The Washington Times
O'Malley at swearing-in calls for unity
By Tom LoBianco
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Published January 18, 2007
ANNAPOLIS -- Martin O'Malley was sworn in yesterday as Maryland's 61st
governor, returning the state to one-party rule and setting the stage
for budget negotiations likely to dominate his first year in office.
Mr. O'Malley, a Democrat twice elected mayor of
Baltimore, took the oath of office shortly after noon, ending four
years of divided government between the Democratic-controlled General
Assembly and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.
In a speech delivered in front of the State House,
Mr. O'Malley, 43, focused on unity and compromise in addressing looming
budget issues, improving health care access and cleaning up the
environment. However, he offered no specifics and little insight into
his legislative agenda.
"We have choices to make as one Maryland: Choices
about our future, choices between the perils and possibilities of our
present," Mr. O'Malley said.
One of the choices will be how to reduce an
estimated $413 million deficit the state faces in fiscal 2008 and a
structural deficit of more than $5 billion over the next four years. A
structural deficit is the situation in which projected spending exceeds
Mr. O'Malley is set to release his proposed budget
tomorrow and release some details today. He has not announced whether
he plans to increase taxes or cut spending to address the deficits,
though he has pledged to increase school construction funding to $400
State Republican leaders said they were looking
forward to working with the new governor but were skeptical about the
"We like hearing some things, like the focus on
safety and security," said Senate Minority Leader David R. Brinkley,
Frederick County Republican. "Our concern is how we pay for a lot of
Maryland Republican Party Chairman James Pelura III
was more critical.
"After many expensive campaign promises, this
administration suddenly appears without any direction," he said. "These
are troubling signs from O'Malley."
More budget details are likely to emerge when Mr.
O'Malley delivers his State of the State address in two weeks.
Yesterday, Mr. O'Malley highlighted clean energy,
increased energy regulation, more funding for higher education and the
return of Smart Growth -- the signature, anti-sprawl initiative of
former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, also a Democrat.
Anthony G. Brown, who was sworn in as Maryland's
second consecutive black lieutenant governor, also appealed for unity
among state lawmakers.
"Progress requires partnership," said Mr. Brown, a
former Prince George's state delegate, "partnership that understands
that compromise is not easy."
Former Maryland leaders also offered their advice to
the new governor.
"Make sure to talk to lots of people," said former
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who left the State House with Mr.
Ehrlich, his wife and former Lt. Gov. Michael Steele. Mr. Ehrlich
defeated Mrs. Townsend in the 2002 gubernatorial race.
Mr. Ehrlich suggested Mr. O'Malley build on the work
he accomplished during the past four years.
"I was very proud of the work we did ...
particularly given the circumstances we inherited," he said.
Mr. Ehrlich also faced a budget deficit when he took
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, California
Democrat and a native of Baltimore, advised Mr. O'Malley to "be
himself" when governing.
Former U.S. Senate candidate and National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People leader Kweisi Mfume,
a Democrat, said Mr. O'Malley should "follow his heart and remember the
things that got him to where he is now."
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