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First Click -- Maryland

First Click

Your daily download of Maryland's top political news and analysis

Wednesday, January 20, 2010:

Editor's Note: We're excited to offer several new features to First Click. To help you navigate Maryland politics during the 90-day legislative session, we'll begin each weekday with a concise analysis of the day's upcoming political or policy agenda. We'll also boil down the day's dozens of political stories to the handful that will help drive the debate in Annapolis. Please let us know what you think of these and other changes. Click here to send us an e-mail. To begin receiving our new First Click e-mail edition, click here.

The Agenda:

O'Malley mouth open.jpgDigging deeper: We could learn a lot more Wednesday about what we already know.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on Tuesday outlined a fiscal year 2011 budget proposal that closes a $2 billion shortfall -- but in a way that appeared less painful than what many were expecting. On Wednesday, the governor will share the details, in several volumes of books the size of small-town telephone directories.
By the end of the day, we should know a lot more about program cuts that weren't trumpeted during Tuesday's press conference and about the accounting maneuvers he employed that add to a bipartisan tradition in Annapolis.

Last week, the O'Malley campaign told us it had banked more than $5.7 million for the governor's re-election. On Wednesday, the details are due. We will learn in campaign finance reports who donated to O'Malley's campaign last year and what he spent to prepare for the election year. We will learn which Republican has more cash on hand: former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who is still mulling a rematch with O'Malley; or Larry Hogan, who told us over the weekend that he had put $325,000 of his own money into his could-be campaign.

We will also get a better sense of how seriously to take several possible legislative primary challengers, whose early fundraising activity becomes public Wednesday -- as does that of the hopefuls for county executive in Prince George's.

And we have known that Republicans around the country are feeling buoyed by the national mood. With Scott Brown's stunning win in Massachusetts on Tuesday, we could start getting a better read Wednesday on just how emboldened Ehrlich and others in Maryland feel.

-- John Wagner

News You Should Know:

Many questions remain on O'Malley budget
Every major news organization in the state covered Gov. Martin O'Malley's (D) rollout of his spending plan. The Post's Aaron Davis and John Wagner look at how months of dire warnings subsided with news the governor would raid reserve funds and employ accounting maneuvers to help cover the state's near $2 billion gap. "Leaders of the General Assembly praised O'Malley's spending plan for minimizing cuts to programs favored by Democratic-leaning constituencies, including labor unions, environmentalists and teachers.
Kittleman hand.jpgBut the Republican minority, including Senate leader Allan H. Kittleman, denounced it as a fiscally irresponsible package of election-year gimmicks and said it will be followed by a major tax increase next year -- a case they expect to make in races against O'Malley and other Democrats," write Davis and Wagner. "Republicans weren't the only ones to question the governor's plan. Wall Street credit analysts said the sketch that O'Malley offered Tuesday raised concerns about how much long-term debt Maryland would take on, whether the budget properly accounts for a drop-off in federal stimulus funding next year and whether it would address a growing structural imbalance. The state's day-to-day expenses are projected to outpace revenue by $2 billion or more a year through 2015.

Van Hollen acknowledges tough mid-terms after Mass. upset
Van Hollen flag.jpg"Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland was the first Democratic leader to react to Republican Senate candidate Scott Brown's victory Tuesday night in the special election for the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's seat from Massachusetts," writes The Baltimore Sun's Paul West. "Van Hollen, of Montgomery County, chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which faces an uphill fight to maintain the current Democratic advantage in Congress ... Van Hollen tried to deflect criticism, but also conceded the obvious: that Democrats face a 'very challenging election cycle; in 2010. He said his committee, the party's main House campaign arm, is 'not taking anything for granted.'"
In related news: Virginia Sen. Jim Webb Tuesday night became the first senator to call for suspending all votes on health care until newly elected Republican Scott Brown can take office.

O'Malley keeps lead in latest poll
Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Ehrlich head turned.jpg"Gov. O'Malley (D) continues to lead in a hypothetical rematch against former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) but has a job-approval rating "lower than an incumbent would prefer 10 months before an election," according to a new poll," Wagner writes. "O'Malley leads Ehrlich among likely voters, 48 percent to 39 percent, with 13 percent undecided, in the poll by Gonzales Research & Marketing Strategies. The margin is a little tighter than in September, when Gonzales showed O'Malley up 49 percent to 38 percent."

Riffing Off The News:

There were many reactions Tuesday to Gov. O'Malley's budget proposal, among the most colorful:

mike miller.jpg

  • "Martin O'Malley wasn't elected to decimate the positive things government can do for people," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), noting the governor's proposal continues investments in education, health care, public safety and cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay.

  • "They're going to beg and borrow and do whatever they can to get through this year," said Senate Minority Leader Allan H. Kittleman (R-Howard), of O'Malley and his budget staff. "The governor's chosen to kick the can down the road."

  • "I look forward to seeing what their alternatives are and having them debated fully and put out there on the table," said O'Malley, calling on Kittleman, House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell and other Republicans to propose alternatives if they have a better way to cut billions from the budget.

  • "Millionaires have more to give ... we'll be urging [the General Assembly] to extend that" tax, said AFSCME Maryland President Patrick Moran, saying he was astounded O'Malley pans to let the state's so-called millionaire's tax expire at the end of the year.
  • By Aaron C. Davis  |  January 20, 2010; 6:25 AM ET
    Categories:  Aaron C. Davis , First Click , John Wagner  
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    Next: Now It's Your Turn: What does Massachusetts mean for Maryland?

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