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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
An editorial in this mornings Sunpaper stated that the bay clean up fund is to be raided for the second year in a row to help balance the budget. I assume this is the money from the flush tax that was supposed to be a dedicated fund.
 

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I'm not sure how any fund can remain untouched with an expected shortfall of +$1 Billion. The road fund is supposed to be raided as well. I think we all have to ask ourselves - what services we are willing to do without. It sounds like the final budget will come down to a choice between cutting services or raising taxes, or maybe both.
 

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I agree, Scott. I think that raiding "dedicated" funds is very shortsighted for two reasons. First, those funds are supposedly dedicated because the projects they support are important to the well-being of the state's citizens. Second, study after study demonstrates that people are more likely to support taxes/fees if they can see where that revenue goes, as opposed to watching it disappear into a government black hole.

That said, the need to raid these funds is brought about by all of us becoming so spoiled over the last several decades with paying extremely low taxes on the local, state and federal level. At every level of our society, we are suffering the effects of spending so much of our wealth on entertainment and so little on infrastructure and public health. If we truly want a clean Bay (or safe roads and bridges, realistic public transportation alternatives, etc.), it's probably well past time to put up or shut up.
 

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There is TON of waste in this state that needs to be address first. For example, why is our state in the business of supplying auto insurance for bad drivers (MAIF). I dont think there is another state in the nation that provides this service to its citizens. MAIF loses millions a year and it is time it is privatized. Also, what about subsidizing in-state tuition to those who are not even in this country legally.. Our state and federal govts have grown out of control and it is time politicians woke up to what there rolls in managing society are and who they serve.

Of course you will never hear of these over reaching programs on the chopping block. You will hear education, police, fire, etc. in hopes that the voters and citizens will accept higher taxes in fear of losing core services..
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I agree, Scott. I think that raiding "dedicated" funds is very shortsighted for two reasons. First, those funds are supposedly dedicated because the projects they support are important to the well-being of the state's citizens. Second, study after study demonstrates that people are more likely to support taxes/fees if they can see where that revenue goes, as opposed to watching it disappear into a government black hole.

That said, the need to raid these funds is brought about by all of us becoming so spoiled over the last several decades with paying extremely low taxes on the local, state and federal level. At every level of our society, we are suffering the effects of spending so much of our wealth on entertainment and so little on infrastructure and public health. If we truly want a clean Bay (or safe roads and bridges, realistic public transportation alternatives, etc.), it's probably well past time to put up or shut up.
I for one do not feel as I am under taxed (income both fed. and state, sales tax, gas tax, property tax, car registration, boat registration, flush tax, plus any business taxes that are paid are just passed along to me the consumer) comes to a pretty good percentage. That being said I had no issue with the flush tax when it was implemented which I thought was going to be used to help in the bay cleanup.
 

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I disagree that there is much waste in MD gov't spending. The example you gave points to a program enacted by many states and for good reason. Have you ever been hit by an uninsured driver? My wife has. The insurance is primarily to protect you, me and our families, not the otherwise uninsured. MAIF insurance is far preferable to folks driving around without insurance. And that's the problem with cutting what may at first seem to be fat in the budget. So many of these programs that appear to be waste often turn up to have a pretty sound basis. Further, plenty of thorough studies exist by respected economists to demonstrate that even where gov't "waste" occurs, it is often has positive economic benefits to the state, since the people/agencies receiving the pork money tend to spend it quickly. Additionally, government agencies tend to spend money locally (or at least domestically). Consumers are more likely to send it -- in larger part -- abroad, or hoard it (i.e.- save it). That is not to say that we shouldn't demand more vetting and accountability from our gov't on spending practices, or that opportunites at the state and local level do not exist for much greater efficiency (or complete cutting), but at the end of the day, I'm always surprised by what a small percentage constitutes spending that could be cut without doing serious economic harm to our state and quality of life.

As for whether we're taxed "too much," I guess I look at a significant part of my labor as being not for my benefit, but simply the price of living in the cushiest society ever to exist on earth. I like the idea of roads being smooth, bridges not falling, a fire department close by with modern equipment, electricity and clean drinking water that are so reliable as to be second-nature. That's a rarity even by today's modern, global standards. And it all exists because past generations invested in our society. I get hit with a pretty high tax rate relative to many, yet I feel that it's embarrasingly low given what I receive in return.

A healthy Bay and thriving fishery?....wow!, that is hard to put a price on as far as I'm concerned. We formed civilized societies for a reason. While the gov't is not the answer for everything (otherwise N. Korea would be our model), as a person who has been tied up in the deepest, darkest places of this financial meltdown and seen the skeletons, I can assure you that the gov't is no worse -- and often far better -- than a huge chunk of the private sector when it comes to utilizing money in a manner that provides all of us with the greatest quality of life return. This is something that I would have never come close to saying prior to October, 2008. It applies equally to Bay claenup as it does to anything else.
 

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Man, typing the above post nearly caused me to miss a great end to the AFC Championship. My Steelers nearly blew it.

Also, I don't want to come off as too much of a Red with my defense of government. I spend much of my time --nearly my entire professional life--- vigorously contesting, pushing back and otherwise taking to task the government, both in defense of clients and through articles calculated to change government policy. I remain convinced that our society will only work if we hold our government accountable, constantly, and on everything. What bothers me, however, is the growing fashion of treating the government as the enemy, or simply as a hindrance to progress and prosperity. I think that it is better viewed as a tool of society.

Regarding dedicated funds, I am mad as hell that the Ches. Restoration funds are once again being raided. It is much harder to have an honest discussion about what can be cut, or what revenue needs to be raised, when the government plays these shell games. I'd like to see many more dedicated funds and, if we cannot fund the remaining programs that do not have dedicated revenue, then that is the signal to have a honest, detailed discussion about what programs/services we do not want, or for what things we need to raise more revenue.
 

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This is why conservation/restoration has to be enacted and established during times of economic prosperity. This program - right, wrong or indifferent - is seen as a non-critical requirement and therefore can be exploited to meet shortfalls in other areas that are deemed to be critical and/or essential.

The state should provide basic services such as potable drinking water, clear air, responsible police/EMS/fire departments, garbage service, etc...I'm currently on my second deployment in Afghanistan, and the lack of government bureaucracy - not even to mention the responsiveness/responsible aspect - is directly responsible for many of the social ills that plague this battered land.

Government is a balance - too much and it becomes oppressive. Too little and you are looking to other sources for basic needs, which opens Pandora's Box.

I am not disappointed that these funds are being raided. I am disappointed that we've missed yet another opportunity - perhaps the best one we'll ever have - to begin the restoration process of the Chesapeake. Short term results are more important to Americans in general, not just the political class, and when the state tax coffers were flush for the better part of the 1993-2007 period, that money was being spent on projects designed to acheive short term results.

Long term planning and execution of restoration projects requires political will, the will of the populace, and a resourcing source that cannot be used for any other purpose. Unfortunately, we are our worst enemy, as Pogo would say...our planning and execution horizon is rarely more than a year.
 
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