Thanks to constituents and friends across the region, I have been able to serve as a progressive voice in the Maryland General Assembly for over 25 years. This website allows me to share my views on both specific issues and my long term vision for the state. At the same time, I want to foster a dialogue and hear from you on these very same issues. We have worked to improve life for our state’s working and middle income people but we have much more to do. I encourage you to share your thoughts and opinions regarding these important issues through an email or phone call. I would like to be known not only as a leader, but a leader who listens. If you like what you see on my website, create a bookmark and forward a link to this web page to your friends and neighbors. Enjoy!
Annapolis Advocate Newsletter
On Dec 3, 2016 I held a town hall meeting at Lamont Elementary School. Prince George’s County Schools CEO Kevin Maxwell spoke about our schools including his response to abuse allegations made against some school employees. He took questions from constituents as well. Adam Ortiz, the county’s Director of the Environment also spoke about some of his initiatives. I then gave my view on the election of Donald Trump and my agenda in Annapolis for the 2017 legislative session. I then answered questions from constituents. You can watch entire morning unfold above. Thanks to Greenbelt Access Television for recording and broadcasting the town hall.
Donald Trump’s election stunned almost all of us. We’re only now coming out of the shock — and we’re realizing that things, at least in the short term, are going to be getting much rougher.We face a Trump administration committed to reversing decades of progress on social and civil rights. Trump appointees will be frustrating our efforts to combat climate change at every opportunity. They’ll be pushing hard to deregulate banks and the corporate sector and privatize public education.How did this political shocker happen? What did we miss? How did he win?Everyone has an opinion, so here’s mine. We missed the signals, but they were there. If we had looked more critically at the political landscape, we probably would have seen them.“Make America great again,” Trump shouted. Hillary’s response: “America is great now.”Now that response makes sense if you read Trump’s appeal as simply code for “Let’s turn back the clock on human and civil rights and put women, gays, and immigrants back in their place.” But, in fact, America really isn’t great right now for many people. Income inequality has left millions of Americans economically insecure. People are losing jobs and pensions. Affording health care and housing just seem to get ever more difficult.It’s true that some of Trump’s votes came from people who’ve bought into racism and sexism and misogynist behavior and anti-immigrant sentiment. We will never get them back. They do want to set the clock back. And some of them do rate as deplorable.But many of the Americans who voted for Trump didn’t particularly like him or much of the ugliness his campaign exploited. In 2016, many voters went for Trump despite his campaign’s racism. In 2008 and 2012, let’s remember, many Trump voters in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania cast their ballots for candidate and then President Barack Obama.A significant percentage of Trump votes, we also need to keep in mind, came from people who want a better life and feel shut out and ignored. Government isn’t working for them. They see government working instead for Wall Street and business elites. They’re tired of the status quo.Donald Trump poked the institutions of this status quo right in the eye, leaving Hillary positioned as their defender. She may have been as qualified as anyone who ever sought the White House. Her election would have cracked the glass ceiling in historic fashion. But, for many voters, Hillary represented the old way of doing things that had brought few results for working families. Her message — and the message of the Democratic Party — did not inspire and, in some cases, just fell on deaf ears.Trump took a right-wing populist approach, playing to people’s basest instincts. He promised to give people what they wanted and scapegoated immigrants, minorities, and women for getting in the way. He blamed government for just about everything. He promised everything, too, from better jobs to a better life.
During the primaries, Bernie Sanders offered up an alternate populism. Bernie spoke to people’s immediate needs, as Trump did, but Bernie’s progressive populism offered a real way forward.
Bernie laid out a vision and identified those who actually do stand in the way of social progress. He called out Wall Street bankers and drug company CEOs. He went after billionaire campaign contributors and the politicians who rely on their money.Bernie didn’t defend a dysfunctional status quo. He spoke unequivocally about the way things should be. And he won tons and tons of votes from many of the same people whose votes put Trump over the top.I served this past summer as a Sanders delegate. But I campaigned for Hillary after she won the nomination. Could Bernie have won in November? That question is, to me, at this point immaterial. What is material is the message he offered. What is material is the question we all need to ask ourselves: Which way forward?Our next great battle will be over the future of the Democratic Party. Will the party move in a progressive direction that can deliver real change for working Americans or play it safe and defend the status quo?Consider, for instance, health care. Eighteen million more Americans now have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. This “Obamacare” has been an important step forward. But health care costs continue to rise, insurers are leaving the program, and the system now in place is confusing.Many in the progressive wing of the Democratic party have pointed out, from the very beginning, that if we want to get health care right, we have to get the insurance companies out of the way and start telling drug companies they’ll have to negotiate with the government over drug prices. And if these companies continue with outlandish price mark-ups, government needs to step in and use its power to deny them our tax dollars.We have Medicare today for seniors, and Medicare controls health care costs. Why can’t we do the same for everyone? Some say that’s too radical. But other nations take that approach. Why can’t we? We have to offer real answers to real problems, not just warmed-over same old.In Maryland, we have an election for governor coming in two years. Incumbent Larry Hogan has certainly distanced himself from Trump. But Hogan remains a governor who believes in fewer protections for the public. He opposes the progressive changes we need.Like Trump, Hogan panders to people’s baser instincts. He lowered tolls on some Maryland bridges, but didn’t explain that this move will leave less money to repair those very same bridges in the future – when he’s long gone as governor.To help the Ocean city tourist industry, Hogan expanded the length of summer break all across the state and limited the number of school days. Many-low income people in Maryland cannot afford a vacation in Ocean City. Now their children will not have the opportunity for more classroom time.We have a big task ahead. Trump and his undesirable cronies are essentially asking us to give back and go back. I say we must fight back — and go forward.
Maryland should stop blatant corporate welfare
By Paul G. Pinsky April 22
Twenty-eight years ago, as a second-year lawmaker in Maryland, I lamented my state’s leap into the corporate welfare sweepstakes. Maryland had just lost a bidding war with Pennsylvania for New York’s Eastman Kodak. To “compete” more effectively in the future, the legislature established a “Sunny Day” fund for bankrolling more generous future subsidies.
This new fund, the Economic Development Opportunities Program Fund, came with an interesting twist. Cash from it could go to companies already located in Maryland. Just by threatening to exit Maryland, any corporation in the state could pick up sweet millions in state tax dollars.
Maryland corporations today don’t even have to bother making a threat to pick up cash from the Sunny Day fund. They just have to ask.
Northrop Grumman did just that. This month, Maryland’s Republican governor, with strong support from Maryland’s Democratic legislative majority, handed Northrop Grumman a $57.5 million tax-dollar giveaway that included a $20 million payout from the state’s trusty old Sunny Day fund.
Northrop Grumman has no plans to leave Maryland and throw Marylanders out of work.
“We aren’t going anywhere,” a company official told lawmakers in Annapolis this winter.
Northrop Grumman isn’t promising to create any new jobs in Maryland, either. Under the terms of this latest subsidy, the company has to maintain only 90 percent of its current 10,000 jobs in the state and invest $100 million in capital, which it was planning to do anyway. Northrop Grumman, in other words, could lay off 10 percent of its in-state workforce and still collect millions of tax dollars from the citizens of Maryland.
The ultimate irony here? The new subsidy package includes a provision for a “tax credit” — essentially a tax refund — for Northrop Grumman.
One state senator asked a Northrop Grumman executive how much in Maryland corporate income tax the company pays.
“It’s complicated,” came the reply. The official went on to describe the $100 million in property, payroll and other taxes Northrop Grumman paid last year — and never proffered a figure for the company’s state income tax liability.
The real answer seems obvious: Northrop Grumman, a corporate giant with $1.9 billion in profits last year, likely pays no corporate tax to Maryland. I suspect Northrop Grumman diverts its Maryland revenue to shell companies incorporated in other states.
So there you have it: Maryland taxpayers are giving $57.5 million to a company that isn’t threatening to leave the state, isn’t required to create additional jobs and, in all likelihood, isn’t paying its fair corporate tax share. What a deal!
How does the Democratic Party leadership of a historically blue state like Maryland — we haven’t had a Republican legislative majority in either chamber in nearly a century — justify a deal like this? Not very well.
On the state Senate floor, I asked lawmakers eager to help out Northrop Grumman an obvious question. If this deal went through, I wondered, how could we say no to the next corporate heavyweight that comes to us for a handout? No one had an answer.
It seems that some Democrats still haven’t gotten the message that the corporate-friendly, Republican-light path gains us nothing. Sharp critiques of corporate welfare are clearly resonating powerfully with large segments of our society, as the presidential candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) shows. Yet a strange tone-deafness has befallen our blue-state leaders.
With millions of Americans upset about corporate welfare, our leaders remain fixated on what amounts to socialism for the rich. Where could we be 28 more years down the road? I shudder to think.
The writer, a Democrat, represents Prince George’s County in the Maryland Senate.
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