In Maryland governor's race, O'Malley takes first jab at Ehrlich's credibility

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said that slashing local road funding was
Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) said that slashing local road funding was "one of the more painful cuts we had to make in recent times." (Jamie C. Horton/associated Press)
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By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 22, 2010

OCEAN CITY, MD. -- Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley warned county leaders Saturday against political candidates who "tell people we can eat cake and lose weight," a jab directed at the campaign promises of his leading Republican challenger.

O'Malley's comments came a day after former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) pledged to restore 25 percent of the road aid to local governments that O'Malley (D) is diverting to help balance the state budget. Restoration of that funding is a top priority for county leaders.

"We all know it's an election year," O'Malley told the Maryland Association of Counties, a nonpartisan group of county officials, at its annual meeting in Ocean City. "And we all know there will be other candidates making all sorts of promises over the next few months, the same promises they couldn't keep in easier times."

Ehrlich said at a news conference here Friday that his road plan would cost about $60 million and that he has been keeping close tabs on the budget impact of other promises. Those include a pledge to cut the state's sales tax, which could cost the state treasury $600 million a year. Ehrlich has not said how he would pay for all of his proposals.

"We live in the land of the doable," Ehrlich said at the news conference.

The bulk of O'Malley's speech Saturday -- in which he did not mention Ehrlich by name -- was devoted to his efforts to create jobs and improve the state's economy. Job creation is the leading theme of both campaigns.

O'Malley said the state has had five months of job growth and added about 40,000 jobs between January and July, the best stretch since 1999.

"Doesn't that feel good to say?" he asked the crowd.

Maryland Senate Minority Leader Allan H. Kittleman (R-Howard), whom the Ehrlich campaign designated as its spokesman Saturday, criticized O'Malley for giving a speech that did not give a fuller picture of his record.

"He doesn't want to talk about the past, because the past is historic tax increases and higher unemployment," Kittleman said, referring to a 2007 special session in which lawmakers raised taxes by about $1.4 billion.

Jockeying over jobs has been commonplace in the campaign, but O'Malley's questioning of Ehrlich's ability to keep promises is a new development.

In his speech, O'Malley acknowledged that slashing local road funding -- known as "highway user revenues" -- was "one of the more painful cuts we had to make in recent times."

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