A 16-car derailment in Northeast D.C. reignites a debate over freight routes in well-populated areas.
Guest Host: Bruce DePuyt
Maryland lawmakers leave Annapolis without agreeing to a budget. A familiar face comes back to the District to join the board of an embattled non-profit at the center of a federal corruption probe. And a few high-profile Virginia politicians make their first moves toward statewide campaigns in 2013.
- Richard Madaleno Maryland State Senator, (D- Dist. 18, Montgomery County)
- Chris Van Hollen U.S. House of Representatives (D-Maryland, 8th District)
- Charles Robinson Political Correspondent, Maryland Public Television
Politics Hour Extra
Madaleno explains how the discussions about the Maryland budget deteriorated this week in the state legislature:
MR. BRUCE DEPUYTFrom WAMU 88.5 FM at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Politics Hour." I'm Bruce DePuyt, sitting in for Kojo Nnamdi. Happy Friday, everybody, and welcome to "The Politics Hour." I'm Bruce DePuyt from News Channel 8, sitting in for Kojo today. I'm one of two people in an unfamiliar chair this time. Tom Sherwood is off today. He is recuperating from knee surgery, and we wish Tom all the best in his recovery.
MR. BRUCE DEPUYTI think he knew he had to have knee surgery at some point. He didn't know it was going to be this week. So we say hello to Tom if he's listening, Kojo, too, for that matter. And we certainly wish Tom a continued speedy recovery. Charles Robinson, who you know from "State Circle" on Maryland Public Television, is in Tom's chair today. Charles, good to have you back.
MR. CHARLES ROBINSONGreat to be here, Bruce.
DEPUYTGood to be with you. The Maryland General Assembly's 2012 session ended as scheduled this week, but there was nothing normal about it. In fact, folks are calling it a meltdown and worse, some calling it a train wreck. When the clock struck 12 midnight, lawmakers had failed to vote on several key issues, issues they had debated and discussed for 90 days. But there was no resolution when the mandatory deadline for adjourning came.
DEPUYTAnd so, now, it appears likely that delegates and senators will have to return to Annapolis, though that is not a certainty, nor do we know when lawmakers will go back to work. Charles Robinson, you've been in Annapolis a long time. You've seen a lot of sessions. You've seen a lot of sine die nights, as they call that adjournment moment when you are supposed to, you know, wrap it up and scram for the final time. Have you ever seen anything like Monday?
ROBINSONThis is unprecedented, first of all, Bruce, in that, you know, going into the last day, usually, it's a formality where people are just kind of trying to clean up things. But, prior to going into Monday night, we didn't have a deal on a budget. In other words, they had some of the numbers, but they didn't have a way to pay for it. And that was the big question going into Monday night. How are you going to pay for it?
ROBINSONThere was some argument that, you know, we're going to tax the folks who are at the higher end of the income spectrum, and we're going to add some additional taxes. Let me just say, the way the Maryland state government functions is the governor proposes a budget. All the legislature can do is can cut. It can't add anything.
ROBINSONSo think of moving decks around on a Titanic, if you were chairs on a deck, and the ship, if you will, is literally sinking. And you've got to come up with an idea of -- I was telling a colleague, who's sitting here next to me, that normally, you know, this is really kind of a joyous occasion. This is when everybody is ready to either get back on the road to start politicking...
DEPUYTAlthough, let's be clear, it's not only is it not unusual for heavy lifting to get done in the final day. It's normal. They get to that final Monday with oftentimes lots to do.
DEPUYTSome of the -- because of, you know, they're still trying to strike a compromise on things or there's brinkmanship going on. They do serious work in that 90th day. In fact, I would argue that they often do, you know, a disproportionate amount of work in the final day.
ROBINSONPretty much, right.
DEPUYTThey do, you know, a month ahead...
ROBINSONBut the budget is never one of them. That's usually taken out of the mix early on. You might get a week -- you might get that stuff done a week ahead of time. And then you start on the policy stuff. But this was serious business 'cause...
DEPUYTAnd this was a serious meltdown.
ROBINSONNot only a serious meltdown -- think about it. The only reason why this legislature meets is to create a budget. That is the only official thing they are charged to do. By the time they get to that point, they're supposed to have all of that done. There were several things at play. First of all, there was this whole idea of the expansion of gambling in the state of Maryland.
ROBINSONPrince George's County Executive Rushern Baker wanted a new casino at National Harbor. He -- I don't want to say twisted arms, but he convinced some legislators, hey, I want to put this new facility. But he asked for some unusual things. He wanted to change the split. He wanted to add table games. And that begins to muddy the water, and that becomes the biggest measure that stops the budget from moving forward because they speak -- the president of the Senate, who's the leader of the Senate, said, I want this deal. And you're going to give me this deal, or else I'm going to hold up the budget.
DEPUYTAre they coming back?
ROBINSONThey will. I believe that the governor will let the cities and the counties feel the pain. In other words, he wants them to start looking at, OK, this was called the doomsday's budget.
ROBINSONThey're going to slash $512 million from the budget. Where it's going to hurt most: schools. So think Montgomery County, slash. Think Prince George's County, already in a deficit, slash.
ROBINSONBaltimore City. All the schools across the state are going to get -- and then there are some things that are in the -- in that, like the GCI indexes, which is a way that various cities and counties get more money in order to pay for schools.
DEPUYTThe high cost of living.
ROBINSONThe high cost of living in certain cities, gone. All of that is gone. Scholarships, gone. (unintelligible) But there was some great things that came out of this session. We got wind farms. We got septics, in other words, a higher tax on them. But that still doesn't equate to what do you about the money...
ROBINSON...that's not there.
DEPUYTYeah. The governor is very proud of the fact that same-sex marriage passed.
DEPUYTWe're going to talk more about all of this because it was a dramatic and unusual session. Another chapter is still to be written on the 2012 session of the Maryland General Assembly. A budget expert, and maybe the budget expert in the assembly, State Sen. Richard Madaleno, a Democrat from Montgomery County, a former staffer in Annapolis, he's going to be joining us later on the program today.
DEPUYTRight now, though, we're joined in studio by Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen, who, before he was elected to the 8th Congressional District, served and with distinction, I think, it's generally the consensus view, served in Annapolis. Congressman Van Hollen, good to have you with you -- good to have you with us. Thanks very much for coming in today.
REP. CHRIS VAN HOLLENBruce, it's great to be with you and Charles, and I give my best to Kojo and Tom as well. Speedy recovery, Tom.
DEPUYTBefore we get into Hill staff, your take on what went down this week in Annapolis.
HOLLENWell, as you both said, the last day of session is a day where there are lots of balls in the air. People are juggling all sorts of pieces of legislation. And sometimes, they drop, and sometimes, they get done. But, as Charles said, the budget is never one of those things that's wrapped up on the last day or the pieces that are necessary to put together the final budget. So this is extraordinary in that sense.
HOLLENI am confident that the leaders of the General Assembly and the members of the General Assembly will come together to come up with a plan before July 1, which is when the across-the-board cuts would take place.
DEPUYTIt's not unusual for brinksmanship to enter negotiations of any type. For the leaders, though, to push the brinksmanship notion to the point they did where they couldn't rescue it, where they couldn't put it all back together and do that mandatory thing the citizens elect them and send them there to do, isn't that irresponsible?
HOLLENWell, it's unusual, what happened. And I don't know if it was the result of miscalculation or sort of a deliberate, a conscious sort of pushing things to the very limit here. Again, having not been there and having tried to piece things together based on comments that have been made by the leaders, it's not clear exactly what happened other than to say that they've got to get their act together now. And I think they'd be the first to admit that -- come together and get something done before July 1.
DEPUYTYou can join today's conversation here on "The Politics Hour" by calling 800-433-8850, again, 800-433-8850. I'm Bruce DePuyt, filling in for Kojo Nnamdi today. Charles Robinson of Maryland Public Television is here. He's filling in for Tom Sherwood today. And our guest this time -- for this part of this program is Maryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen. You can also go to our website, kojoshow.org, or you can send us a tweet, @kojoshow.
ROBINSONBruce, I want to ask the congressman a question because, obviously, you deal with a lot of politics up on that Hill where people from different parties get into these kind of fights. Explain to our audience how different parts of this state get such animosity. I mean, we've got blue dog Democrats. We've got liberal Democrats. We've got -- but they're in charge of everything. How does this -- how -- talk about how all that plays out, if you will.
HOLLENWell, Charles, I should say at the outset, certainly the federal budget process is no model for the state of Maryland. So nobody involved in the federal process should be preaching in any way to the folks in Maryland. There are some distinctions beyond just the process. And one is that in Maryland, obviously, you now have Democrats who have a majority in the House of Delegates and the State Senate, as well the governor.
HOLLENAnd so partisanship is not the obstacle here, as it sometimes is in the United States Congress where these days you have a Republican House that has refused to move forward on some things. For example, there's a bipartisan transportation bill that came out of the United States Senate. We could easily take that up in the United States House of Representatives and get it done. Unfortunately, they've chosen not to do that.
HOLLENWell, that's a -- well, the short answer is that you've got a Tea Party caucus in the House that doesn't want the federal government involved in any significant way in investments in infrastructure. This has been a bipartisan commitment since way back, you know, the Erie Canal, since the Eisenhower and the interstate highway system. We've always believed that we are made stronger as a country through important public investments and infrastructure.
DEPUYTAnd transportation spending is private sector spending. Those are private sector jobs (unintelligible)...
HOLLENWell, that's exactly right. I mean, these are funds -- federal funds that mixed with state funds and local funds to do important work through private contractors. And you've got 17 percent unemployment in the construction industry around the United States. At the same time, we have all these unmet needs. And this is a win-win, no-brainer. But unfortunately, it's been stymied in the United States Congress.
HOLLENLook, in Annapolis, obviously, there are all these other regional cross currents that you were talking about. Charles, there are different agendas. The difference is that, usually, you're able to put those differences aside or at least make the tough compromises as part of the budget process. This time, obviously, it got away from them. Again, I'm confident that they'll put the pieces together. But this is, obviously, an unusual event in Annapolis.
DEPUYTTalk about the Ryan budget. To what extent does it represent a starting point -- a potential starting point for budget discussions on the Hill? To what extent is it a political document in a political year?
HOLLENWell, I'm afraid to say that it is a political document in a political year. It didn't get any Democratic votes. And there was no serious effort, frankly, to reach out to Democrats in the House of Representatives to try and put together a compromised budget. And there are good models for compromise out there.
HOLLENYou've got a number of bipartisan commissions from Simpson-Bowles to Rivlin-Domenici that have said that if you're going to seriously tackle our deficit challenge, which is real and we have to do, that you've got to do it a balanced way, meaning we've got to make some tough cuts. And we've already made one round of very tough cuts over a trillion dollars over 10 years. But all those bipartisan commissions have also said you need a revenue component. You need to close some of these tax loopholes to generate revenue.
HOLLENYou do need to ask the highest income earners in the country, you know, millionaires and others to go back to paying the same rates they were during the Clinton administration, when the economy was booming. And yet our Republican colleagues have followed the Grover Norquist line, which is you can't take one penny from closing a tax loophole, not one penny from getting rid of an oil subsidy, for the purpose of reducing the deficit. And that makes it very difficult to achieve the kind of balance that these bipartisan groups have proposed.
ROBINSONCongressman, a lot of people are wondering, is this a good year for Democrats to retake the House? I mean, you're out there on the hustings, asking folks to run and try to raise some money for folks out there. Are you at a point now that you think it's a 50/50 shot, or is the balance shifting out there?
HOLLENWell, I think the possibilities are growing for Democrats to win the 25 additional seats necessary to gain a majority in the House. And the reason for that is that I think people have sort of witnessed the performance of this House Republican leadership. It has been hijacked, in many ways, by the Tea Party, and they recognize that they're out of touch in many ways with where the country is. This example I raised with respect to transportation investment is a pretty good example because that's always been an example of bipartisanship, the need to invest in our national infrastructure.
HOLLENAnd for that to become a political football is something that is unnecessary and unprecedented. So that's just one small example. But I think that there's a growing sense that, when it comes to the economy, when it comes to taking a balanced approach to the deficit rather than a one-sided approach, which the Ryan -- Republican budget does, for example, and in the Medicare guarantee, that that's something that is out of step with where most Americans are.
ROBINSONWill you have enough money to mount a vociferous campaign? Because, obviously, we've got these new groups that are coming up, who are raising tons of money, if you will, and they're targeting a little bit of everybody. In fact, I think, your colleague, Eric Cantor, has a problem now with raising money to try and get rid of some of his Republican colleagues. Will you have enough money, and will all of these groups -- side groups, if you will, that are out there, will they play a factor in this upcoming election?
HOLLENWell, they will, and now you've got the wild, wild west of campaign financing, largely as a result of the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, a nice-sounding title. But what it meant was that corporations can now dump money, including secret money, into campaigns. And a number of other Supreme Court decisions have meant that these groups -- outside groups from other states can come in and dump unlimited amounts of money into any congressional race in the country.
HOLLENAnd in many cases, they can do it without disclosing who they are. Secret money, which is one of the reasons I introduced, again, what we call the DISCLOSE Act, which has a very simple but, I think, pretty powerful idea behind it, which is people -- voters have the right to know who is funding all these campaign ads that's trying to influence their vote. We think transparency, sunlight is important, that it brings greater accountability. So...
DEPUYTDo you have any GOP co-sponsors or (unintelligible) ?
HOLLENWell, we are actually working on some, but, as of right now, we don't. And it's a real irony for this reason. You know, Mitch McConnell, who's the Republican leader in the Senate, used to oppose campaign finance restrictions. And his response whenever people said, well, we need to limit the amount that can be given to candidates and that sort of thing, was, no, we don't need any limits. We just need disclosure. We just need for voters to know, and they can decide whether or not these amounts that are being contributed or, you know, excessive or could influence people's decisions.
HOLLENAnd now that we put this to him directly and asked him to support DISCLOSE, he's opposed it. I think it's disappointing. I do believe we will prevail on this in the end. In other words, I don't know if it will be the next week or month or even year. But I think people around the country, when they focus on this issue, they don't and shouldn't like the idea that secret money can be going into these -- influencing these elections.
DEPUYTMaryland Congressman Chris Van Hollen represents the 8th District, a district that has changed in recent weeks. And we'll about redistricting as we continue our conversation with him here on The Politics Hour on WAMU 88.5. I'm Bruce DePuyt from News Channel 8, filling in for Kojo Nnamdi today. Charles Robinson is our guest analyst. He's filling in for Tom Sherwood today. Phone line's open for your questions and comments at 800-433-8850. You can tweet us, @kojoshow.
DEPUYTWe got a tweet from a voter in Maryland, a resident in Maryland, who is not a constituent yet but, I think, is about to be or will be as of the new election. And Sarah asks, "Any plan to visit Carroll County to meet your expanded constituency?"
HOLLENWell, thank for the question. Even before the new lines were drawn, I had the opportunity to visit beautiful Carroll County on a number of occasions and have -- I've been up there many times since then and had the chance to visit with community leaders and business leaders in a number of places in Carroll County. I visited Carroll County Community College. I had a very good visit there with the president, met with students there, went to Westminster, which is a wonderful town, visited local businesses, library, went to Sykesville...
DEPUYTYou have a lot of new real estate (unintelligible).
HOLLENI do. I do.
ROBINSONPut a little bit more miles on the car.
HOLLENAbsolutely, you know, and Sykesville, Mount Airy. So I've been in a number of places recently in Carroll County and look forward to a continued conversation with the people there. My view is, you take nothing for granted in any of these elections, and I look forward to meeting a lot of new people.
DEPUYTWhen you looked at the map -- the maps that came out and the map that ultimately being, you know, ended up being the map that we now have in Maryland, you had to have been snockered, I mean, just blown away because it's so partisan. It is so -- the districts are not compact. They're not contiguous. They're not -- they weren't done with the communities in mind.
DEPUYTIt was -- it reminded me of the bad, old days -- was it the '80s -- when, like, in North Carolina or whatever, you had the Z District where it would go east, west and then zig down, and it would pick a part of a highway off-ramp and then balloon up again. I mean, just gross. It wouldn't pass the smell test, the common cause test, the common sense test, just awful. You had to have been blown away.
HOLLENWell, clearly, there were dramatic changes. I'm a supporter of legislation at the federal level that calls for a non-partisan or bipartisan national process by which these districts would be drawn because what you get, because in the absence of that kind of national effort, is every state using its powers to try and change districts in a way that will advantage one party or another. That's a process that's gone on throughout the country.
HOLLENIn Texas, as you recall a couple of years ago, they didn't even wait till the end of a 10-year period, that is the normal period of time when you do redistricting to redraw some districts. In the case of the 8th District, clearly there were some dramatic changes. The 8th district now runs from the Maryland-D.C. line all the way to the Pennsylvania-Maryland line.
HOLLENAnd you know, I'm disappointed among -- about the constituents that I will lose, but I'm looking forward to meeting a lot of people in the new areas. And, obviously, redistricting is a process that happens as a result of the census taken every 10 years. But how those lines are drawn is something that legislature determines.
ROBINSONCongressman, what are the things that happened in this primer is very low voter turn out. In fact, unfortunately, even though these lines were drawn to accommodate some folks and -- I won't say disenfranchise. But some folks weren't included in those boundaries. How do we increase more voter participation? I mean, I know the state, one of the things they did during this legislation -- legislator session was they changed the timeframe when Baltimore City voters will vote instead of voting in off-year election.
ROBINSONThey're going to vote during the presidential year hoping to get more voter participation because the voter participation in Baltimore City was so dismal. But how do we raise that level of participation?
HOLLENWell, this is an ongoing challenge as you know, not just in Maryland but throughout the country, the level of voter participation. Obvious, it was very low in the primaries we saw in Maryland despite the fact that we have early voting. And I do encourage people to take advantage of early voting 'cause it's more convenient. And in the last couple of elections, we've actually seen more people participating in early voting.
HOLLENBut look, ultimately, you know, people have to decide whether they're motivated to go to the polls. And I would just say to everybody that they have a stake in the outcome of these elections. Whether they're local elections, state elections or federal elections, people are making decisions that influence people's lives. And I think the best we can do, Charles, is just to try and emphasize that point over and over again.
HOLLENOften in local elections, you don't see people energized until something's happening right in their neighborhood. But I think people need to understand that decisions that are made at the federal level have an impact on them right down to their local neighborhoods as well because of the decisions that are made on transportation and education and other important investments.
DEPUYTWe're going to go to the phones in just a moment, so you'll need your headphone for that Congressman. Is it embarrassing that your nominee, your party's nominee in the 6th District doesn't live in the district that he's hoping to -- voters will give him the privilege of representing John Delaney?
HOLLENYou've seen this throughout the country that you have members of Congress who don't always live in their districts. Now, in this case, John Delaney lives literally across the street from the 6th Congressional District.
DEPUYTAnd presumably that was on purpose, right? The folks Annapolis who had wired the seat for Rob Garagiola, it's no coincidence that Delaney is one, like, stone -- literally a stone's throw from the district line because they thought that might keep him out. And you know, Garagiola could have a clean primary, easy primary and husband his resources for the general, right? I mean, these things aren't accidents (unintelligible)...
HOLLENWhy? Bruce, I mean you're going to have to go down and talk to the folks who actually drew the line to find the answer to that for Garagiola.
ROBINSONTrust me, we tried to get an answer to that...
HOLLEN(unintelligible) and to try to find an answer to that particular question.
HOLLENWait, every time we...
DEPUYTWe couldn't try.
HOLLENNo, very seriously, I don't know the answer to that. But what I do know is that, you know, literally, he lives across the street. This is not (word?) in any way.
ROBINSONHave you talked to him?
HOLLENSure, I've talked to John Delaney. Absolutely.
ROBINSONAnd what has he said about that? Has he said, hey, look I'm going to fix this or...
HOLLENWell, I don't think it's within his power to...
DEPUYTI mean, he's going to move, I assume, if he wins, right?
HOLLEN...fix the lines. I, you know, I -- we'll have to talk to him. But look, I think he had a very vigorous primary with Rob Garagiola, state senator. Two very strong candidates, I think John Delaney is in a very strong position now to win that district. He's been a successful businessman. So, look, I think the issue of whether he lives on one side of the road or another is not going to be the primary issue on the minds of voters. I think they're going to look for the -- his position on issues of jobs, the economy and other important issues.
ROBINSONYou don't think the Republicans are not going to play on that? Congressman, come on. You know those guys are going to say, hey, he doesn't even live in the district, and he wants to be your Congressman. I can see the ad over here.
HOLLENI can only you, Charles, that in other parts of the country, voters have tended to focus much more on the bigger issues that are at stake in these elections and where voters -- where the candidates stand on the issues. They may try and make hay about it, but all I would say is, in the primary, it obviously had very little impact, and other issues were dominant and much more important. I think that will be the case once again because people are going to want to know where he stands on these issues compared to his Republican opponent.
DEPUYTDave in Annapolis, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
DAVEYes, thanks so much for taking my call. I would like to know, as a lifelong conservative but also a realist, what will it take for the Republicans and the Tea Party to get out from under the Norbert's -- I'm sorry, the Grover Norquist demands for no revenue increases because, obviously, we're going to have to look at revenue increases with the cutting of expenditures. Thank you.
HOLLENWell, thanks for the question, and it's right on target because if we're going to get a balanced approach to deficit reduction, which, as I said earlier, is what has been recommended and proposed by every bipartisan commission that has taken a serious look at our long-term deficit challenge, you need to have a revenue component. You need to make some tough cuts. And as I said, we've made one round of very tough cuts, and other cuts need to be made. But if you don't include a revenue component, what it means is that you have to take it out on everybody else in the process.
HOLLENThat means fewer investments in our kids' education and in infrastructure. It means seniors who have a median income of $23,000, those on Medicare, have to pay a lot more for their Medicare. And so that's why you have to take a balanced approach. Otherwise, you're imposing the entire burden of deficit reduction on the middle-income families of this country and on seniors and at the expense of important investments. How do we get our Republican colleagues turn around? That's what elections are all about.
HOLLENAnd you're having a debate right now this week in the United States Senate on the Buffett Rule, named after Warren Buffett who observed that his effective tax rate was, in fact, lower than that of his secretaries. And that debate is part of larger debate about shared responsibility for reducing the deficit. I should say that at the end of this year, we will have some action forcing events at the national level, so major fiscal events will collide. You have, by law, the end of all the 2001, 2003 Bush tax cuts.
HOLLENThat amounts to about $5 trillion over 10 years. So Republicans at that point in time may be faced with a question. Maybe $2 trillion in additional revenue or -- is better than $5 trillion because there are very few people who believe we should allow all those tax cuts to expire. I don't think that's the right decision. But I also don't like the fact that Republicans have held the middle-class tax cuts hostage to getting an extension of the tax cuts for the very wealthy. That's what happened a little over a year ago.
HOLLENAnd if we're going to tackle our deficit challenges, we cannot allow that to happen again. As the caller indicated, we've got to have a balanced approach in getting the Republicans to back off this pledge to Grover Norquist. It's going to be part of that, and they've got to focus on their pledge to the Constitution for the greater good of the country.
ROBINSONDo you plan...
DEPUYTCongressman Van Hollen, let me -- I just have to break in because of time. Congressman Van Hollen, thank you very much for your time, great to see you. We'll be speaking with you again very soon, I am sure.
HOLLENWell, thank you, and it's good to be with both of you.
DEPUYTChris Van Hollen represents the 8th District of Maryland in the House of Representatives, joining us today here in studio on The Politics Hour. I'm Bruce DePuyt, filling in for Kojo Nnamdi today. Charles Robinson, a correspondent for Maryland Public Television, is our guest analyst today. He's filling in for Tom Sherwood. You can join our conversation. We'll go back to the phones shortly at 800-433-8850.
DEPUYTYou can comment on our website, kojoshow.org, and you can send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Charles, you were talking earlier about voter participation. Today is a big day in the District because they're counting the ballots in the at-large race.
ROBINSONThis is the Vincent Orange race, right?
DEPUYTThis is -- right. This is the one bit of unfinished business from last Tuesday's primary where we still don't know the winner. Vincent Orange running for re-election, for re-nomination to his at-large seat on the D.C. council, has a 500 vote and change lead over his nearest competitor, Sekou Biddle. About 225,000 absentee ballots plus another, I think, close to equal number of provisional ballots.
DEPUYTIt's unlikely that Sekou Biddle can overtake and close the gap. But the numbers are there in theory, so as I say, a big day in the District as we count the final ballots in the Democratic primary for the at-large council seat.
ROBINSONWell, it's interesting to look at these...
DEPUYTAnd the turnout was low. That was the whole (unintelligible)...
ROBINSONRight, so then -- yeah.
DEPUYTTurnout there was low.
ROBINSONWhat I thought was even more interesting is that it comes in an era where there are a lot of scandals and the appearance of impropriety by a lot of -- a number of politicians. And I think that those folks who follow the D.C. Politics Hour will get real juiced up to find out what the outcome is in this particular race. Look, let me say this -- that, you know, I've always been a proponent of good government because if you have good government, great things can happen.
ROBINSONBut those who want to take advantage of the system, you get the problems that are associated with folks who are trying to game the system or take advantage of it. Let me suggest that any politician who wants to play this game play it on the field, not off the field.
DEPUYTJoining us now here in the studio is State Sen. Rich Madaleno. He's a Democrat from Montgomery County. As luck would have it, his district overlaps considerably with what used to be the 8th Congressional District. So you're sitting in the Chris Van Hollen chair. You and he have many of the same constituents. Sen. Madaleno, by the way, is a senior member of the Budget and Tax Committee and is an expert on the state's budget. Good to see you again. Welcome back and thanks for coming in.
SEN. RICHARD MADALENOIt's great to see you, Bruce.
DEPUYTMonday night, what a sad kind of thing. What happens now? One presumes there's going to be a special session but you hear this talk that, well, let's live with this budget for a year. Let's -- or we have to have a consensus before we bring folks back. We're not going to just come back and sit in the room and pick up where we left off necessarily. From your perspective, what does the future hold?
MADALENOWell, I'm please to tell you that this morning I was woken up by a phone call from Gov. O'Malley. And I've already spoken to him and I know he's been working the phones with legislators today to talk about how do we get to a compromise, how do we come to an agreement and how do we do it in a quick way that's best for the citizens of Maryland. So I think you'll see movement hopefully soon over the next few weeks. I think it's very important that we get this done before the middle of May at the latest because all the local governments have to enact their budgets.
MADALENOAll the school systems have to enact their budgets. They have to know what money they're going to have, so, for example, the school systems know how many teachers they need to recruit during the summer because that's when it occurs. So the sooner we can get this done, the better. And I'm pleased that the governor's already out there trying to say, how do we get to a compromise? How do we get something where we can all agree and get it done and get it done as soon as possible?
ROBINSONSenator, one of the things I didn't I didn't hear you talk about was what the Senate president wanted, and that was gambling in Prince George's County. What did the governor say about that particular issue? Is that going to be off the table?
MADALENOI think he's willing to talk about anything. When I -- I think he believes whatever we can get to get to a compromise, he's willing to talk about.
ROBINSONThe governor has not been a fan of gambling. Let me -- let's just -- he's never been a fan of gambling. Let's just make sure the audience knows that. And in fact, he was almost touting the same line that the speaker of the house, Mike Busch, was saying. We're being held up by this whole idea. They want gambling down in Prince George's County. Talk to our audience about how that played out because a lot of folks said, you know, there's the president of the Senate saying, do my deal or you get no deal.
MADALENOSo that's a very interesting point and a very interesting question that I've tried to reflect upon over the last three days since the end of session because, as Bruce kindly pointed out at the beginning of the hour, I'm on the budget and tax committee. I was on the conference committee for the budget, the Reconciliation Act, the tax packages, all of these major bills that came together to form our overall fiscal policy for the next year.
MADALENONever once did the Senate president say to me or say to any other member of that conference committee, you cannot make an agreement until they know what they're doing on gaming. We could have made an agreement. As you know, and I think you mentioned it earlier, we could have made an agreement on the 80th day of the session, on the 83rd day of the session, on the 85th day of the session. It was the inability of the House of Delegates to provide a counterproposal or to move from their position on the tax plan that led it to not be resolved until the very last day.
MADALENOWhen we walked in on the very first day of that conference committee to talk about taxes, they said, this is our plan, which raised about $250 million primarily on an income tax increase for people over 100 and $150,000. Our plan was broader, and it impacted more people -- as you talked about earlier in the program -- and raised about $500 million in revenues. I think anyone who's...
DEPUYTAre you talking about the difference between where the tax kicks in, whether it's people making 100, couples $150,000, or going for, you know, richer, you know, like $250,000? Is that…
MADALENOWell, the House's rate plan started at 100 and $150,000. Our rate plan started at the lower rates. And I'll explain why in a second if I can come back to it.
MADALENOBut to Charles' question -- so they were at about $250 million. We were at $500 million. I think both of you, who have watched negotiations in Annapolis over time, and probably anybody, any legislative body you could ask, probably the congressmen, that somewhere -- the compromise is somewhere in the middle, not an either-or but in the middle.
MADALENOSo we walked in on the first day, and their position was, this is where we are. We can't move. We said, all right. Let's start talking. And we kept offering proposals and counterproposals and counterproposals. And one of your colleagues would say, are we to see many of these meetings go on?
MADALENOAnd the House never moved and never moved. And from the first day to the last day, they kept saying, we can't move from this position. We can't move from this position. And in fact, it was finally when, I believe, the Senate president said, well, let's just get something done to get it done. If they won't move, let's agree to their position. And that, we didn't do until, like, six o'clock on Monday on the last day.
ROBINSONAnd remind you, seven o'clock is when they're supposed to print the budget.
MADALENORight, exactly. And that's very late for us. So -- and that led -- whenever all of these things get pushed back to the end, there are more and more games that can happen. I think several commentators have written over the last few days, you know, the commodification of our vote. It grows in value as you get towards midnight...
ROBINSONOh, so the leverage...
MADALENO...and we have more and more issues in the leverage. You know, what happened was, I think, an unfortunate display of transactional politics where different delegations started to come in and say, well, this is what I need. This is what we need. This is what -- and that's what happens when things get delayed to the end. But they didn't have to get delayed to the end, and no one was giving us pressure on the Senate side to keep it delayed to the end.
DEPUYTWell, two things: Given that the Senate president has been there forever, the longest-serving senate president in Maryland history, longest-senate president in the country right now, Mike...
MADALENOYou know, the state house was built around him, yes.
DEPUYTMike Busch -- well, he's -- he literally has a building named after him so -- Mike Busch has been there forever, seasoned veteran, savvy guy. When I go to Annapolis, I see a lot of new faces from my reporting days. But I see a lot of the same people in those choice front-row seats that were there in the '90s when I was covering...
ROBINSONAre they still there?
DEPUYTThey are still there. So in terms of just the ability to know how far you can push it without pushing it too far, to me, that institutional knowledge is there. You all should have known that at a certain point, we are really playing with fire, and we are risking a calamity and an embarrassment. I mean, this is an embarrassment for the Democrats in Maryland, for the executive branch and the legislative branch. And although I've heard everything you've said about what pressure was or wasn't there, I think the general fear is still that there was brinksmanship, that the Senate it really wants this gambling.
DEPUYTWe don't even have the five slot sites yet and -- that were approved in the referendum, and there's already a push to do more, to have casino gambling in Prince George's County. So I think the broad sense people have is the Senate had to have gambling, and the brinksmanship between Miller and Busch just got out of hand.
MADALENOWell, I really don't see it that way. I mean, never was it put by the Senate president, in a meeting I participated in, that we had to have gaming. There were several times where I heard him say, in very colorful language that I can't repeat on the radio, about if the House didn't want to do the slots bill, that was fine with him, and there was a place they could place the slots bill. So I don't think...
DEPUYTNot a (word?).
MADALENOYes. Well, yeah. Well, kind of, right? So...
ROBINSONThere was a (word?). It's just not one that you normally go in.
MADALENOSo I don't think it had to come to that. I do see what you're saying about you have a lot of the same people who have been negotiating with each other for a while. And so there's institutional knowledge, and then there's also experience that they have with each other. So one of the things about slots that you got to remember with the referendum is the constitutional amendment we adopted two years ago requires anything that we pass to expand gaming has to automatically go to the ballot.
MADALENOIt automatically goes to referendum. So, obviously, this is -- can only come up in an even numbered year when we're going to have a general election in Maryland. So I think anyone could have seen that this was going to be a year that we discuss these issues because if you don't have it done this year, then the earliest you can, in essence, expand our gaming presence is 2014. So we're probably on an every-other-year cycle now where gaming is going to be an issue that we try to address.
MADALENOAnd maybe the best way to go forward is to come up with an alternative scenario that takes some of these decisions out of the general assembly and puts it into like a state gaming commission, like other states have that come up with a proposal for us as opposed to making it kind of bubble up. But the chairman of the House gambling -- subcommittee on ways and means -- I don't know what they call it. The revenue -- they have some euphemism...
ROBINSONThe subcommittee, ways and means subcommittee that Frank Turner, Delegate Frank Turner...
MADALENORight. So the -- yeah. You have Frank Turner, a Howard County chair. He put in the bill to allow for table games.
MADALENOI mean, so, obviously, they knew they were coming into a debate. I don't know why they didn't have a position really thought out. And even then, we passed the bill. We had hearings weeks ago, months ago on some of these issues. We passed the bill two weeks before the end of session. There was no last-minute -- it bubbled out of nowhere. They could have replied much sooner as opposed to waiting to have a voting session on it until sine die themselves...
MADALENO...in ways and means. So there were times that we all stumbled. I mean, I think there were potholes along the way, and unfortunately we went out of our way to hit every pothole that we could find on the road.
ROBINSONAnd you didn't miss many.
MADALENOWe didn't miss many. And as I was driving here today, I was riding in the car with my grandmother, who asked me about my daughter's report card. Yesterday was report card day. We're talking about the report cards, and she said, you know, no matter where you are in your life, I hope you tell your daughter, you can always do better.
MADALENOAnd I thought, well, that's a really good thought. We could all do better, and certainly we could all have done better on Monday and over the last few weeks. And hopefully we will as we try to come to a compromise on how to move forward.
DEPUYTState Sen. Rich Madaleno represents Montgomery County in Annapolis. He's a member of the Budget and Tax Committee, member of the Conference Committee on the Budget. You're listening to The Politics Hour on WAMU. I'm Bruce DePuyt. And for Kojo Nnamdi, Charles Robinson of Maryland Public Television is here.
ROBINSONLet me ask you this, how do we move forward now? Did the governor tell you -- did he give you a date specific that he wants to have this particular session? Or does he let the temperature to drop a lot in this whole debate?
MADALENOHe didn't give me a date specific, nor did he empower me to necessarily be his spokesperson on the radio today, although I did track if it was OK that I talk about how he was making phone calls, and he said, no problem. I think you want to move forward. As I said before, you want the, I think, the local governments, the school systems, other programs that are dependent upon state money, the university system.
MADALENOPeople need to have an answer relatively soon as to what their budget is going to be. The university has to make a decision about tuition increases. The sooner they know how much state aid they're going to have, the sooner they can make that decision, the better off that is because people have to start worrying about scholarships, loans, all of those things for the fall. So I think you want to move and you want to move as quickly as possible.
DEPUYTThe Republicans like the budget you have. What's your view of letting things be for a year and maybe coming back in something more robust next year?
DEPUYTWhat does that mean for local governments, for services, for state employees?
MADALENOWell, I think there might be a question now of whether or not the budget is actually balanced because, as you know, not only did the tax package fail to pass both chambers on Monday night...
ROBINSONBRFA failed to pass it.
MADALENOThis document called the BRFA, which for...
DEPUYTWhat is that?
MADALENO...people who don't speak Annapolese, (sp?) it's the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act, B-R-F-A, which has been translated to BRFA. The -- that bill did not pass either, and that's the bill that often, when you're making a variety of fiscal maneuvers, you need in order to enact some of the other changes the governor wishes to make through the budget transfers from various spending accounts or savings accounts that the state has, that sort of thing. And that, while it passed the Senate with about an hour or 45 minutes to go, for some reason the House never took it up.
ROBINSONThey ran out of time.
MADALENOWithout that piece of the package passing, there are some questions about whether or not some of the assumptions we made in balancing the budget are accurate anymore. So it might be that we need to come back sooner than later to make sure that, in fact, when the fiscal year starts on July 1, we indeed have a balanced budget.
DEPUYTYou're going to need your headphones 'cause we're going to go to the phones in a minute. Not to nitpick, Charles, but I would take slight issue with your characterization that they ran out of time. The amount of time they had this year was the same amount of time they've always had, and they've always been able to get it done.
DEPUYTI mean, unlike -- let's put it in a little bit of perspective. Contrary to Congress, where the budget system is completely broken -- it doesn't matter who has power or if power is divided -- Congress is just, you know, just unspeakably bad in terms of the budget.
ROBINSONLet me qualify.
DEPUYTSo they let -- I think the way to describe it is they let time run out.
ROBINSONWell, let me qualify that because they recognized they couldn't get a deal on that -- on this issue regarding this expansion of gaming, so they tried to do a resolution to extend the session. The problem was they didn't know what the Senate was going to do. And there is a mechanism to extend the session because the governor, what, about two weeks prior, he signs a piece of legislation that allows you to extend the session.
DEPUYTYou're presuming that the Senate president and the speaker talked to one another, and I'm not presuming that.
MADALENOWell, the -- what Charles speaks to about the document that came out from the governor, that is a resolution that allows for the continuation of the session only to debate the budget bill.
MADALENOEverything else dies at midnight, but the budget bill can go on. Well, the budget bill passed. The budget bill passed much earlier in the evening. It's the other legislation that you needed. And, I mean, I've been around for a while, Bruce kindly pointed out in his introduction. I was a staff person at one time down there for the nonpartisan agency. I had never heard of the provision that the House suddenly took up that...
MADALENO...we have the ability to extend the session for up to another 30 days to deal with all of this legislation.
DEPUYTAnd they didn't even know how many votes are required to do that, whether it was 93 or 94, which...
MADALENOWell, there was a miss -- apparently there was a misprint of the rules, where the Constitution is clear as it needs a three-fifths vote, which would be, I believe, 89 in the seat -- House, but it turned out that the rule book for some reason said 94 in it, and clearly, the Constitution trumps the House rule book. So...
DEPUYTTo the phones, Jack and Eduardo, thanks for your patience. You're on the air. Go ahead, please.
JACKYeah, I'm a Democrat. I'm just completely disgusted with the way the Maryland legislature's operated this term. And I just think Mike Miller hasn't been able to keep his job as president of the senate without twisting some arms, and he's famous for it on the state circle there. He's got the, you know, the senator there gets his position on the committee and on the conference committee by being in good graces of the senate president.
JACKAnd even if he didn't tell him, hold everything up while this National Harbor casino thing goes through, you know, by (unintelligible) then folks know where the senate president stands. All of a sudden, at the end of the day, there are ads on TV pushing for this.
DEPUYTJack, thank you very much. I want to play for the folks at home a comment that the comptroller Peter Franchot made this week on WBAL Radio. Listen.
MR. PETER FRANCHOTThe senate president, God bless him, has been senate president for 26 years, and it's time for him to step aside. It's -- he's a fanatic for gambling, and it's getting in the way of protecting Maryland families.
MADALENOWell, you know, apparently, I heard that the comptroller was trying to edit his remarks, and he wasn't saying he should step aside as in leave office, but step aside from this issue and let other people discuss the issue.
ROBINSONIt didn't sound like what he said. I don't think he said it quite like that.
MADALENOI know. I know, and I hate to be the spokesperson for both the comptroller and the governor on this program.
ROBINSONGood luck with that.
MADALENOBut that's what I was told yesterday while I was in Annapolis. So obviously, the senate president has pushed for gaming because he does think that it's a good source of revenue for the state. It's a tax that people are willing to pay because they want the entertainment value and that when you look at the -- all of the states bordering us, except for Virginia and, I guess, D.C., everyone has moved forward rather aggressively with casino gaming.
MADALENOI mean, not only do they have slots. They have table games in West Virginia, in Pennsylvania, in Delaware and in New Jersey. And this is an opportunity to put a location on the other side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and attract taxpayers from Virginia into Maryland to pay for it.
DEPUYTSo we've got a minute left. Is it your prediction, based on your time in Annapolis and maybe your conversation with the governor this morning, that there will a session, it will be in time for the July 1 stuff talk it needs to and that taxes, casinos and the teacher pension stuff will all be part of the mix?
MADALENOI do think we're going to go back and look at some of the -- probably all of the issues of where we were at the end of session. I think they'll all be discussed. We'll see if we can come up with a compromise that deals with everything from increased revenues to a way to fix the pension system, to seeing Bruce DePuyt and Charles Robinson standing on stage, certainly reporting live about the special session.
MADALENOSo I'm sure every one of these details will be (unintelligible).
DEPUYTI look forward to it. Good theater, if not good government. Rich Madaleno, state senator for Montgomery County, thanks very much. Charles Robinson of Maryland Public Television, thank you very much.
MADALENOAnd I want to know who took out Tom Sherwood's knee.
DEPUYTThe Politics Hour was produced by Michael Martinez...
ROBINSONSomebody from D.C. probably.
DEPUYT...Brendan Sweeney, Ingalisa Schrobsdorff and Tayla Burney. Diane Vogel is the managing producer, the engineer today, Andrew Chadwick. Podcast available at kojoshow.org. Thanks for listening. I'm Bruce DePuyt.
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