The Sopranos Enter Maryland's Budget Battle
The Sopranos have gone into retirement, but the recently ended hit HBO series is still lively fodder for Maryland politics.
This week, Sen. E.J. Pipkin (R-Queen Anne's) accused the executive director of the Maryland Association of Counties of using a lobbying tactic on the state budget deficit that "resembles the type of arm-twisting used by Tony Soprano and his ilk."
The source of Pipkin's ire was an email sent by MACO's David Bliden to county leaders asking them to share with the governor's office examples of pain that will be felt if the state pushes off some costs on the counties. Some leading lawmakers are advocating cutting state aid to locals -- which accounts for about 40 percent of the state budget -- as a way to close a looming shortfall of nearly $1.5 billion.
In his email, Bliden asks that examples be sent to Josh White, the intergovernmental affairs director for Gov. Martin O'Malley (D).
"Josh is interested in coordinating a message for the Governor as he goes on roadtrips to the counties," Bliden wrote. "He is looking for ... real vignettes of the county 'doomsday' budgets ... like closing libraries, reductions in deputies, larger class size, no support for volunteers firefighters. ... The Gov could be visiting the counties during the next weeks, which presents an opportunity to deliver."
Pipkin said the email "lays out an arrogant and shameless blueprint for getting locals to back tax increases" at the state level as an alternative to cutting county aid.
Bliden said he was "perplexed" both by Pipkin's comments and his reference to the fictional mobsters and said he has nothing for which to apologize.
"Even Tony Soprano couldn't arm twist his cronies to believe the right solution to the state's fiscal challenge is to simply shift the problem to the counties, as some propose," Bliden said. "Senator Pipkin would be better served in getting governance perspectives from Simpson's reruns than the Soprano's."
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