ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WJZ)—When Gov. Martin O’Malley delivers his State of the State Address on Wednesday, his talk will center on reducing a billion dollar shortfall in the budget by any means necessary.
Vic Carter recently went to Annapolis to interview the governor as he prepares to face one of the toughest challenges of his political career.
He is already under fire for proposing more taxes on gasoline and a reduction tax deduction for high income earners. The governor is in for one of the toughest battles of his life as leader of the state.
The governor is keenly aware that the state’s roads and bridges are in need of repair. That’s why he says he needs to raise the wholesale tax on gasoline by as much as 13 cents a gallon in three years.
Carter: “Given the revenues that will be generated from this type of tax, I can hear the families now saying, ‘I can’t afford this.’”
O’Malley: “I believe it’s irresponsible to do nothing. I believe that inaction has a cost. So this is the conversation that we’ll have.”
The governor is also proposing fewer tax deductions for people earning more than $150,000 a year—a move already criticized by Republicans and some Democrats, including Comptroller Peter Franchot, whom the governor called out as political posturing.
Carter: “The other issue that people are concerned about is the additional tax on people who make $100,000 a year. You’ve already been criticized by Republicans about it, the housing industry, and the comptroller. How do you respond to them?”
O’Malley: “Well, there’ll be no shortage of criticism, and better ideas are always welcome. Those additional revenues will allow us to protect the investment that all of us have made in public education along with the hard work of teachers and administrators, which have led to us being recognized as having the best public schools in America four years in a row.”
Carter: “One of the concerns many people have had about their leaders is that sometimes they are out of touch with the common man. A couple of questions I want to ask you, the average person would be concerned with everyday . . . Have you any idea what the average cost for a gas of gasoline?”
O’Malley: “That’s about $3.60, $3.80.”
Carter: “What about a gallon of milk?”
O’Malley: “A couple dollars.”
Carter: “3.99. . . . “A loaf of bread?”
O’Malley: ”Between about $3 and $5.”
Carter: “$1.19 to about $5.”
The governor has always positioned himself as a family man who is in touch with his constituents. To be fair, the governor was close on the cost of most things. After all, he has a staff that does his shopping and cooking, so he can focus on governing.
“The call of your question is ‘Are you out of touch with how real people live and with what we all have to face when we go to the grocery or buy gasoline?'” the governor said. “I’m not out of touch, and I know these are not the types of things that any of us want to do. But the better future we seek for our children is not something that happens by itself. I wish there were a way that we could do all of these things without asking anyone to do more. But at the same time I think people are willing to do a little more if it’s fair.”
So now the clock is ticking on two things for Gov. O’Malley. He has a long list of things to do in his final two years as governor. He also has less than 24 hours to complete his State of the State Address, where he will outline his plan for Maryland, how much it will cost, and who should pay. We will be watching.