At a time when O’Malley (D) has taken on greater leadership roles nationally for Democrats, the poll reveals significant challenges at home as the clock ticks on his second term and as he pushes arguably his most far-reaching agenda yet in the 90-day legislative session that began Jan. 11.
With the governor set to deliver his State of the State address on Wednesday, the poll found rising but still tepid support for same-sex marriage, which O’Malley has vowed to pass after it failed to clear the state’s heavily Democratic legislature last year.
Overall, 50 percent of those polled support legalizing gay nuptials; 44 percent do not. A majority of African Americans object, with many citing religious beliefs as the basis for their opposition. That rift remains pronounced in the state’s General Assembly, where O’Malley has made little apparent progress in courting additional black lawmakers to tip the balance.
O’Malley’s proposals for broad-based tax increases, which are his first since 2007 and which he contends are necessary after years of cost cutting, have also left Marylanders with decidedly mixed views: Fewer than half support even a modest increase in the gas tax to fund more transportation projects, a proposal O’Malley has floated but not formally introduced.
When asked how they feel about an increase of 10 cents per gallon or higher — in line with what lawmakers expect O’Malley to propose — opposition swells above 70 percent and across a range of income levels.
Half of Marylanders also oppose another plan that O’Malley has argued is necessary to improve the state’s infrastructure: doubling collections of the so-called flush tax, a fee on water and septic bills used to modernize waste-water treatment plants.
And fewer than four in 10 support O’Malley’s plan to shift a share of teacher pensions from the state to the counties, a key provision in his plan to balance the state’s projected $1 billion shortfall.
A tough sales job
In public appearances in Maryland, O’Malley has acknowledged that he is asking lawmakers to make several tough votes this year to balance the budget and invest in infrastructure — and that his agenda is “not an exercise in popularity.”
Marylanders are more receptive to some O’Malley initiatives, the poll found.
Fifty-six percent support raising income taxes on those making six figures or more — roughly one-fifth of taxpayers. The plan, which is another part of O’Malley’s effort to balance the state budget, would limit personal exemptions and cap personal deductions for those making $100,000 or more.