Debate Recap: House of Delegates, District 29A

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Q: How would you assess the handling of the state budget over the last four years by the O'Malley administration and the General Assembly? What steps have been particularly successful or innovative, and what decisions were ill-advised and shortsighted? Please cite specific solutions on how you would address the long-term structural deficit.

Morgan: "Excessive. … The most successful [step] is the increased funding for education." He said the assembly "didn't pass a balanced budget," but relied on federal stimulus to close the deficit. "I'd cut the pork in the budget, legislative initiatives." He also called for "performance audits of Medicaid. … There's substantial fluff in the budget. We don't have a revenue problem so much as we have a spending problem."

Wood: "The budget has not been the way I think it should be. We have economic problems. …You can't borrow yourself out of trouble. … If you don't have it, you can't spend it. …We're living off of borrowed money." He said that the state used federal stimulus money to expand programs, rather than dig out of its structural deficit. The state will now have to cut its budget, and some cuts will hurt, he said.

Q: What specific initiatives do you have for improving the state business climate and getting more people off the unemployment rolls?

Morgan: "I believe we need to cut spending" to reduce restrictions and cut corporate, capital gains and sales taxes, making the state more competitive.

Wood: "Maryland is not a business-friendly state." He said that state gasoline and cigarette taxes are killing small roadside businesses near state borders. "As far as the little guy out here … these are the ones that are hurting. And we're not doing anything to help these people. We keep taxing small businesses more and more."

Q:The Environmental Protection Agency now has pledged to enforce penalties on states that don't meet Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals. What steps and/or new programs should the state develop to ensure compliance and help accelerate the restoration of the bay and the economic survival of those who make their living on the water?

Morgan: "Pennsylvania is going to be paying a lot of money then." He called for fixing the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant in Washington, D.C., and the Back River plant in Baltimore as well as "forcing the EPA to do its job."

Wood: "We're all environmentalists. We have tried many things. I don't think we've hit the right things." He said that the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant is one of the biggest problems in the region. "Money was supposed to be dedicated to upgrading sewage treatment plants." He said the state "did not sit down and talk to the watermen like they should have" and noted that the "most productive body of water we have," the St. Mary's River, has been closed to oyster harvesting as part of the state's sanctuary program.

Q: What is your top transportation priority? Please identify only one project, be it mass transit or highway.

Morgan: "Thomas Johnson bridge." If the federal government initiates a second round of stimulus for states, he said, "We should try aggressively to seek that money out for meaningful projects like the Thomas Johnson bridge."

Wood: "We have a problem, no question, as far as the [Thomas Johnson bridge] is concerned." He also said that Route 5, from Great Mills north, should be dualized. He said that a light rail system from Waldorf to the Branch Avenue Metro station would help St. Mary's County "a little bit."

Q: Should the state shift some or all teacher pension costs to the counties? If you support this move, please state how counties will be able to afford this new expense. If you oppose, please address how the state will continue to be able to afford this growing liability.

Morgan: "I oppose it. The state took that responsibility, and now they're just trying to shove it off to the county." He said the state should cut projects and spending to honor the pension payout. "You have to keep your word and give the benefit."

Wood: "The [pension] program is in place. You cannot take away what you have given. I think we need to come up with a time" to move some cost over to counties over a five- to six-year period until a 50-50 split is achieved. Still, he said, "All you're going to do is pass the buck."

Q: If elected, would you support the expansion of gambling to include table games or to add more sites in other parts of the state?

Morgan: "Yes. … My problem with the slot package is that it was designed to bring revenue to the state" but doesn't do that. He said he would support "a better gambling package" with table games and sports betting. He said the locations should be changed, but not increased, saying, "I don't want to see slots up and down [U.S.] 301 or Route 5."

Wood: "I've always been a supporter of video machines," so long as they are regulated. He said the state should move into table games, since neighboring states already are. "This is money we could be using to fund some of our programs."

Q: If the economy improves and the state budget outlook brightens, what would you do with the surplus revenue?

Morgan: "How is it going to do that?" If the economy recovers, he said he would "pay the bills off that we have currently mortgaged my grandkids' future with."

Wood: "Right now, we have a structural deficit of $2 billion that we have to address." He noted that it could be 2025 before the state achieves a surplus. However, he said, "Our highway system is going right to pot."

Q: Should the state of Maryland recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states? Do you support legalization of same-sex marriages in Maryland?

Morgan: "No, I don't support the legalization of same-sex marriages in Maryland," adding that the state shouldn't recognize them either. "We don't need states dictating to us what we will accept."

Wood: "No" to both questions.

Q: Should the Maryland General Assembly legalize medical marijuana to be sold at state-run dispensaries?

Morgan: "Absolutely not. … California legalized marijuana just to tax it. If you need to sell drugs to make up a budget gap, you need better legislators. I have no need for Maryland to become the largest drug dealer on the East Coast."

Wood: "I've thought about this for a long time. My real big concern is … you have people out here in the medical profession that see big dollar signs. For them, it's a big get-rich scheme."

Q: If elected, what one piece of original legislation would you like to sponsor and/or pass in the next four years?

Morgan: Said he would support "the overturning of taxpayer Medicaid abortion money." Using Medicaid money to fund abortions, he said, is "a misuse of taxpayer money and a black eye on the state."

Wood: "I've never been a big sponsor of bills." He said his role is being "sent up there to look at all of it and kill as much as I can." He said he would sponsor a strict immigration bill such as Arizona's. He said he wants to see immigrants have a sponsor, get a job, pay taxes and have a home.

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