State and Local Relationship Will Never Be the Same

In an opinion piece for the Gazette, columnist Blair Lee provides his views on the usurpation of local government powers by the Governor and the General Assembly.

History won’t judge same-sex marriage, The Dream Act or even his massive tax increases as the most significant legacy of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s second term. Instead, the most historic and long-lasting achievement of this governor and his legislature will be the state’s naked usurpation of powers traditionally held by Maryland’s 24 local governments. After this, the fundamental relationship between the state and the locals (Baltimore city and the 23 counties) will never be the same.

In this piece, he discusses efforts to strip counties of zoning and land use powers and limit growth through PlanMaryland and limits on septic systems.  He says the following on the teacher pension shift.

But all this pales in comparison to what’s happening to the local governments’ fiscal powers. In order to keep on spending, O’Malley and the legislature are offloading $250 million of teacher pension costs onto the locals. For this there is no justification — the state sets pension benefit levels, controls pension fund investment, has continuously underfunded the pension fund and now, after 85 years of paying the tab, is dumping it on the locals.

It’s pure politics: Let the locals deal with the mess we created, let them raise the taxes and make the spending cuts to pay the ballooning pension costs. Meanwhile, we’ll call the pension offload “a state spending cut” and hope no one catches on. Thank God the media never blow the whistle on us.

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