Comptroller Peter Franchot was gracious enough to set aside time to meet with my Maryland Politics class today. Though the topic of his political future and the 2014 gubernatorial race never came up, I believe that my class heard key elements of Franchot's argument should he seek the party nomination.
I was especially impressed with the decidedly anti-partisan nature of his comments. And I do mean anti-partisan, not merely non-partisan. Franchot was equally critical of national party politics. He accused Democrats of using the issue of tax increases for the wealthy not as means by which to restore fiscal discipline, but rather a cynical effort to dived people and win votes. Likewise, he argued Republicans' insistence on tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts has noting to do with promoting economic growth, rather as with Democrats it's simply a strategy to divide and target elements of the electorate. In a state dominated by Democrats, the safe choice would be to criticize Republicans and embrace the Democrats, Franchot's criticism was risky and refreshing.
According to Franchot, the parties each have one central and overriding goal - winning elections. Not sound public policy, not responsible budgeting, and certainly not the common good - just winning for the sake of winning.
It was a refreshingly honest assessment of the sorry state of contemporary American politics.
When the discussion turned to Maryland politics, Franchot explained that he believes the tenuous nature of the economic recovery requires that Marylanders have some degree of predictability with regard to their finances. To that end he said he believes that state needs a moratorium on any tax increases. He singled out Governor O'Malley's proposed increases in the income tax burden of Marylanders earning more than $100,000 a year.
With regard to job creation, Franchot dismissed frequent Republican accusations that the state is hostile to business and instead offered perhaps a more damning critique - that the state's bureaucracy all to often seems indifferent to business. The Comptroller argued the state's bureaucracy has become too inefficient with too many redundancies.
When asked about the legislative session and whether there were any bills that he favored or opposed he quickly singled out the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act - otherwise known as BRFA - which he said is being used to push through tax increases in manor that limits debate and the General Assembly's input.
In a recent post I argued that in a four person race, the person best positioned to compete with Lt. Governor Anthony Brown would be the candidate with a message that resonates with Democrats outside of the I-95 corridor. Franchot may have the makings of a message that appeals to the folks in all parts of Maryland.
My students will be meeting with Howard County Executive Ken Ulman next month and I look forward to that meeting and hope to write a similar follow-up. I'm currently working to coordinate a meeting with the Lt. Governor.