Peter Franchot pays visit to New 7th Democratic Club
Wednesday, 16 October 2013 11:34

Comptroller questions moves by his own party

by Ben Boehl

    Fresh off bringing a Dundalk issue to the table in a state meeting, Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot brought state issues to Dundalk last week as the guest speaker at the New 7th Democratic Club.
    Franchot recently made waves in Dundalk with his remarks at a state Board of Public Works meeting on Oct. 2, when he questioned Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials about the potential say for the state in the proposed sale of the Government Center.
    Debbie Staigerwald, director of the Sky is the Limit theatre program, which is housed at the Government Center, thanked Franchot for speaking out on the Government Center proposal.
    “It’s not my issue; it is your issue. But if the taxpayers want me to put up my hand in support and to ask the tough questions, I will,” Franchot responded.
    Although he was speaking in front of Democrats, Franchot was, as he often is, critical of his own party.
    “We have some tremendous rhetoric in Maryland. We are number one in schools, employment and this and that, but where are the jobs that the Democratic Party promised its members?” he noted.
    Franchot said he is unhappy that Maryland is ranked near the bottom of the country in wage growth. He is also critical of increases in the state’s gasoline tax, alcohol tax and tolls, all of which, he noted, disproportionately impact working people.

“Where are we getting our revenue from — the rich?” Franchot said. “No, our party has been hurting working families with these regressive taxes. It is bad because it takes money out of their pocket and they can’t buy goods.”
    Despite the critiques  of  his own party, Franchot said he is still a proud Democrat and believes his party is still better than the alternative.
    “I’m an old-fashioned Democrat and I still believe in the party, but we need to know who we represent. The Democratic Party has become complacent,” he said.
    “People know that Republicans are not going to help them, and that is why it is up to us.”
    Franchot officially filed for election to a third term as comptroller earlier this year, ending longstanding talk of a possible campaign for governor.
    “As soon as you get the [governor’s] job, half the people hate you,” Franchot joked as to why he decided not to compete with Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown and state Attorney General Douglas Gansler for the Democratic nomination for the state’s top job.
    When it comes to the current governor, Franchot has a history of friction with Gov. Martin O’Malley on issues such as slots and gambling, which he addressed at the meeting.
    Franchot said that he is still not a proponent of gambling but accepts the public’s approval of the issue in state referendums.
    “I’ve been an opponent of gambling and have been defeated twice,” Franchot said. “The money you read about the casinos making comes from middle class families. It is called an ‘involuntary tax.’”
    Eric Washington, vice president of the New 7th and a declared candidate for the state House of Delegates, asked if there was any revenue that the state could bring in that has not yet been tapped.
    Franchot responded that there is $175 million in untapped sales taxes on Internet purchases that has not been collected. He wants online sales to be taxed so its online retailers do not have an advantage over the state’s traditional retailers.
    “I don’t view it as a matter of a new tax, but something that is fair for all business owners in Maryland,” he said.
    Del. Joseph “Sonny” Minnick, whom Franchot complimented  as a “rare delegate with business experience,” asked the comptroller for his position on new gun laws that have recently taken effect in Maryland.
    Franchot did not give his opinion on gun laws, but said he is more concerned that policymakers are focusing on social issues instead of fiscal concerns.
    “I support most of the progressive legislation, but we have become so mesmerized with it that we have taken our focus off the economy,” he argued. “I’m urging everybody to concentrate the next three to four years on improving the economy.”