Monday, June 09, 2008

Maryland’s Budget System: An Imbalance of Power?

In 1916, the citizens of Maryland approved a budget system that gave primary budget authority to the Governor. Almost a century later, the debate continues about whether the legislature gave away too much of its power and should ask the citizens to restore it.

Those who argue that it is time to increase legislative authority maintain that more legislative power would allow more citizen participation and flexibility into the budget process. I believe that the General Assembly already has significant budgetary power and that allowing the General Assembly to rearrange the Governor’s budget would exacerbate Maryland’s spending problem (often referred to as the structural deficit). As noted in the September 18, 1916, issue of the Baltimore Sun by William Milnes Maloy, one of the members of the Goodnow Commission that recommended the current allocation of budgetary responsibility, “If the Maryland legislator served his State as well as he serves his county or district, a budget system would not be necessary in Maryland. …it must be said that most of the members of Parliament, of Congress and of every State Legislature in the Union are more mindful of the public interests of the localities they respectively represent than of the general welfare of the nation or the State.”

You can read my arguments and those on the other side by Prof. Roy Myers in a new report issued by The Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute, a project of the Association of Maryland Non-Profits.