Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Ehrlich Pledges Green for Green

There's no question, election years do funny things to people. Yesterday's Sun reported that Governor Ehrlich is planning to put $440 million back into the Program Open Space budget that he raided earlier in his term. The Governor took hundreds of millions of dollars from the fund, which consists of money raised through a real estate transfer tax, during the tight budget years. Now he would like to place $258 million into Program Open Space this year, and $115 million into the Rural Legacy Program.

Ehrlich is also discussing the possibility of additional funding for "Chesapeake Bay restoration programs, renewable energy development and agricultural programs designed to limit runoff into the state's waterways." Lest we be overwhelmed by Ehrlich's "generosity", it's important to take Dru-Schmidt Perkins' words to heart, "The issue is that this is dedicated funding that we're celebrating him for not stealing money from."

Nevertheless, this signals increasingly bad news for the state Democrats. Ehrlich led the way on the groundbreaking "flush fee" legislation to clean-up waste treatment plants (and, reluctantly, septic systems), a charge Democrats with absolute control of the State House and Governor's mansion couldn't do during the 30+ years of their dominance. Perhaps Republicans are beginning to realize they need solid environmental credentials to get re-elected in Maryland. Democrats should wake up and set the bar higher. Some sort of protection against raiding Program Open Space funding in the future would be a nice start.

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