Fresh off his latest round of attacking Republicans on the Sunday morning talk show circuit, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) did not tread lightly on Monday when a questioner on a call-in radio program began comparing the economies of Maryland and Virginia.
O’Malley blasted Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) for shooting off “confetti cannons” over a budget surplus derived from “gimmicks” like underfunding the commonwealth’s public-employee pension costs.
Before WTOP’s hourlong “Ask the Governor” program was over, O’Malley took McDonnell to task for recovering a smaller percentage of jobs than Maryland had since the start of the recession; coddling millionaires, and instituting voter ID laws: “We don’t have those sort of voter suppression laws; that would be over in Virginia,” O’Malley said.
Asked by host Mark Segraves if he should maybe come back on the air to debate McDonnell face-to-face, O’Malley said he’d be happy to “have a discussion” with McDonnell before the election about how to best create jobs and bolster the recovery. The opposing views across the Potomac, O’Malley said, represent the country in microcosm.
Any debate, he added, “can be followed immediately by a push-up contest.”
McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin responded — tongue firmly in cheek — that it was a “nice offer.” In an e-mail, he played off another point of contention between the two states: companies that have left Maryland to relocate in Virginia.
“Gov. O’Malley sure seems to always be thinking, and talking, about us. Frankly though, it’s going to be a little difficult to find the time to debate the governor right now. We’re just so busy helping the thousands of former Maryland residents who have recently moved to Virginia get situated. Also, we already kind of have our own, gubernatorial version of a push-up contest. It’s called state unemployment rates. Spoiler alert: Virginia wins.”
Whether or not O’Malley and McDonnell square off before November, calisthenics aside, it would be far from the first time the two have jousted as heads of their respective parties’ governors associations, or as frequent surrogates for President Obama and Mitt Romney on the 2012 campaign trail.
Near the beginning of the radio interview, O’Malley first took issue with a caller’s premise that Virginia’s budget was in better shape than Maryland’s.
“Well, Dave,” O’Malley responded to the caller. “Let me tell you the facts.” O’Malley ticked off some of his most well-worn statistics, including Maryland’s AAA bond rating, and its four years with top-rated schools. Both Maryland and Virginia ended their most recent fiscal years in June with hundreds of millions of dollars more than expected, though Maryland’s came in part from a tax increase on high-income earners.
“One thing that we don’t do in Maryland is if we’ve … finished a month where we have more cash on hand than might have been projected, we don’t light off confetti cannons, call a press conference, pat ourselves on the back and say by ‘golly, we have a surplus.’”
McDonnell, O’Malley said, has also built Virginia's surplus through “gimmicks, including sometimes short-funding their pension obligations and other things.”
O’Malley also stressed his administration’s four-year freeze on tuition at Maryland’s public colleges and universities:
“We’re making college education more affordable, when it’s being made more expensive in Virginia. Tuitions go up when they invest less in education.
“And on the most important indicator of all, recovery and job creation, we have recovered 67 percent of the jobs we have lost during the Bush recession here in Maryland. Our neighbors in Virginia have recovered 63 percent of the jobs they lost.
“We also have the highest median income; a higher median income than in Virginia.”
O’Malley then briefly ratcheted down the rhetoric.
It’s easy to pit the states against one another, he said, “But we’re really not against each other. Maryland Virginia and the District is one very strong, science and security corridor of innovation. And we work best when we work together. The most important capital that we share are the talents, the skills and education levels of our people.”
(Martin also sent a follow-up e-mail to note O’Malley and McDonnell have a “very positive working relationship” on regional issues).
But then the on-air conversation turned to the election.
“Gov. McDonnell is a sworn opponent of asking millionaires to pay anything more for anything. He is an opponent of even having millionaires return to the same fair income tax levels they paid during the Clinton administration. So he wins on that one.”
And had he mentioned that Maryland was better than Virginia?
“We believe that over the long term when you see some of the short-funding of education that is happening in Virginia, that some of those decisions that have been made recently, while they have not come home to roost are not in the best long-term interest of expanding opportunity or improving opportunity for children in Virginia.”
“You contrast that in Maryland … We are creating a higher median income and the best schools in the nation.”
Staff writer Laura Vozzella contributed to this post.