Gansler takes aim at Maryland’s ‘bad spending habits,’ says he would save the state money


Maryland Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)

Maryland Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Douglas F. Gansler said Tuesday that “bad spending habits” had become the norm in Annapolis and released a list of $1.5 billion in savings that he said could be achieved with better performance and less waste.

In his 16-page plan, Gansler, the state’s attorney general, pledged he would run “the best-managed state government in the nation” if elected governor and was highly critical of some of the fiscal practices of the current Democratic administration, which includes his primary rival, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D).

Gansler said major savings could be realized through reforms to the state’s procurement process, better management of the state Medicaid program and reduction of the non-violent prison population, among other strategies.

Brown’s campaign did not immediately respond. But Gansler’s list was greeted with skepticism by some lawmakers in Annapolis who work on the state budget, including Del. John L. Bohanan (D-St. Mary’s), who has endorsed Brown.

Bohanan, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said the timing of the plan was curious, given lawmakers had just put the finishing touches on the budget for the coming fiscal year.

“It would have been really nice to have had a crack at those ideas if they are real,” Bohanan said, adding that much of what Gansler is proposing sounds like it has been tried before and not produced the kind of savings the attorney general is estimating.

Gansler spokeswoman Katie Hill said the campaign considered the numbers “conservative,” however, and said savings could be steered toward “priorities important to Democrats,” including education.

The June Democratic primary also includes Del. Heather R. Mizeur (D-Montgomery).

Gansler’s plan cites cost-saving initiatives undertaken in several other states and includes a mix of broad goals and specific examples of potential reductions in Maryland.

Gansler, for example, points to a Colorado practice of using leftover asphalt from highway paving to prevent weeds from growing beneath roadway dividers.

“This small change eliminates the need and cost to weed-whack these areas,” the plan says.

Gansler also suggests that the state could save money on printing in favor of “cheaper, Web-based alternatives.” He cites the books containing the state budget as an example, noting that Maryland currently pays more than $300,000 to print 800 copies.

Gansler also proposes phasing out the Office of the State Prosecutor, which targets political corruption. He says its work could be handled by other existing offices, including state’s attorneys offices and the U.S. attorney.

Gansler says savings could also come from better monitoring of state credit cards, curbing identify fraud for public assistance benefits, energy conservation in state buildings and cracking down on unpaid tolls, among other things.

His plan is also critical of tax increases and increased borrowing that have taken place under the leadership of Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) and Brown.

“When it comes to a real play to pay for our debt, the current leadership seems content with kicking the can down the road, so it becomes someone else’s problem,” Gansler says in the plan. “I say enough is enough.”

John Wagner has covered Maryland government and politics for The Post since 2004.
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