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Martin O’Malley’s Maryland Fairy Tale

According to Politico reporter Alexander Burns, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley wants to tell “his story.”  That is, O’Malley is framing the narrative of his 2016 Democratic presidential primary run as the story of his “results oriented” stewardship of the Free State.

Burns however, like too many in Maryland’s political press corps, has fallen for the mythical Potemkin Village of “One Maryland,” created by O’Malley’s spin machine.

For example, Burns uncritically repeats the O’Malley fiction of “cutting billions in state spending.”  In fact, Maryland’s budget has ballooned by nearly $9 billion, a 30 percent increase, since O’Malley first took office in 2007.  Unfortunately, reporting O’Malley’s $9 billion spending increase, as billions in spending cuts, is a common journalistic malady for the state’s two papers of record The Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post.

Burns writes:

In a speech earlier this month unveiling his 2014 budget, O’Malley explicitly contrasted Maryland’s approach with the state of the federal government. “Even though we’ve been able to apply a balanced approach here in Maryland, our national politics is still struggling with restoring this balanced approach in our nation’s capital,” he said on Jan. 16, taking a whack at “the hara kiri Congress down the street.”

Maryland budget growth


Apparently increasing spending by $9 billion and taxes by $6 billion is the new definition of “balanced approach.”

Burns also obediently repeats O’Malley’s boasting of Maryland public schools number one ranking in by Education Week.  Yet, the crack Politico reporter omitted the fact that the same Education Week report shows Maryland schools consistently fail its poorest students.  According to Education Week Maryland ranks dead last in the 8th grade math poverty gap.  Nor did Burns report that a large majority of Maryland high school graduates need remedial Math and English instruction when they get to college.


Education Week MD Report showing poor state ranking in educating poorest students


Burns also uncritically accepts the assertion made by an unnamed O’Malley adviser, whom he quotes, that O’Malley protected Maryland’s AAA bond rating.  Yes, that is technically true, but Moody’s put Maryland on its watch list and assigned a negative outlook to the state.


The outlook on Maryland’s AAA rating is negative due to its indirect linkages to the weakened credit profile of the US government. The negative outlook relates to Moody’s August 2, 2011 decision to confirm the AAA government bond rating of the United States and assign a negative outlook, and to our December 7 assessment of the state’s exposure to indirect linkages to the federal government. Moody’s has determined that issuers with indirect linkages, such as Maryland, have some combination of economies that are highly dependent on federal employment and spending, a significant healthcare presence in their economies, have direct healthcare operations, or high levels of short-term and puttable debt. 

Moody’s also noted the ticking time bomb of Maryland’s debt and pension obligations.  According to State Budget Solutions, Maryland’s debt is nearly $82 billion, and state pension and retiree healthcare liabilities stand at $64 billion.  Much of O’Malley’s budget balancing came through swapping out cash in capital funds and replenishing it through bond debt.

O’Malley may want to “tell his story,” but that story is a fairy tale.

Mark Newgent

Mark Newgent is a contributing editor to Red Maryland, the premiere blog of conservative politics in the Free State, voted one of the best state political blogs by the Washington Post two years in a row. His writing has appeared in the Baltimore Sun, Washington Examiner, National Review Online, and more. Twitter: @MarkNewgent

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Categories: Budget and Finance, Education, Must Read, Opinion, Politics
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