GOV. MARTIN O’Malley (D) ran the table in the just-ended session of Maryland’s General Assembly, which enacted bills to repeal the death penalty, tighten gun control, raise gasoline taxes and subsidize offshore wind power generation, among other bills he favored or sponsored. Add those headline-grabbing wins to last year’s haul — which included raising taxes on high-income earners, winning ballot questions to legalize same-sex marriage, extending tuition breaks to undocumented students and gerrymandering the state to Democrats’ advantage — and the obvious question is: Has Mr. O’Malley engineered a liberal takeover in Maryland?
Not really. The governor, who refers to the Reagan revolution and its legacy as a “30-year detour in American history,” makes the fair point that Maryland was solidly to the left before he showed up. The state hasn’t voted Republican in a presidential election since 1988, and just four states (plus the District) gave President Obama a bigger margin of victory last November.
Not only did Maryland have comparatively tough gun laws before this year, but it was Mr. O’Malley’s own father-in-law, former attorney general J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D), who pushed through a law banning Saturday Night specials a quarter-century ago.
Clearly, Mr. O’Malley is sitting pretty, astride a deep-blue Democratic state and a legislature that he has bent to accommodate almost every one of his wishes. So here’s another obvious question: What’s next on his agenda — besides laying the groundwork for a possible presidential run in 2016?
We don’t mean to minimize Mr. O’Malley’s substantive achievements. He has secured them by persistence, a carefully calibrated sense of timing and a deft touch with the large egos who run the legislature in Annapolis. The tax increases he championed, including to replenish the state’s transportation fund, were necessary and took some guts to promote.
Still, he has nearly two more years in office. Whatever his national ambitions, his work in Maryland isn’t, and shouldn’t be, finished. A couple of modest proposals:
Pension reformMr. O’Malley signed legislation two years ago to put Maryland on a better trajectory toward affording its obligations to retired state government workers by increasing employee contributions and tightening benefits. He should do more, even though it means confronting public-sector unions.
As things stand now, Maryland remains at least a decade away from building assets equal to just 80 percent of its obligations — and that’s only if the stock market racks up overly optimistic annual gains of 7.75 percent.
Other states remain in worse shape. But that doesn’t excuse Maryland — a rich state, as Mr. O’Malley likes to remind people — from taking more aggressive steps.
Non-partisan redistricting Mr. O’Malley, who recently led the Democratic Governors Association, pushed through a shamelessly partisan congressional electoral map in Maryland last year. The effect was to add a seventh seat to the six Democrats already held in the state’s eight-member delegation, even though almost a third of Maryland voters are registered Republicans. The governor would annoy plenty of fellow Democrats if he pursued nonpartisan reform of Maryland’s redistricting system that would allow voters to choose their representatives, rather than the reverse. But to do so would be indisputably in the interest of Marylanders and would burnish his credentials as a reformer.