When to declare?

The Associated Press reports

Richard Hug says he believes Ehrlich will run and is “looking at the situation very hard.”

Why does Richard “Dick” Hug’s opinion matter? Well, Dick is the single biggest Republican fundraiser in the state of Maryland. He was crucial to Ehrlich raising a record breaking amount in his 2006 campaign. If anyone knows what Ehrlich is thinking, Dick does.
If Ehrlich runs when will he announce?
Henry Fawell, an Ehrlich spokesman, says the former governor is comfortable waiting to make a decision, like he did in 2002 when he waited until March to formally announce his bid.

In politics timing is everything.  O’Malley is forbidden from fundraising during the legislative session (January through April).  A March announcement means forgoing two months of prime time fundraising.  An early announcement also means every major policy story will end with a quote from Ehrlich.  Forgoing the fundraising and press edges would be a major political blunder.  Look for a January announcement if Ehrlich runs.

While Maryland is a blue state early polls show leads for candidates in blue New Jersey and in purple Virginia. If Christie and McDonnell win in November, Ehrlich will jump in the race.

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Would Maryland government workers threaten a strike?

California’s largest public union authorized a strike last weekend.  Members of SEIU 1000 voiced opposition to furloughs and a failure by California to ratify a new union contract.

While California’s public union is standing up for its employees, AFSCME, Maryland state employee’s largest union,  is busy using their union dues to fund commercials about health care reform.  Employees are supposed to receive the benefits of AFSCME defending them against the evils of state government. Sadly,  the only benefits Maryland’s AFSCME members enjoy is a benefits webpage eerily reminiscent of a literature rack in a cheap motel.  AFSCME is supposed to represent STATE, COUNTY and MUNICIPAL employees.

In state negotiations, AFSCME’s executive director Patrick Moran has been toothless. He has not blocked furloughs, he’s unlikely to block pay cuts and he’s only watched as “vacant” positions have been chopped by the hundreds from the state budget.

You would think he’d be more interested in representing his due-paying members than the governor’s 2010 re-election campaign.

On the other side of the coin you can certainly say the unions have been effective.

Growth in Montgomery County unions’ pay from fiscal 1999 through 2009:

Firefighter union: 122 percent
Police union: 112 percent
County employee union: 96 percent
Increase in the consumer price index: 37 percent

In 2008, Harford County provided 9 – 10 % pay increases for all county employees.

This year Howard County firefighters thought their offer to delay a 6% raise by 6 months was generous.

In Prince George’s County it was the Council and Executive in store for big bonuses.

A sizeable portion of Maryland’s budget is dedicated to county aide.  Many Maryland counties lived large on the state’s dime and campaigned hard for slots as the answer to funding problems.  AFSCME can not defend state employees without hurting county employees; at least one union had the fortitude to stand up to Governor O’Malley and say no furloughs, no service fees.

The problem AFSCME faces is they can’t stand up for state employees without hurting county employees and vice versa.  The only consistency is that AFSCME has buckled every time before the budget ax, and you will be struck by lightening before Pat Moran approves a strike.

Suggest a cut?

On July 21, 2009, Governor Martin O’Malley asked Marylanders for their suggested budget cuts (http://www.gov.state.md.us/budgetcuts.asp). The website description says “In the past two and a half years…we have made some difficult choices to balance our state budget.”

Why do WE need to give OUR opinion if WE have already made tough choices?

My choice: cheap wine to go with cheap gimmicks.