Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) mostly played nice with one another during a joint appearance on a Sunday talk show. On Monday, the Virginia Republican Party was not similarly restrained.
In a press release, the party quoted a blog item from the National Review Online that contrasted McDonnell’s recently announced $544 million budget surplus in Virginia with O’Malley’s acknowledgment Saturday that Maryland might have to raise taxes to help close a $1 billion budget shortfall.
“So of all those Virginia Democrats who might be considering a run for governor in 2013 ... we ask a simple question: Do you support the O’Malley model of governance, or the McDonnell model of governance?” the Virginia GOP release said. “Virginia taxpayers will be very interested in your answer.”
The numbers cited in the release tell only part of the story about the two states’ budgets — and arguably are a little misleading.
The $544 million surplus announced by McDonnell was in Virginia’s budget year that ended in June. Legislative analysts in Maryland say they expect a surplus approaching that size — of at least $500 million — for the same fiscal year once the state closes out its books for that year.
The projected $1 billion shortfall O’Malley spoke about in a speech to Maryland county leaders on Saturday is in the fiscal year that begins in July 2012. O’Malley must submit a balanced budget to the legislature for that fiscal year in January.
Critics have also accused McDonnell of budget gimmickry in achieving his surplus, citing Virginia’s postponement last year of $620 million in payments owed to the state pension system.
O’Malley alluded to that decision during an interview Monday morning on WTOP radio when asked about his and McDonnell’s budget situations.
“Both of us have had to make tough decisions in order to balance our budgets and move our states forward,” O’Malley said. “He can come on and defend the decisions he makes. We don’t do a press conference every time we over-attain on revenues because … we don’t believe celebrating a onetime over-attainment is really helpful to the public discussion and the honest adult discussion about the challenges that loom ahead.”
On a more friendly note, O’Malley, the chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, told WTOP that McDonnell, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, would be an attractive 2012 vice presidential candidate “for his party.”