instructional time,” with no new learning occurring.

Day-Kells chairs the Time to Learn Committee of the Frederick County Teacher’s Association, part of a statewide “Less Testing, More Learning” campaign by the Maryland State Education Association.

Celia Burton, testing coordinator for the Prince George’s County School, testified that “many of our students lost almost 40 days of instructional time.”

Superintendents, boards want to maintain local control

Daniel Curry, Calvert County superintendent of schools representing Maryland’s 24 superintendents, said “it would be premature to make any decision” about testing before the new commission made its first report.

But the superintendents believe that “Local testing should be left in the hands of local jurisdictions,” and he called the 2% figure “arbitrary.”

The Maryland Association of Boards of Education agrees in principle with the superintendents about maintaining local control and waiting for the work of the testing commission.

Commission gets slow start

The testing commission was created by legislation last year signed by Gov. Larry Hogan in May, but the governor’s office was slow in making all the appointments to the 19-member commission, and it did not hold its first meeting till Nov. 17.

There have been three meetings since then, including one on Monday, in which the commissioners heard from the school superintendents, the boards of education, the PTA, and the Baltimore City teachers union.

There is general agreement among most of the groups that there’s too much testing, but how much is actually occurring and what to do about is not clear.

There is also a continuing dispute about the amount of testing reported in a study by the Maryland State Department of Education. MSEA continues to questions the accuracy of the reporting based on different understandings of what tests were actually “mandated” by state and local school authorities.

Commission member Larry Bowers, interim superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools, raised the problem that Luedtke’s bill and others that have been introduced “take our work away from us.”

Commission Chair Christopher Berry, principal of James Hubert Blake High School in Montgomery County, said the commission had to follow its mission spelled out in the law creating it, and the legislators should do as they saw fit.

He has created four subcommittees to work on recommendations.

By Len Lazarick

The Lawsuit that could Reshape Maryland’s Public Universities


Not all significant news makes the front page (or whatever the social media equivalent is today).  In recent days, we have been consumed, depending on our individual interests, by the Super Bowl; the traveling carnival sometimes referred to as the contest for the Republican Presidential nomination; the unexpected drama of the Democratic race between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders; our concerns about international terrorism; the zika virus and countless other national, local and personal matters.

Meanwhile, in a development well off the radar screen, a federal judge in Baltimore last week issued an order that marks the most recent stage in a controversy that has been percolating for years.  It is a dispute that has rarely burst into public view, one that is followed closely only by those directly involved.   Nonetheless, it could have a profound and far-reaching impact on public higher education in Maryland.

The so-called “Coalition Case” involves a lawsuit against the state brought by supporters of Morgan State University and the three other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in Maryland.  Relying upon a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision that found “vestiges” of segregation in Maryland’s system of public higher education, the plaintiffs have been seeking a judicial order requiring Maryland to provide a range of specific remedial actions to make the HBCUs more viable and competitive with other universities in the state.

How Judge Blake has ruled

In 2013, Judge Catherine Blake rejected two of the plaintiffs’ principle arguments—that HBCUs are underfunded and that they are overly constrained in their institutional missions.   She agreed, however, that there was still a pattern of “unreasonable duplication” in degree offerings between historically white and historically black colleges.  If that sounds a bit arcane, an English-language translation is that HBCUs want exclusive authority to offer certain high demand academic programs to ensure both enrollment and diversity of their student bodies.

Recognizing that fashioning a specific remedy to implement the finding would take her into uncharted waters, Judge Blake instructed the parties to seek a mediated solution to what looked like a significant impasse.   Over the better part of a year there were discussions that, to no one’s surprise, failed to find common ground.  The chasm between the parties became evident when each side in late 2015 submitted their own recommendations to the Judge.

The plaintiffs urged Judge Blake to shift a number of popular academic programs from historically white to historically black colleges, proposed a merger of the University of Baltimore into Morgan State, and advocated for approval of new programs not currently on the books at HBCUs.  The state countered with a proposal to set up collaborative academic programs as well as a state fund to support them.

Judge Blake’s answer to the dueling proposals was an order last week calling for an evidentiary hearing to allow her to hear more arguments and gather more information.  It is clear, however, that there has been a shift in her thinking since her first ruling.   Blake took the UB-Morgan State merger off the table and in language very different from her initial ruling emphasized the importance of weighing the impact of any remedy against any damage that might be inflicted on Maryland’s system of public higher education.

Plaintiffs overreach

That language can in part be seen as a backlash to the substantial overreach of the plaintiffs’ proposed remedies.  Asking to dismantle and transfer programs from other institutions that were meeting the educational needs of students regardless of their race was a real political miscalculation.  The premise of those arguments reflected a focus on institutions rather than students.  That’s been a fundamental flaw of this case from the start.

Judge Blake in her order reminded the participants that there has been agreement that the state’s traditionally white institutions are no longer segregated, an important distinction from the 1992 Supreme Court decision on which the plaintiffs have been relying.  A review of enrollments by race at those other universities reveals a real diversity that would be seriously jeopardized by the proposals made by the plaintiffs.

Race is not an easy issue to discuss in any realm of American life.  There is an entirely reasonable case to be made for the value and role of historically black colleges.  The aspiration should be to make those institutions as good as possible, not to have them exactly replicate or replace multi-race colleges.

Ignoring educational opportunities 

But when the argument for shifting programs to HBCUs ignores educational opportunities afforded to black students at those other institutions and pays no attention to the complexities and unintended consequences of implementing the proposed changes, it stands on a very questionable foundation.

Make no mistake, Judge Blake has her work cut out for her as she moves forward with this incredibly complicated and vitally important case.  Finding the balance that takes account of the legitimate needs of Maryland higher education as a whole as well as the value of historically black colleges will not be easy.   Her latest order does, however, offer a greater level of confidence that she is working to find that balance.

By Laslo Boyd

Laslo Boyd has held posts in higher education and state government and worked as columnist and a political consultant. He can be reached at

Op-Ed: Dump Hateful Lyrics to ‘My Maryland’ by Barry Rascovar


I strongly disagree with “politically correct” crowds that frequently seek to re-write history for their own present-day purposes. But when it comes to the hateful lyrics of Maryland’s official state song, I say quite emphatically, “Dump them.”

The words to “Maryland, My Maryland,” composed by an emotionally wrought Rebel sympathizer, James Ryder Randall, are despicable.

Abraham Lincoln is called a despot. Those supporting the United States rather than the Confederacy are called “Northern scum.”

The poem is a blatant call for Maryland to separate from the U.S. and join the Confederacy.

It’s a blood-thirsty state anthem, written in New Orleans by the 22-year-old Randall following the first casualties of the Civil War during Baltimore’s Pratt Street riot of April 1861.

Rebel call to arms

Thus the words:

“Avenge the patriotic gore

That flecked the streets of Baltimore,

And be the battle queen of yore, Maryland! My Maryland!”

Randall, who spent most of his adult life in Augusta, Georgia, and other Southern outposts as an editorial writer – far from Maryland – quickly became a hero among Southern separatists.

His words, set to a catchy German college tune that we know today as “O Tanenbaum” or “O Christmas Tree,” caught on with Rebel soldiers and supporters.

Why such mean-spirited and hostile words would come to represent the state of Maryland – whose citizens were decidedly mixed in their views of the Civil War – remains cloaked in mystery.

Adopting a state song

Republican Gov. Harry Whinna Nice vetoed a bill making Randall’s lyrics the state song in 1935. He felt the words were inappropriate. Nice was on the mark.

But the next governor, conservative Democrat Herbert R. O’Conor, went along with legislators, especially those from rural parts of Maryland with Southern sympathies. O’Conor signed the bill making “Maryland, My Maryland” the state song in 1939.

Big mistake.

Other states have dumped offensive lyrics in their state songs. Florida did it twice (“Swanee”), Kentucky did it (“My Old Kentucky Home”) and so did Virginia (“Carry Me Back to Old Virginny”).

Yet for 20 years, Maryland legislators have refused to get rid of lyrics that don’t come close to representing the state’s citizens. The words are hateful, viciously un-American and written to encourage Maryland to secede from the United States.

It is past time to reverse that dreadful decision by the 1939 General Assembly and Governor O’Conor.

Correcting a mistake

This is not, as Gov. Larry Hogan, Jr. put it recently, “political correctness run amok.”

He needs to re-think his position. Randall’s lyrics never should have been allowed to represent Maryland’s citizens. Does Hogan really want school children singing those words?

Hogan is right that the “PC Crowd” frequently careens out of control trying to revise history to further their own current-day ideological goals.

Taken to an extreme, this would mean tearing down the Washington Monument and re-naming the District of Columbia because George Washington owned hundreds of slaves, frequently ordered severe whippings and refused to liberate them until after his death.

It would mean tearing down the Jefferson Memorial and removing Thomas Jefferson’s face from American currency because he, too, owned hundreds of slaves and conceived children with them.

It would mean melting down the austere statue of Roger Brooke Taney on the grounds of the Annapolis State House because of his refusal as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to abolish slavery. Taney’s other sensible and forward-thinking Supreme Court opinions, and his extremely important work in Andrew Jackson’s Cabinet, would be ground into dust.

Byrd Stadium no longer

The PC Crowd already had its way at the University of Maryland, College Park, where the name of Harry C. Byrd was erased from its football stadium – even though Byrd, who tried vigorously to keep Negroes out of University of Maryland campuses, arguably did more to turn UM into a first-rate state university than any of his successors.

“You can’t change history, and we’re not going to be able to rewrite history,” Hogan said. That’s true. The past is water under the bridge, it is time that already has ticked off the clock.

We can, though, learn from mistakes of the past. We can glean a greater understanding of the flawed decisions of former leaders and why those mistakes happened – so that we, in the present, don’t make similar mistakes.

As philosopher George Santayana wrote in 1924, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Lessons from yesterday

Hogan should learn from O’Conor’s mistake in 1939. He should review and learn from Nice’s courageous veto in 1935.

There’s nothing sacred about a state song, especially one that fiercely and savagely promotes secession.

It makes sense to follow the suggestion of an advisory panel to replace Randall’s odious lyrics with words that better represent Maryland’s history and its citizens’ good intentions.

Overturning a legislative and gubernatorial mistake made 77 years ago isn’t a matter of political correctness.

It’s common sense that ought to be supported on a bipartisan basis in the State House.

Barry Rascovar’s blog is He can be reached at

Maryland Show Middle Class Incomes are Flat


The good news on Maryland revenues is that there is no more bad news and some slight growth, leading to calls of “restrained optimism” and “caution” by top state officials.

But the sobering news underlining the on-target revenue projections for this year and next is that they are only growing at 3 to 4% because middle class incomes have been largely flat. The slower growth with a static economy is the new normal for a state that had been used to 5% overall growth.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 7.07.35 AM“These tepid levels of growth have become our new normal,” said Comptroller Peter Franchot, who chairs the Board of Revenue Estimates, a joint legislative-executive committee that sets the available funds for next year’s budget.

“This is a window into the economic realities facing Maryland families at the moment,” Franchot said. “In essence, non-wage income earners — generally associated with wealthier taxpayers — are doing better than our very modest prior expectations. But actual wage earners, predominantly Maryland’s middle class, are faring worse, with average wage growth standing at a disappointing rate of 2.4%, well below Maryland’s historical standards.”

That’s what the chart at the top shows. Over a 14-year period, income for people making over $250,000 (the blue line) has gone up and down, but mostly up, with several dips related to the stock market and federal tax policy.

Marylanders making less than $250,000 a year have seen little growth in income, especially in the last six years.

Less disposable income

“Workers are bringing home the same or less pay as their living costs are rising, leaving them with less disposable income to spend, and in our consumer-powered economy, that in turn means that far too many businesses – especially small, local businesses – are struggling to survive as consumers rein in discretionary spending,” Franchot said.

That’s why sales tax revenues were revised slightly downward.

Screen Shot 2015-12-17 at 7.07.44 AMThese revised numbers will be the basis of Wednesday’s recommendations to the governor by the legislature’s Spending Affordability Committee.

“This is certainly welcome news,” said Hogan Budget Secretary David Brinkley. Last December, revenue estimates were revised downward by a total of $271 million, requiring mid-year budget cuts by Gov. Martin O’Malley and the Board of Public Works.

“We have to exercise caution,” Brinkley said. “We’re looking for the legislature to secure some mandate relief.” This means reducing mandatory spending driven by formulas and entitlements, something the Democrat-controlled legislature has been unwilling to do in school aid and other programs.

The chart below illustrates the relative weakness of Maryland’s recovery compared to the national recovery from the Great Recession.

By Len Lazarick

Harford County Executive Barry Glassman Exploring Run for Senate


Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, just a year into his new post, is exploring a run for U.S. Senate, at the urging of campaign advisors, he said.

Glassman, a Republican, authorized a poll by his campaign that shows him relatively popular in the Baltimore region and able to beat the other candidates in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. That includes Del. Kathy Szeliga who represents part of Harford County and formally announced her candidacy Tuesday.

“I enjoy what I’m doing,” Glassman said in an interview, “but it’s kind of unconventional year.”

Political advisors asked that he take a poll, and “I agreed to let them go ahead with it. We have not met to go over the poll yet.” But “the numbers were really good.” Glassman, 53, served nine years in the House of Delegates and almost seven years in the Senate. He easily won election as Harford County executive with 75% of the vote.

Glassman has been a sheep farmer, and his campaign literature and signs call him “Baaaa-rry.” He thinks a rural guy with blue collar roots and a farming background might have some appeal. “I just think I have a good story to tell.”

Poll results

Released exclusively to, the poll by Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies was taken in late October, interviewing 302 likely Republican voters by telephone, both land lines and cell phones.

The poll found 41% of Republicans in the Baltimore region had a favorable view of Glassman, but over 70% of Republicans in the rest of the state don’t even recognize him. In Harford County, 83% of a very small sample view him favorably, and 96% approve of the job he’s doing as executive.

More than four out of five Republican voters don’t recognize the other candidates.

In an election match up with the other major GOP candidates for Senate, Glassman leads with 19%, Szeliga gets 11%, Richard Douglas, a former Capitol Hill staffer who ran for Senate in 2012, gets 5%, and attorney Chris Kefalas gets 2%.

With such a small sample, the margin of error is plus or minus 5.75%. The poll also asked whether these Republican voters “support or oppose the Common Core approach to public education in Maryland.” The poll found 69% opposed, with 55% strongly opposed, 19% supportive, and 12% with no response.

Confident of primary win

“I don’t think we have a problem winning the primary,” Glassman said. An advisor to Szeliga expressed confidence that she could beat Glassman in the primary.

“I think the citizens are looking out there for someone who can work with different parties,” said Glassman, who had many Democratic friends in the legislature.

But he recognizes that winning the Senate seat being given up by Democrat Barbara Mikulski would be tough for any Republican.

The release of selective numbers from an internal campaign poll is common, but the release of a complete poll, including demographic breakdowns, is unusual. Pollster Patrick Gonzales, with 30 years in the polling business, said he advised against it, but did so at the request of the Glassman campaign.

“He’s got a good base to win the Republican nomination,” said Gonzales. But the key question is “what does the general election environment look like?”

“It’s always tough for a Republican in Maryland,” the pollster said. “To have a Republican win, you’ve got to have disaffection with the Democrats,” as there was with Martin O’Malley and Anthony Brown, who lost to Gov. Larry Hogan.

“Is there a sufficient disaffection with the Democratic Party” in Maryland? Gonzales asked.

By Len Lazarick

Maryland’s Chronic Structural Deficits to Recur in 2 Years


Democratic legislators proudly proclaimed on Monday they had cured Maryland’s structural deficits with a big surplus this year, but it turns out it is only a temporary respite from a chronic budget disease.

On Friday, the legislature’s top nonpartisan staffer told legislative leaders in a letter that structural deficits are forecast to recur again in two years, growing from $37 million in fiscal 2018 to $465 million in fiscal 2021.

“While it cannot be said that the structural deficit is no longer a concern, our most recent forecast suggests that it can be addressed without extraordinary measures through prudent budget management over the next few years,” said Warren Deschenaux, executive director of the Department of Legislative Services.

A structural deficit is the difference between estimated future revenues and the “baseline budget,” the estimated cost of maintaining current services under normal conditions These baseline budgets assume full funding of all the programs mandated by state law such as education aid, the largest single state-funded program, and Medicaid health insurance, as well as cost-of-living increases and the pension contributions for state employees. It also includes inflation in costs for utilities, gasoline, food and supplies.

The persistence of the deficit in the out years is what Gov. Larry Hogan’s spokesman referred to in justifying the governor’s refusal to release $68 million in education funding for this fiscal year, as the lawmakers demanded.

“As both Senate President Miller and Speaker Busch know, Maryland is still facing a nearly $1 billion cumulative deficit over the next five years,” Doug Mayer, Hogan’s deputy communication director, said last Monday.

Deschenaux said the deficits were forecast to be $34 million in fiscal 2018, $187 million in 2019, $317 million in 2020, and $465 million in 2021, adding up to $1.003 billion.

Deschenaux’s letter was released with a statement by the Senate Republican Caucus.

Sen. Andrew Serafini, R-Washington, a member of the Budget Committee, observed: “DLS has confirmed the differences of approach between current and previous administrations. Like Maryland households, we must take a longer term view in budgeting. This means that any short term windfall should not be relied upon to continue.”

“It is clear that the problems that were created over the last years are not going to be remedied quickly,” Serafini said. “The caution exhibited by Governor Hogan exhibits prudence and common sense. The challenges of healthcare and Medicaid as well as rising debt cost and pension obligations still loom large. Clearly, the long term structural deficit is still a significant issue.”


By Len Lazarick

Rating the O’Malley Vegas Debate Performance


The five major Democratic candidates for president debated for two hours on CNN Tuesday night, the first time former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley got to share the national limelight with front-runner Hillary Clinton and her major challenger, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

How did O’Malley do? Here are reactions by Len Lazarick, Len Foxwell, Barry Rascovar, Rick Vatz and Blaine Taylor. Looking for other opinions? James Hohmann at the Post has a good analysis and roundup of other views.

Outshined by Hillary and Bernie
Len Lazarick
Maryland Reporter

Tuesday night we got to see why Hillary Clinton leads the pack. She is excellent on the debate stage — poised, articulate, in her element, knowledgeable, competent, at least an even match with any of the Republicans we’ve now seen twice in similar settings.

Bernie Sanders showed why, to the surprise of most pundits he has become her chief challenger. He is laser focused on income inequality, the decline of the middle class, the outsized influence of the super-rich, the economic dominance of financial institutions and big corporations.

The economy has been stagnant for much of the U.S. population, and Sanders is channeling their seething dissatisfaction. He is so focused on what he considers the real issues that he could easily say “enough about her damn emails,” eliciting a real laugh from Clinton, not one of those fake Hillary laughs.

They both outshined O’Malley, partly because the questions from the CNN moderators, and then the candidates’ own interaction, favored Clinton and Sanders. You could hear O’Malley futilely trying to break in and get some attention.

He did well enough when he had the floor, although his opening statement had that highfalutin tone that comes across as heartfelt insincerity.

Better than the other two

He did not fare well in the first question which had him defending his zero tolerance policing strategy as mayor, reminding voters of the Baltimore riots in the spring and undermining one of his basic themes: I have governed for 14 years and governed well.

O’Malley certainly did better than the other two men on the stage: former Virginia senator Jim Webb, a stiff policy wonk who might make a good secretary of defense or maybe even a commander-in-chief if somebody else well was doing the political stuff; and former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee, who comes across as a bit loopy.

O’Malley has solid stands on issues that should appeal to progressive Democrats, and he can articulate them well. He has a good liberal record of running a good liberal state — and nobody on the stage was worried about increasing taxes as he often did as governor, certainly not Bernie Sanders who has a lot of ways he’d like to raise taxes on Wall Street and the wealthy.

O’Malley just did not seem to make the case of how he would be more competent and thoughtful than Clinton, or more passionate about the economic problems of the country than Sanders. With that in mind, which of the early voting states can O’Malley win against those two?

And if Joe Biden got into the race, he would even lose his edge as the middle-class Irish Catholic lawyer.

No Breakthrough for O’Malley
Len Foxwell
Political Strategist

The winner of the debate is the one who came in with the most to lose, and that was Hillary Clinton.  She avoided memorable, game-changing mistakes, adroitly deflected direct hits on her perceived areas of weakness — such as her Senate vote to authorize the war in Iraq, the e-mail controversy and her oft-critiqued tendency to modify her positions for the sake of political expediency — and took opportunities to connect with the party’s progressive base on domestic policy issues such as handgun safety.

I suspect that her steady performance this evening will soothe the nerves of many of her restive supporters and donors.

Sanders: Authenticity and principle

Bernie Sanders came across as a man of authenticity and principle, and his systemic critique of the American political system – and, specifically, the linkage that he draws between the control of the process by wealthy special interests and the nation’s current economic inequality — will assuredly resonate with those who wish to register their dissatisfaction with politics as usual, are searching for an alternative to a Clinton nomination they regard as inevitable, or both.

It’s not hard to understand how he has generated a substantial and vocal following among those on the left flank of the Democratic Party.

That said, he did virtually nothing this evening to expand his political base; to the contrary, his spirited defense of democratic socialism and his call for a revolution, regardless of the substantive merits of his arguments, come across as jarringly radical for someone who aspires to be the nominee of one of the two major political parties.  His candidacy should continue to serve as a useful protest vehicle for disaffected constituencies within the Democratic coalition, but I don’t believe that he should be regarded as a credible contender for the Democratic nomination.

Martin O’Malley needed a breakthrough performance this evening to climb out of the low single digits and establish himself as a credible, ideologically mainstream alternative to Hillary Clinton.  In my mind, that didn’t occur this evening.

While he had a few impressive moments earlier in the evening —  I believe he registered an articulate defense of his criminal justice policies in Baltimore City, and fared well in a three-way exchange on gun control legislation with Clinton and Sanders — he appeared to recede into the background as the evening wore on.  Moreover, he continues to suffer, I believe, from a soaring and excessively rehearsed rhetorical style at moments when a less formal, more conversational style would be more appropriate.  He performed credibly on an evening when that simply wasn’t enough.

Big Dog Clinton, angry orator Sanders, and O’Malley best of the rest
Barry Rascovar

Throughout the evening, the Big Dog in the room was Hillary Clinton. She started strong and finished strongest, the only one who gave nuanced, pragmatic answers on how to solve vexing, seemingly intractable problems. She led the charge in denouncing Republicans and the National Rifle Association and made it clear she will fight the hardest for women’s rights.

Bernie Sanders wins the blue ribbon for most emotionally compelling rhetoric, though it frequently veered into unreality. He must have denounced rapacious billionaires a dozen times. He admitted he’s leading a revolution, not presenting proposals that are achievable. If you want to elect an angry orator, Bernie’s your man.

As for Martin O’Malley, he was clearly the Best of the Rest. His poll ratings should rise, perhaps even edging into double digits. He achieved his goal after a shaky start with his voice quavering. His defense of his zero-tolerance police policy as Baltimore mayor wasn’t persuasive.

And he made the biggest gaffe of the evening, mistakenly saying that Bashir Assad (rather than Vladimir Putin) had invaded Syria — undermining his credibility on foreign policy. Still, our man Martin performed well enough to spread the word that he could be an up-and-coming future star of the party. It would take a major miracle for him to become a real contender this year, but as the late Judge Edgar Silver would remind him, “The best is yet to come.”

Love fest for Hillary did not shake up the race

Richard E. Vatz
Towson University

The first Democratic debate had the potential to shake up the apparent order-by-polls of candidates Hillary Clinton first, followed by Bernie Sanders and then by the most significant non-participant, Vice President Joe Biden.  The other participants, former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, former Virginia Senator Jim Webb and former Rhode Island Senator and Governor Lincoln Chafee all brought a certain unpredictability enhanced by desperation, due to their very low polling numbers.

Mrs. Clinton, whose last televised debate was in 2008, has reversed positions on a variety of issues, including current opposition to the Bush-era Iraq war, opposition to the Pacific Rim Trade deal, and support of gay marriage and others. On the less controversial change on gay marriage, Ms. Clinton was lovingly teased on Saturday Night Live.  The first Democratic debate for the presidential nomination of 2016 was not much rougher on her.

In the debate, there was only one incongruous line in the opening statements: O’Malley’s “We need new leadership.” Was this a shot at President Obama after O’Malley complimented his leadership?

Debate Moderator Anderson Cooper asked tough questions throughout, although his follow-ups were not quite as tough.  He also never questioned the representation that the war on Iraq was based on Bush administration lies, a premise that is highly debatable, to say the least.

Cooper asks each about his/her weaknesses regarding electability: Clinton’s flip-flopping, Sanders’ socialism, O’Malley’s zero-tolerance policies, Chaffee’s wild political changes, and Webb’s prior right-wing statements regarding affirmative action.  None directly answered the question, but all made the argument that their policies yielded a better status quo and will yield a better situation than what we have now. Cooper was less aggressive on questioning the precepts of the “Black Lives Matter” movement.  Only Webb asserted the notion that “All Lives Matter” — briefly.

The disproportional amount of time accorded to candidates Clinton and Sanders was indefensible. Clinton brilliantly focused on background checks as the only gun control issue and made Sanders look weak. O’Malley took an atypical example to argue for gun control and similarly made Sanders look weak on the issue. (Story continues below graph)
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Asked about her position on Russia as Secretary of State, Clinton claimed we have to stand up to Russia but then compliments President Obama for negotiating with Russia.  No one challenges her inconsistency, an area of possible differentiating of the candidates.

No one on stage but Cooper questioned frontrunner Clinton on her e-mails, her flip-flops or her devastating failures and lack of successes in foreign policy, three material issues as to whether she is qualified to be president.  Sanders gratuitously exonerated her by saying her use of a private server was not a legitimate issue.  Only Chafee meekly asserted it was an important issue.  O’Malley agreed it was the wrong issue to discuss.  Toward the end, O’Malley took on Clinton on one of the weeds: her inconsistency on the Glass-Steagall Act, deregulating banks.

Sanders attributed his seeking conscientious objector status as being linked to the indefensible exigencies of the Vietnam deal.  No one criticized him.  When articulating government hyper-expenditures, no one, including Cooper, asked basic questions, such as who would pay for them.  Finally, at the end of the debate, Webb generally pointed out that someone would have to pay for all of Sanders’ recommendations.

For most irresponsible liberal policy propositions — Sanders’ free tuition at all public colleges and hyper-raises in the minimum wage, for example — there was no stated disagreement whatsoever.

To wrest Clinton’s position from the top of Democrats, more confrontation was necessary, but no one on stage was seriously interested in doing so.

In tonight’s debate the critical questions were how did the candidates do substantively with especially the Democratic audience, and how did their performance affect the Democratic constituency.  The mostly love-fest that ensued does not generally allow upending a leading candidate.  The lack of any significant direct challenges to Hillary Clinton, despite the strong performance by O’Malley, should pave the way for her nomination, unless Joe Biden should unexpectedly enter the race.

In that case, the next debate will be seen as the all-important debate.  If Biden does not enter the race, the nomination will be Hillary’s.

Professor Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University

JFK without the accent
Blaine Taylor
Author and former Democratic candidate for Senate, Congress

He physically looked the most like a President, namely JFK, and also sounded like him, minus the Massachusetts accent. His good self-introduction presented well his 14 years of executive experience of getting things done, and was also Reaganesque in citing that wages haven’t improved in the last 12 years, ala “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” in 1980. Attacked on his past positions, he defended them all very well and to the point, backing down on none of them.

He accurately cited all the landmark legislation that he backed and signed into law in Maryland, was impassioned, forceful, and used gestures effectively. His personal debate with Sen. Sanders was both unexpected and forceful, and he also stood toe to toe with frontrunner Clinton, thus avoiding being minimized.

His wishes for the future were stated clearly and without any hedging. Again—ala JFK’s 1962 pledge to put a man on the moon—he several times asserted his goal of a 100% clean electric grid by 2050, thus establishing a goal beyond today’s immediate concerns.

His closing statement was both classy and modest, with his breakout line being, “We need to speak to the goodness in our country,” ala RFK in 1968. This was his moment, and he rose to it.