O'Malley: Ehrlich using scare tactics on taxes

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By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gov. Martin O'Malley accused former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. of "scaremonger politics" Friday for continuing to claim that Democrats are plotting a major tax increase after the 2010 elections to help balance future budgets.

Ehrlich (R), who announced a rematch with O'Malley (D) on Wednesday, has warned for weeks on his radio show that "the worst-kept secret in Annapolis" is the planned tax increase -- a claim he has repeated in recent days on the campaign trail.

At a stop on Thursday in Frederick, for example, Ehrlich said: "If Martin O'Malley's elected governor, they'll pass the largest tax increase ever in the history of Maryland."

O'Malley, in an interview, declined to rule out raising taxes in 2011 but said he has no plans to do so.

"I will always do what's necessary to protect the public safety, but I have no hopes or intention to raise any taxes going forward," O'Malley said. "It's my hope that the economy will recover . . . and we won't have to look at the revenue side of the equation."

Asked about Ehrlich's assertion, O'Malley said: "I think that's part of the politics of fear and division. It's the sort of scaremonger politics that some folks choose to practice."

Management of the state budget is certain to be a major issue in the governor's race.

O'Malley's proposed budget closed a $1.9 billion shortfall in the fiscal year that begins in July -- half through cuts and half through one-time transfers and other budget maneuvers -- but left shortfalls projected at near-record levels of $2 billion or more annually through 2015.

A budget agreed to on Thursday by House and Senate negotiators would cut the governor's projected shortfall in 2015 from $2.2 billion to $1.5 billion.

In 2007, lawmakers passed almost $1.4 billion in annual tax increases, most of which O'Malley proposed, to deal with an earlier budget shortfall.

On Friday, O'Malley said Ehrlich seems to have forgotten that the state property tax and numerous fees were raised during his term.

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