Thoughts From The Publisher's Desk
Fact: Governor Martin O'Malley wants a special session next month to discuss and later implement his proposed budget deficit plan, which includes a variety of tax increases and decreases.
Opinion: What's the rush? This $1.5 billion structural deficit did not occur over night and there needs to be more time to examine numbers that are speculative and discuss proposals lacking adequate details at this time. Special sessions cost Marylanders a lot of money, somewhere in the realm of $30,000 per day it was reported this week, and they are not always successful. A few years back, medical malpractice was an issue discussed in a special session, and most doctors will report the result was watered down and ineffective. This budget plan is complicated and comprehensive, and all sides need ample time to address the individual proposals, such as slots at racetracks and an increase in the sales tax. While the plan is expected to sail through the Senate no matter when it's put on the table for a vote, there's no guarantee the House of Delegates will sign off it, whether it be in a special session or next year.
Fact: Ocean City businesses could be among the most impacted if the state increases the sales tax from 5 percent to 6 percent.
Opinion: The proximity to Delaware and the fact Ocean City has a 1-percent food tax already justifies the attention of the Ocean City Mayor and Council. Currently, all resort establishments serving food apply a 6-percent sales tax to the total. That will jump to 7 percent in Ocean City if the sales tax is approved as expected. That makes no difference to me because when I dine out I expect to pay for the experience. For a $100 dining tab, the increase would mean an additional buck. That's not enough to convince me to forgo a restaurant in West Ocean City or Ocean City for one in Selbyville or Fenwick. If I go to Delaware, it's a matter of choice and has nothing to do with money. However, for many people faced with a decision of whether to eat out in Ocean City or sales-tax-free Delaware, many already choose the state's neighbor to the north because of the sales tax savings. Reason has it those numbers will increase if the sales tax hike is okayed. Whether it's in a letter or testimony before the hearing body, Ocean City's elected officials should let the legislators know about the potential local impact.
Fact: The White Marlin Mall movie theater is history and will soon be replaced by national retailer Michael's.
Opinion: I was a little sad to hear this. It had been rumored for years the theater was closing down, but word was it was going to undergo a renovation and re-open later after an extensive overhaul, which was badly needed. When I was growing up here, that movie theatre and Captains Pizza next door were popular hangouts. Because there's little else to do for teenagers in this area, nearly every weekend included taking in at least one movie at that theater. However, it's no secret the facility had fallen on hard times of late and needed to be improved. Nonetheless, it will be difficult to imagine West Ocean City without a movie theater.
Fact: The Ocean City Mayor and Council agreed this week to close about a mile of southbound Coastal Highway for the annual Christmas Parade in December. All traffic will be diverted to northbound lanes as a result of concerns expressed by the Worcester County Board of Education.
Opinion: The council's decision this week was a no brainer. Oncoming traffic is such a concern local schools had threatened to pull out of the parade if a change was not made. That would have been the death knell for this parade. Without the kids who are part of the elementary school floats and those playing in the high school bands and the parents who attend to support them, the parade would not be a success.