Bay Weekly Conversations
Gov. Martin O’Malley In His Own Words
with editor and publisher Sandra Olivetti Martin
The governor breaks down climate change and the regional crab rescue while defending a controversial Anne Arundel County veto.
Bay Weekly Climate change legislation was defeated in Washington, D.C., last week, as it was earlier this year in Maryland. As the governor of a state particularly at risk, what is your next step as far as controlling greenhouse gasses?
Gov. O’Malley We’ve done a number of things that will all have a bearing on climate change. Among those things are our Empower Maryland program to reduce energy consumption 15 percent by 2015. Another is our joining a regional greenhouse gas initiative with other Northeastern states to allow us to invest in conservation and reducing energy consumption.
We did have a bill [in this year’s General Assembly] called Climate Change Solutions Act. One way to look at it is that it very narrowly failed. I choose to look at it as if that nearly passed. The fact that that bill nearly passed should give all of us hope for the next session.
There were some amendments offered, a lot of positive discussion, good conversations with people fearful of losing jobs, at Bethlehem Steel [for example], and I assured them that these reduction goals were collective goals and not to be applied uniformly to every single entity in the state.
With EmPOWER Maryland 2015 and the clean car legislation, we felt we were moving a long way down the road toward getting to that first benchmark. Bigger initiatives like this Climate Change Solutions Act typically take a few years in order to generate and attract consensus.
We’re all going to keep talking and keep trying to find middle ground that will allow us to make progress against climate change.
Bay Weekly Will finding the middle ground be what it takes to get it done and your next step?
Gov. O’Malley Yes. The legislature is in session every year, usually just once, so we look forward to the next session and being able to talk to partners and stakeholders in the meantime. We’re hopeful it will pass next year, and if not then the year following.
Also, I want to say, we need a federal government that’s committed to this. So I’m hopeful and optimistic that under President Obama, our whole nation will commit us to an Apollo-like mission to lead the nations of the world in combating climate change and developing clean and renewable sources of energy.
Bay Weekly So you don’t plan on another special session this year?
Gov. O’Malley Golly! I hope not. I’ve had my fill.
Bay Weekly You and Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine are pioneers in regionalism in your efforts to restore blue crabs. Since Chesapeake Bay knows no boundaries, do you see other ways to collaborate on saving the Bay and its species?
Gov. O’Malley Yes. Gov. Kaine and I and our Departments of Natural Resources took action necessary to restore our blue crab population. As you know, the blue crab population has declined by about 70 percent over the last 15 years. We hope to bring it back as quickly as we possibly can. And together we are pursuing some federal resources thanks to Sen. Mikulski’s leadership and senators in Virginia to make sure our watermen do not suffer severe economic hardship because of this 34 percent reduction of the female catch.
In addition, Gov. Kaine and I and other Chesapeake Bay governors have some goals on increasing forest coverage in the Bay region. We were also there together to cut the ribbon of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project.
And we have joined a collaboration with business leaders on both sides of the Potomac to craft a Chesapeake crescent vision for this remarkable area. Through that, I think you’ll see a lot more collaboration on energy conservation, environmental restoration as well as workforce development.
Bay Weekly What do skyrocketing gas prices mean for the operation of state government?
Gov. O’Malley Everything becomes more expensive, as it becomes for every business in America. There are some things the state doesn’t control, among them the price of food, gas and oil and the damage that $3 trillion in debt from Iraq can do to the buying power of the dollar.
All of the operations of government become more expensive, and some streams of revenue, like the gas tax, which we affirmatively decided not to raise, you’re going to see that decline a bit as people drive less.
Fortunately, at the Special Session we diversified our funding streams so we’re less dependent on the gas tax and dependent a little bit more now on corporate taxes and a portion of the sales tax revenues.
Bay Weekly On the subject of the revenue stream, are you upset by the determined efforts of comptroller Peter Franchot to stop slots in Maryland?
Gov. O’Malley No, not really. I think most people have made up their minds. The fact of the matter is that hundreds of millions of dollars leave our state every day to go into building roads and schools and funding other things in West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. I think most Marylanders want to see this loophole closed. Because the proposal is limited and under state controls, I think the voters will approve it rather than putting us back into a situation where we’re facing deficits again.
Bay Weekly You have been a proponent of nuclear power and have been to Calvert Cliffs recently.
But isn’t it the case that after four decades of nuclear generation, we still have no idea what to do with the accumulating radioactive wastes from the cores of nuclear reactors? Aren’t you concerned about this highly radioactive spent material stacking up on this thin strip of land along Chesapeake Bay?
Gov. O’Malley I am concerned about many things, as are your readers. As Ted Turner said about the choice between coal and nuclear: He’s totally for nuclear because while nuclear just might kill you, coal will definitely kill you.
We have a lot of work to do on finding solutions that will allow us to use coal and burn it cleaner. And we also have a lot of challenges on storing nuclear waste as well. Or finding the technologies and science that allow us to make it less toxic so it can be stored more safely.
All of these things need to happen. Hopefully, we’ll have a federal government willing to invest in America’s future rather than one that runs up the credit card on our grandchildren.
Bay Weekly Your veto of $100,000 for reimbursement to Anne Arundel County for successfully investigating a hazardous fly-ash dump has been interpreted as political even petty.
You said you didn’t want to start a precedent of counties coming hat in hand to the General Assembly …
Gov. O’Malley That’s not what I said. I said I was not opposed to doing something. First of all, the state also investigated that case. Secondly, in the veto I said this is not a policy that should apply to just one county. We should do it on a statewide basis.
[Anne Arundel County Executive] Leopold has hired the former mouthpiece for the Maryland Republican Party [Audra Harrison} as his press secretary. I’ll let her speak for him.
For my part, I wasn’t opposed on a statewide basis for working some kind of reimbursement out. I was opposed to doing it just for one county. The $100,000 is a very, very, very small amount compared to the tremendous increases that the O’Malley-Brown administration has invested in Anne Arundel County for school construction, for roads not to mention biting the bullet on fiscal responsibility at our level so that Anne Arundel County would not be forced to raise their property or other taxes.
Bay Weekly Does O’Malley’s March have plans to play this summer, perhaps at the Democratic National Convention?
Gov. O’Malley O’Malley’s March has no plans to play this summer, though every year we do play at Baltimore’s Irish festival.
Bay Weekly How about your plans? Does Hillary Clinton’s defeat mean your loss of a prominent speaking role in Denver?
Gov. O’Malley I don’t know. I did that once, and I enjoyed it, and it was a great honor. To do that once in a person’s lifetime is the most anyone can hope for.
Bay Weekly Will you be doing anything this fall on Obama’s behalf?
Gov. O’Malley I enthusiastically support Sen. Obama. I will do everything I can to help him become the next president of the United States. As far as the convention, [Maryland 7th District Congressman] Elijah Cummings has agreed to serve as cochair of our Maryland delegation. I’m looking forward to standing next to him when he calls out Maryland’s roll.
Bay Weekly You’ve already had an event for the delegates to the convention, so you’re coming together?
Gov. O’Malley We had a meeting the other night. Everybody’s excited and united. Of course those us who supported Hillary Clinton are disappointed that our candidate did not win. But we supported her because we thought she was a great candidate.
We supported Sen. Clinton or Obama because we liked these two compelling strong leaders not because of the dislike of one or the other. So I think we’re going to be able to heal and come together.