Friday, May 27, 2011

$24 Trillion in Unfunded Liabilities... Apparently Somebody Else's Problem

from CNS News
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he was not willing to change Medicare despite the fact that the program has an estimated $24.6 trillion in unfunded liabilities--the amount of money the government is obligated to pay, above what it gets in tax revenue, to honor future benefits under the Medicare program.

At Reid’s weekly press conference on Tuesday, asked the senator, “According to the Medicare trustees, Medicare’s got $24.6 trillion in unfunded liabilities – how many of those trillions in unfunded liabilities are you willing to cut to bring the program into solvency?

Reid said, “As we speak, as I indicated what we did with the health care bill I think that was a tremendous step in the right direction, a half-a-trillion dollars -- but we are not, in all the programs that we’re talking about, we’re not in favor of changing Medicare as we know it.”

Medicare’s actuaries project $24.6 trillion in unfunded liabilities through 2085.

Reid forswore changing “Medicare as we know it,” saying that Congress must keep the promises it made to future retirees.

“We have a responsibility to take care of our senior citizens,” Reid said. “I’ve told some of you this before and I’ll repeat it again; my first elected job was on a large hospital district in the state of Nevada. When I was elected to that body we had no Medicare, and so 40 percent or more of the people who came into that hospital who were seniors had to have somebody sign for their bill.”

“And if they did not pay it, we would go after them [with] the collection department,” he said. “While I was on that board, Medicare came into being and Medicare, while an imperfect plan, now allows people who are seniors who are sick to go into a hospital. That’s what it’s all about.”

Medicare is projected to owe $24.6 trillion more than it will collect in taxes over the 2011-2085 time period, meaning that it will need $24.6 trillion in cash infusions from the Treasury Department. The Treasury will have to raise that cash through higher taxes, higher debt, or both.
The program either needs to be either funded OR funded AND changed, but Harry Reid's promise is to do "nothing". The Democrats are on a path to bankrupting both the Medicare/Medicaid programs AND the country.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Maryland's New Green Energy Source - Your Trash

from the Baltimore Sun
Gov. Martin O'Malley has decided to sign into law controversial legislation that categorizes incinerated trash as a renewable energy source on par with wind and solar generation.

Wednesday morning update: Check out this article by The Sun's Tim Wheeler.

O'Malley called the legislation "but one part of a comprehensive solid waste management approach."

The Democratic governor's final bill signing for the 2011 legislative session is Thursday, and O'Malley had publicly struggled with whether he would approve the measure. Many environmental groups strongly oppose the waste-to-energy plan, fearing it will discourage recycling and undercut other green energy efforts, such as solar and wind.

“After careful deliberation, I have decided to sign Senate Bill 690," O'Malley wrote in a statement. "Our State has an aggressive goal of generating 20% of our energy from Tier I renewable sources by 2022 and we intend to achieve that goal through as much in-state energy generation as possible. This will require a diverse fuel mix including onshore and offshore wind, solar, biomass including poultry litter, and now waste-to-energy if we are to realize our 20% goal."

In his statement, O'Malley said he remains committed developing an offshore wind farm -- a plan the legislature rejected this year in favor of a study. Entire statement after the jump.

“After careful deliberation, I have decided to sign Senate Bill 690. Our State has an aggressive goal of generating 20% of our energy from Tier I renewable sources by 2022 and we intend to achieve that goal through as much in-state energy generation as possible. This will require a diverse fuel mix including onshore and offshore wind, solar, biomass including poultry litter, and now waste-to-energy if we are to realize our 20% goal.

“Maryland is not alone in this determination. Over half of the states that have a renewable energy goal classify municipal solid waste as a renewable fuel. European countries that are many decades ahead of the United States in reducing their carbon footprint and their reliance on fossil fuels make broad use of modern waste to energy facilities and employ comprehensive recycling efforts in order to land fill as little waste as possible. In fact, Sweden, a leader in this arena, sends 45% of it’s waste to waste-to-energy facilities, recycles 41%, and has reduced the quantity of waste going to land fills by 50% over a 1994 baseline.

“Despite the success of recycling programs in our State, including in Harford and Montgomery counties, where existing waste-to-energy facilities coexist with robust recycling programs, the reality is that Marylanders generate tons of solid waste each and every day. If there is no waste-to-energy facility available, these tons of trash are simply dumped into landfills, no value is derived from the waste, and our State continues to rely on coal-fired generation to account for 55% of our energy needs.

“Therefore, the question is not whether waste-to-energy facilities are better for the environment than coal-fired generation or better for the environment than the land filling of trash, but rather whether waste-to-energy facilities are better than the combination of coal and land filling, based on the best available science. The answer to that question is a qualified ‘yes.’

“On carbon emissions, those greenhouse gases that degrade our environment and contribute to global warming, waste to energy facilities are better for the environment than the combination of coal generated electricity and land filling of solid waste. With regard to sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions, waste-to-energy facilities are generally lower per megawatt hour electricity generated than coal fired generation. And on mercury emissions, the answer depends on how thoroughly mercury containing items are sorted out from the waste stream before the combustion process occurs.

“Mercury emissions are the most worrisome aspect of waste-to-energy facilities, but can be limited through vigorous regulation. To this end, I have instructed Maryland’s Department of the Environment to strictly regulate the amount of mercury emanating from both existing and proposed waste-to-energy facilities in our State. This is not enough, however. We must also remove mercury from the waste stream altogether; my Administration is considering legislative proposals to ensure that happens.

“This legislation is but one part of a comprehensive solid waste management approach. We made progress last week, when I signed into law House Bill 817, which increases our education efforts on composting and requires the Department of the Environment to conduct additional study of the issue. I want to keep moving forward, however, to a zero waste environment. Last year, the General Assembly created a study group to evaluate additional steps that can be taken to increase commercial recycling and reduce plastic bag usage. The group is also looking at electronic recycling measures, bottle deposits, beverage container recycling issues, and long-term funding for such measures. A final report is due in December of 2011. I am hopeful that recommendations from the study group will be implemented through the regulatory and legislative process.

“With this decision, I also reaffirm my commitment to bringing offshore wind to Maryland. It is only through a diverse, renewable fuel mix that we will be able to reach our aggressive goals, protect our precious environment, and create the economic engine to move Maryland forward.”
This is so funny... in order to meet an artificial legislative target, we simply stretch the meaning of the term's "renewable" and "green". What's the governor's next pencil-whipping target going to be, "educational excellence"? ;)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Brave State Legislators v. More Unfunded Mandates from Annapolis

from the Baltimore Sun
Sen. President Thomas V. Mike Miller made a pitch this week to use the upcoming special session to erase the state's structural deficit and solve a persistent funding transportation funding problem.

To achieve the goal Miller floated one of his favorite budget policy ideas: Shifting the costs of teacher pensions to the counties.

The idea is one that terrifies county leaders since it would add a new burden to their already strapped budgets. Miller suggested making up the difference with new taxes and tackling the transportation issue with "greater contributions from the users and the beneficiaries of our public infrastructure."

In a letter he sent Monday to Gov. Martin O'Malley and all 188 members of the General Assembly, Miller called moving the pension costs "good fiscal and public policy" and pointed out that if the locals paid the full amount -- $1 billion -- the state's structural deficit would no longer exist and the state could "finally talk about what we can do to best position Maryland's future in the new economy."

In 2010, the Senate passed a measure that would have eventually moved $337 million in pension costs to the counties, but it died in the House. Speaker Michael E. Busch has repeatedly said that his chamber does not have the votes to make the pension changes.

O'Malley flirted with the idea of off-loading pension costs this year, but decided to table the issue until the General Assembly cut benefits to make the retirement plan more sustainable.

Most of the talk about the special session, which has to be called so lawmakers can approve a new map for congressional redistricting, has focused on fixing the transportation trust fund. That fund is separate from the state operating budget. It pays for improvements to roads, bridges and trains.

A Blue Ribbon Commission Report on Transportation Funding published earlier this year estimated that an extra $800 million is needed for state projects. Ideas to raise money include:

* Increasing the current 23.5 cent per gallon tax on gas. Each penny increase equals $32 million in revenue for the state. Speaking at a Chamber of Commerce dinner recently, O'Malley said that he does not like relying solely on a "traditional" gas tax increase because the revenue stream will decrease as cars become more fuel efficient and people use public transportation.

* Index the gas tax to the Consumer Price Index (O'Malley has previously tried and failed to index the tax to the Construction Price Index). This could raise $66 million for the state according to the report.

* Apply the 6 percent sales tax to the purchase of gas (this would be on top of the 23.5 cent tax.) It raises $580 million.

* Increase fee for vehicle emission testing from $14 to $24, a change that would raise $15 million for the state

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Gentlemen, Man your Petitions!

from the Harford County Dagger

From John Paff:
On April 11, 2011 the Democratic leadership in the Maryland General Assembly, to the detriment of Marylanders, chose the citizens of foreign nations over their own. When Governor O’Malley signs SB167 granting “In-State Tuition” to illegal immigrants, he will further entrench Maryland as a sanctuary state! Currently, it is estimated that Maryland spends over $1 Billion annually on illegal immigrants. Granting in-state tuition to illegal immigrants will further add to the list of reasons for migrating to Maryland, adding additional burden to the legal residents of Maryland who are trying to put their own children through college.

“We the (legal) people” of Maryland have decided to take action and bring SB167 to referendum on the 2012 presidential ballot. To prevent this bill from taking affect on July 1st 2011, we need to collect just over 15,000 signatures by May 30th and have a total of 55,736 signatures by June 30th. Last year , on a referendum petition in Montgomery County, nearly 60% of the signatures were declared invalid. For that reason our goal is to collect 35,000 and 100,000 signatures respectively. This referendum is not being led by the Maryland GOP, but rather a bi-partisan effort of groups and citizens all across the state! The rules for collecting signatures are very specific, so if you plan to collect signatures please read them very carefully! You can find the petition, as well as, all the rules and talking points at The referendum campaign is chaired by Delegate Neil Parrott (Dist.2B) and Honorary Chariman Delegate Pat McDonough (Dist. 7). I, John Paff, am the Harford County Coordinator and can be reached at for further information. All of Harford Counties Republican clubs, as well as, Campaign for Liberty will have copies of the petitions on hand at their monthly meetings.

A select few have made a bad decision for Maryland and her children, now is the time we make our voices heard!

John Paff
Harford County Coordinator

More info