An online journal of politics, policy, and society with a special focus on Maryland -- Contact: on_background at yahoo.com.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dollars Coming and Going

The Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute has a preliminary analysis of the Governor’s budget that goes into a bit more detail than what the administration released or the papers ran.

Speaking of taxes, the Post reminded us recently how backward our state tax structure is:
What's needed, as we've written before, is a top-to-bottom revision of Maryland's obsolete tax system, conceived in the 1960s and barely updated since then. The elements of such an overhaul might include a more progressive personal income tax, since the current one is virtually flat and therefore favors the rich; tougher corporate income tax collections to eliminate shelters; an increase in the gas tax, last raised 15 years ago, to yield badly needed funding for the state's roads and mass transit; and a levy on services, most of which remain inexplicably untaxed even though they constitute the backbone of Maryland's economy.

More detail about how Maryland’s taxes are taking a bigger bite out of the budgets of low- and middle income taxpayers than the wealthy is available by clicking on Maryland at the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy. With new Comptroller Peter Franchot promising to be a champion for progressive policy and the advocates at Progressive Maryland on the job, surely tax and budget policy that serves all Marylanders is coming our way.

Former Montgomery County Council President Tom Perez has been nominated by the Governor to be Maryland Secretary of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation, an post important to the working families of the state (hat tip to Steve Fine).

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Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Democratic U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski turned 70 in 2006. While this might mean nothing, the fact that she'd be 78 at the end of another term (and the lack of competitive races in Maryland in 2008) has restarted the perennial speculation about whether she might retire. Names bandied about as potential challengers for her seat, should she retire are:

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Baltimore: with a deep wellspring of respect from his work in the civil rights movement and as a Member of Congress, the likelihood of multiple candidates from the DC area, and the recent complaints by MD African Americans that Democrats take them for granted, makes him a prime candidate.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County is young, ambitious, and while chairing the DCCC over the next two years will build relationships that could serve him in good stead should he choose to run for Senate. As he develops contacts in the House, however, he could see a future in leadership there that would make moving on less attractive (a la Steny Hoyer).

Former Montgomery County Executive Doug Duncan is unlikely to be interested in serving in Congress, but given his relative youth and the strong relationships he built in his brief gubernatorial bid, could be a contender.

Rep. Al Wynn of Prince George's County has long been trying to build a base of big money donors to run for Senate. After his near defeat at the hands of a little known challenger this past cycle and his lack of statewide credibility, he is unlikely to be a serious contender for the Senate seat in 2010.

Former Ann Arundel County Executive Janet Owens could always emerge as a candidate but is seen as less likely to do so or to really set the campaign on fire, just as former Baltimore County Executive and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger would be a solid but unlikely candidate. Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson was rocked by a serious challenge in the last cycle, so he's less likely to be maneuvering for the Senate but if things change he might be looking for a new job at the end of his second term so anything could happen. Of course there may be ambitious execs elsewhere in the state, but it's hard to imagine the new Howard County Exec, new Balto Mayor Dixon, or a host of others really being contenders. A lot can happen in four years, but what do you know or suspect now?