Roadmap for Maryland Produced by Team Lorton In dedication to all future generations of Marylanders. May this be a place to want to raise a family. May this continue to be The Free State. The Equal Opportunity and Entrepreneurial Agenda: Fiscal Responsibility, Taxes, Transportation, Education, and Health Care An Agenda for a Civil, Free, and Prospering Society: Protecting and Promoting Small Business and Families Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness in the 21st Century: Defending Natural Rights for All Marylanders Maryland’s Natural Resources: Safeguarding the Environment, Securing Energy Production, and Preserving Maryland’s History Introduction After listening to thousands of people, their concerns, and reflecting upon my own beliefs, I have decided to create a document called the Roadmap for Maryland, a product of policy proposals and solutions, especially about how to create a business friendly environment that will facilitate the creation of jobs. The Roadmap is filled with ideas and solutions for The Free State. This is my commitment to you, the voter: I will try to implement as many of these ideas as possible if I am elected. What follows is not perfect, but I hope is the start of a larger conversation of finding ways to make Maryland the best state. Beyond my own ideas and constituents, ideas have come from other elected officials, writers, and thinkers I respect. One of the biggest concerns from all voters is their disenchantment with career politicians. Voters I meet want their elected officials to face up to reality of the current economic situation and live up to the task they were elected to carryout, as well as propose common sense solutions, and quit the divisive political games and lies. I will never compromise on principle, but will be open to finding compromise when it makes sense and is in the best interest of the residents of Maryland. I will work with anyone who will work with me. I have knocked on over 15,000 doors in the sweltering heat, pouring rain, and in the Blizzard of 2010 (just kidding. Then I was making calls). I will work hard to tackle the challenges and issues before us. Sincerely, Kyle Lorton The Equal Opportunity and Entrepreneurial Agenda: Fiscal Responsibility, Taxes, Transportation, Education, and Health Care Fiscal Responsibility In order to create jobs we need to incentivize businesses to expand by setting priorities and making tough choices. Raising your taxes again and postponing decisions aren't the right solutions. Nor should Maryland become like California and ask for a federal bailout. Too many times politicians - including Republicans in Washington over the last decade -- talk about fiscal responsibility but then spend like they are not accountable to the voters. Conventional wisdom says that in an election candidates running for office need to avoid talking about making cuts, but I would argue that we need to be honest about the problem. We must make the tough choices now. If we don't then we will continue following the path of becoming more like the state governments in California, New York, and New Jersey, three states on the verge of various forms of bankruptcy due to fiscally irresponsibility. Why is practicing fiscal responsibility so important? First off, it is the moral thing to do to not leave future Marylanders to clean up our mess. Moreover, while Maryland has a constitutional requirement to balance the budget, for too long this has been achieved through questionable accounting methods, such as borrowing from the rainy day fund. We can do better. As a voter you deserve better. It is also important to maintain Maryland’s AAA Bond rating. The bond rating is important to economic growth and creating jobs. Impressively, we are only of six states two receive this top rating from from all three major rating agencies. Yet we risk losing it. Moody’s, widely recognized as the best of the three agencies, called the state’s depleted retirement system a “credit challenge.” The $33 billion system has 65 percent of the funds needed to meet future obligations, and the analysts concerns echo a sentiment raised in February by The Pew Center on the States. According to the Baltimore Sun, Moody’s pointed out that Maryland’s retirement system is funded at “a lower level than most similarly rated states.” So what can we do together? There are some necessary fixes to implement that will improve the fiscal situation if implemented and will change the spending culture in Annapolis. There are also much larger ideas on how to tackle the much larger structural deficit problems that force-sleight- -of-hand accounting. Please read this and join the conversation that I have been having with thousands upon thousands of Howard County and Maryland residents over the last year. Privatize Emissions Test Stations • In New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is doing this. It is a good way to improve operations, cut costs, and bring money to the state. Privatize Rest Stops • Virginia is doing an excellent job of attempting to privatize rest stops. This will cut costs, improve the operations there, and bring money to the state in terms of revenue. Review Whether Maryland Should Increase Auditing of Pharmacy Reimbursements: • In North Carolina a recommendation was made to audit pharmacy overpayments in the state’s Medicaid program. In Washington State they did this and there was an average 162 percent return on investment. Join a multi-state consortium to buy Medicaid drugs, heavy equipment, etc: • Another recommendation by a North Carolina report was to take advantage of larger economies of scale can better position states participating in purchasing coalitions to negotiate deeper discounts for prescription drugs covered in their Medicaid program. For instance, the state of Louisiana reported a savings of $301 million in fiscal year 2009 due to their participation in a multi-state drug purchasing coalition. Purposeful and Transparent Budget Analysis: • In Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed a law that now require all budget items to have a listing of “Why they are important enough to spend taxpayer money on” and “How are you going to measure the use of the money to make sure you were successful?” This should be done in Maryland and be published in a transparent manner. Acquire Federal Waiver to Ease Costs of Medicaid and Improve Delivery of Care • Medicaid takes up a large amount of the budget each year. As such, we need to consider doing what other states across the country have in terms of applying for a waiver so we can make reforms that will improve care and save money. Look at Louisiana for instance. Governor Jindal plans to steer working-poor Medicaid recipients out of the current "fee for service" program, where the state pays a set rate for all health-care charges (some 54 million this year). Instead, they'd choose among private managed-care plans, with Louisiana paying a fixed per- patient amount, adjusted for health risks. Essentially, Mr. Jindal wants to use Medicaid dollars to fund something like private insurance. That way, physicians and hospitals will be compensated for outcomes -- rather than volume of visits and procedures -- and get incentive payments for good performance. Such a "defined contribution" plan is one way to get health costs under control. Though this isn’t a proven idea, it is something Maryland should look at. Other states are pursuing reforms too. Medicaid allows states the flexibility to experiment like Mr. Jindal, but it requires a federal waiver. Maryland needs to get a waiver as well to pursue different but necessary reforms. Do Not Replace Retiring Workers With New Workers: • Maryland is going to lose tens of thousands of workers due to retirement over the next decade. This reality presents us with a perfect opportunity to reduce spending without having to reduce the paychecks of any family. Over the last 30 years we have seen private sector productivity shoot through the roof. Why does government continue to fill jobs in public sector when we become more efficient in the private sector? • As your State Senator I will work to pass legislation that forces government to do more with less and optimize advances in technology. Companies do more with less but government seems to do more with more and fails at more. When companies have to do more with less and cut costs while increasing productivity, bloated government bureaucracies continue to expand. This is not a radical idea when families across Maryland are tightening their belts. Define then Destroy Pork Barrel Spending: • Before we can eliminate unnecessary Pork Barrel Spending, we need to establish a bipartisan consensus on the definition of pork. Then we must use open source collection of information more effectively to spotlight where money is going and who is getting the contracts. For example, we need to eliminate $1.4 million spend on a dog park or on a $2 million live concert hall in Silver Spring. We do not need to spend $2 million on a closed bridge in Baltimore County with a sign that says "No Trespassing- Bridge Closed." • It is true that pork barrel spending does not eat up much of the budget but it does “grease the skids” for bad legislation. By this I mean that a Delegate or Senator may not want to vote on a huge bill but does so because receive a long-sought after project for their district. I will work hard to get non-profits and grants o the district. Evaluate and Potentially Eliminate Commissions: • Evaluate the purpose of each commission and eliminate unnecessary ones. Maryland has over 300 commissions. Some undoubtedly perform important functions, but even seemingly important ones should be reviewed. Independent Audit of State Spending: • If elected I will ensure that there is an independent audit of state spending. Gov. O'Malley promised this and still has not delivered. Meanwhile, he has increased positions in his own Executive Office while cutting positions in public safety and corrections. Gov. O'Malley's has raised salaries (over $600,000 in top management positions) symbolizes his spendthrift policies for tax dollars. Gov. O'Malley has decided to open a new Office of Technology. He cut positions in Veteran's affairs while protecting the more than 7,000 political appointees he gets to appoint. I will oppose proliferate spending and make sure we have an independent audit. Limit Health Care Costs for State Employees: • I will push for Annapolis to enact a program for its state employees similar to which exists in Indiana. Several months ago their Governor, Mitch Daniels, detailed the program in the Wall Street Journal. In the Journal he explained that if they select to be in the Hoosier HSA program, each employee receives $2,750 per year to put into an account that he or she controls. As predicted, the employees are more conscious about how they spend their money because if they don’t spend it they can keep it and use it for larger medical expenses. As Gov. Daniels has pointed out, in 2009 over 70% of the 30,000 Indiana state workers chose it, and according to an analysis done by Mercer Consulting, the state's total costs were reduced by 11% solely due to the HSA option. • I will also have us look at Minnesota's program. As the governor in Minnesota asks, “When people buy food, clothes or cars, they compare prices and quality, so why should health care be any different? That is why they have created incentives for public employees to be wise health- care consumers and given them the information to make smart decisions. Under their system, if patients go to a high-quality, low-cost clinic, they pay less; if they don't, they pay more. As a result, the vast majority has migrated to more cost-efficient health-care providers, and we've seen zero or small increases in premiums since 2005. Deal with Pension Obligations in a Fair but Honest Way. Do not pass the buck: • We need to rewrite the rules for individuals who are joining the system but for people who have organized their retirement and have played by the rules they need to receive their pensions. But for people who have reached a certain life point where they have planned for and come to depend on the pensions, then we must keep them in place. But in general we must re- negotiate for state workers under a TBD age. We must do that now to avoid bankrupting the state. Propose Across the Board Budget Cuts for Agency Planning: • In the first session I would propose a law that would require to prepare for 2% cuts in the next four sessions. Agencies would therefore slice money over a period of time and the governor would have more political cover. It would be essential that that agencies prepare for how to make cuts rather than the governor just calling for them. The reason for this is because the cuts would be approached under the leadership of people in the agency who are interested in improving the agency. I would make the case that we are trying to make government more efficient and therefore we would see budget cuts as a result. Bureaucratic institutions review their entire operations from top to bottom to see how to achieve their agency's goals at lower costs. The law would then force the governor to create a budget proposal off of the secretary's recommendations. By forcing departments to identify cuts, we will actually force government to be more responsive to citizens at a lower cost. By having the cuts designed from within, they will be done to keep the integrity of the mission of the department and the focus as much as possible. • I would want the Maryland Governor to follow the model of Virginia's Democratic Governor Mark Warner in this respect. Gov. Warner did manage to reduce spending by using a very effective method that we need to employ here in Maryland, just as many governors are doing elsewhere. In 2002, facing a large state budget gap officially pegged at $3 billion and expected to grow, Warner required all state agencies to submit contingency plans to ensure they were still operational even if he proposed 7, 11, and 15 percent cuts in state funding. He then used this information to make across the board cuts. By preparing ahead of time to make cuts. Agencies were able to streamline services more effectively. • In Annapolis we need to take the same prudent steps to reduce spending and, as important, make government more efficient, another effect of the budget cut contingency plans. We tried a similar idea in Maryland this past session that would have brought total budget growth to 0% and would have left the state with a significant fund balance to protect against future write downs. This amendment proposed by Del. O'Donnell was rejected (27-99). If framed the right way, this is a debate that we can win. It is about making government more efficient and responsive: if they plan cuts in advance, the experts can devise innovative ways to achieve department goals and spend less money. Taxes Families are hurting in large part because politicians in Annapolis keep raising taxes. From our sales tax, income tax, small business, property taxes, to our corporate tax, taxes are too high. This needs to end. But it won’t so long as career politicians are in office. I oppose higher taxes on working class families and entrepreneurs because as a businessman I have seen first hand how they stifle economic growth and unfairly penalize those who create jobs and wealth. Also, as someone who works for a company that does business globally, I see how the national corporate rate hurts job creation and economic growth. I would take it upon my self, District 13, and the State to lobby Congress for lowering the corporate tax rate to lower than European countries where it is much lower. We need to compete better globally. In order to create jobs we must not drive businesses away with high taxes. Yet that is what is occurring. For instance, CitiGroup announced it will shut down an operation in Frederick County. Before that, BP Solar and JP MorganChase announced they will lay off a combined 1,000 Marylanders in Frederick. Solo Cup announced it will shut down its 550-employee plant in Baltimore County this Fall. Northrup Grumman, in Bethesda Maryland, chose to relocate to Virginia rather than Maryland. Families and businesses understand that taxes are too high in Maryland. In fact, Maryland has recently been ranked 5th highest in the nation in state and local taxes paid by its citizens per capita. We currently sport a tax burden that is worse than 45 other states according to the Tax Foundation’s yearly ratings. The Tax Foundation’s 2009 Business Tax Climate Index tells us that Maryland currently has the worst ranking on personal income tax in the nation, beating out California for the #1 spot. It's also important to note that raising taxes has not helped us reduce the deficit even though Governor O’Malley and the Assembly pushed through $1.3 billion in tax increases in order to “put Maryland's fiscal house in order.” The Governor said that we would receive $20 million in increased revenues by taxing high income earners. It should be noted that these wealthy are also job creators and tax payers. We need these people to stay in Maryland and pay taxes here. However, as the Republicans argued on the Senate floor, the result of the tax was to force the these job creators out of Maryland. When the tax returns came in for 2008, some estimates show that over 1/3 of the former taxpayers didn’t file taxes. They changed their residency to outside of Maryland. The result: $100 million drop in tax revenue. This is why I support: • Repealing the recently passed 20% sales tax and tax on higher income earners. • Ensuring our taxes are lower our neighboring states such as Virginia and Pennsylvania, • Putting in place a temporary moratorium on taxes in the biotech sector. • Lowering the personal income tax. • Creating tax breaks and incentives to create jobs in abandon buildings and schools. Transportation • Good transportation systems are needed throughout Maryland to improve flow of goods and people and help improve the economy. I believe one way to improve transportation without raising taxes is to use more toll roads. This is free market economics. The key here is that we must also lower taxes and spending at the same time. More tolls, lower taxes! • I also am a firm believer in mass transit. This is a societal good because it helps people who do not have other means of transportation move around. In general though, tolls are the driver of the future because they force taxpayers to deal with economic reality. It is a fair way to pay for transportation because it is the people using the highway that have to pay for them. • Also, from an environmental point of view, toll roads may encourage people to carpool more. • Taxpayers will pay for highways one way or the other. The only question is whether taxpayers get the choice of whether to buy in or not; toll roads create that freedom, and good transportation creates a job-creating environment. Education Education is one of the preeminent issues of the 21st century, yet even the Baltimore Sun points out that the current politicians in power have failed Maryland’s youth. On December 22, 2009, the Sun editorialized that “when it comes to making substantive reforms to the education system, [O’malley] is not so eager.” The current administration, including Senator Robey, have not initiated the types of reforms necessary to improve the education system in Maryland so our citizens can reach their utmost potential. I support making sure that parents have control of their children’s education so that these diversified needs are met to the utmost potential. Education is an issue that Democrats and Republicans can agree transcends parties as it affects everyone. Indeed, many groups and non-profits have organized to move us towards reforms. The Maryland Assembly must support efforts by groups such as...... Without a strong education system that is diversified to meet the needs of ALL Marylanders, we will not be able to compete economically in today’s world. High quality education should extend to not only those attending elementary and secondary schools, but also those who are enrolled in community colleges, public universities, vocational schools, public-private institution/ventures, and even those seeking rehabilitation while incarcerated. • Beyond parental control we need to explore more reforms as far as what we teach, how we teach, and who controls the school and how that directly influences teachers and the students. Every student has individual needs that cannot be met under one homogenized system. However, in Howard County, we have excellent public schools. As such, as your state senator I keep a watchful eye on state spending to ensure that as much money from the coffers of Annapolis flows directly into schools instead of being averted into overhead and administrative services. • Even though Howard County schools are among the best in the country and even though I am running to represent Howard County, it is also important to focus on the schooling across Maryland, especially in troubled spots like Baltimore City and Prince George's county. After all, Marylanders must be given the tools to succeed in the 21st century. • Finally, by equipping our children with these tools we will also help keep taxes low for all Marylanders. Here is how: A well-rounded economic base will provide a good tax revenue stream that will help all Howard County residents. In terms of taxes, the more successful Baltimore City residents are the less dependent they will be on transfer payments in the form of food stamps, welfare, and education dollars, for instance, from citizens of Howard County. The state government can influence how well our education system prepares our youth. A well educated populace provides a better work force for businesses to draw on. In order to recruit and retain businesses and families, as well as create new jobs, we must have a strong education system. Expanding Medical Access and Make Care More Affordable Rising medical costs bankrupt families and shutter the doors of small businesses. Meanwhile, our modern economy demands a modern health system, and, currently, our health care “system” is a relic of World War II wage controls. According to Stuart Butler, Ph. D., writing in a project for The Brookings Institute, “For most working-age families health coverage is connected to the work place. But because people switch jobs much more than they used to, this needs to change and adapt to the goals and needs of today’s work force.” Further, the Federal Government should reform the tax treatment of healthcare to focus help on lower-income families by allowing individuals to purchase healthcare in the same tax-advantaged way as business does today. In short, we need reform. Because of how important health care coverage is for each Marylander and because of how much much we need reform, though I did not support the President Obama’s health care law, I did and still support a different reform bill. The Patients’ Choice Act of 2009 would complement private‐ sector prevention efforts by improving government prevention initiatives in a cost‐ effective and measurable manner. Beyond the Patients’ Choice Act of 2009, which provides universal coverage, there is a lot we can do with personal ingenuity prevention and without government solutions. According to various studies five preventable chronic conditions -- heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes -- consume around 75% of our health spending and cause about 66% of American deaths. A lot of our health care spending can be reduced through individual effort and without government money. We need to remember that we are an inventive country and that the private sector has a lot to offer. Private companies can often be good at facilitators insurance because they have a reason to invest in their employees. For instance, take a look at what Safeway is doing. They are rewarding healthy behavior. While costs in America have skyrocketed, since creating their plan in 2005, Safeway has kept our per capita health-care costs flat (that includes both the employee and the employer portion), while most American companies’ costs have increased 38% over the same four years, according to CEO’s article in Wall Street Journal. This is just one of many examples of why, rather than empower the Federal Government, we need to empower the entrepreneurial spirit of America. By doing so, more Americans will make healthier decisions about their lives freely and without being forced to do so in an undemocratic manner. In the current system, patients and physicians have little incentive to restrain or even scrutinize their consumption of medical resources. Because of third-party payments, patients have little disincentive to not want extra test and doctors have big incentive to give it because that is how they earn money and they want to avoid lawsuits. Employers have different incentives than employees. They buy one size fits all plans rather than allow employees to shop around. • One reason why costs in Maryland are so high is that health-care providers are paid for number of procedures rather than performance. We should consider following the idea in Minnesota to measure and set up performance metrics for providers and make the results public. • We need to reduce junk law suits in MD. Because of these lawsuits doctors to pay insurance costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. These costs are passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices for health care. • Costs must become more transparent. What other goods or services do we buy without knowing the the price? Former Senator Gramm summarized one of many fundamental problems in our health care system recently when he wrote, “for every dollar’s worth of health care that Americans received last year, they paid a dime and somebody else paid 90 cents. If you bought food the way you buy health care--where 90% of everything you put in your basket was paid for by your grocery insurance policy--you would eat differently.” • Without government assistance, hospitals should embrace Dr. Atul Gawande’s concept of “The Checklist.” http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2007/12/10/071210fa_fact_gawande. Though I believe the Patient’s Choice Act of 2009 would have improved health care delivery and increased health affordability without relying on the Federal government, I will put forth some of my own thoughts on how to improve the system, lower cost, and expand coverage regardless of what happens or doesn’t happen on the national level. As your elected representative I will work to pass sensible laws to lowers cost and expand coverage. A Civil, Free, and Prospering Society: Protecting and Promoting Small Business and Families As a Maryland State Senator, beyond just using the bully pulpit to encourage young men and women to avoid having children out of wedlock, I would bring forth legislation that would encourage and promote a civil, free, and prospering society by protecting and promoting small businesses and families. Everything is connected. If we can grow small businesses in Maryland and the number tax-paying-families rather than number of subsidy-receiving-families, than we will be able to lower tax rates. Meanwhile, schools can have the benefit of stronger families, stronger communities, and more local jobs. Protecting small businesses is very important because they make up large percent of new job creation. Many are also by family owned. Small businesses are important because they contribute to the local community since they are by their very nature attached to the local community. Family businesses are great because bring families together and strengthen familial ties. Helping to strengthen families and small businesses should be something that everyone can get behind. After all, President Barack Obama wrote in Audacity of Hope that “[C]hildren living with single mothers are five times more likely to be poor than children in two-parent households. Children in single-parent homes are also more likely to drop out of school and become teen parents, even when income is factored out.” And we can do something about it. In the Audacity of Hope, President Obama wrote that “research shows that marriage education workshops can make a real difference in helping married couples stay together and in encouraging unmarried couples who are living together to form a more lasting bond. Expanding access to such services to low-income couples, perhaps in concert with job training and placement, medical coverage, and other services already available, should be something everybody can agree on.” One of the architects of welfare reform, Robert Rector, Ph. D., wrote, “Marriage education can help at-risk individuals appreciate the role that healthy marriage can have in meeting long-term life goals and can enable them to make decisions about childbearing that best match their life aspirations. These programs can also provide training in life partner selection and in skills that help to build healthy enduring relationships. Such programs should not be regarded as imposing alien middle-class values on the poor, but rather as providing vital tools to help individuals fulfill their real life goals.” So before Maryland spends more and more money on a dysfunctional educational system in Baltimore City, for example, we should consider spending more time talking about the importance of marriage and how it benefits society from an economic and social point of view. Promoting stable families and marriage will improve the education system and lower taxes. Also, this will lead to less crime and more jobs. Like education reform, these should be something we can all get behind. • Make voluntary marriage education widely available to interested couples in low-income communities. This could be done by expanding the small "healthy marriage initiative" currently operating in HHS. These programs may also provide job training to participants, but that should not be their primary emphasis. • In 1998, the governor of Florida signed the Marriage Preparation and Preservation Act, making the teaching of marriage skills a part of the high school curriculum. The act also encourages premarital preparation by reducing the marriage license fee by 50 percent for those who complete a marriage preparation course. • Create a tax credit for those taking pre-marriage courses. • In 1998, Florida became the first state to make learning marriage skills a part of the high school curriculum when Democratic Governor Lawton Chiles (D) signed the Florida Marriage Preparation and Preservation Act. In Maryland we could make it an optional class. Since curriculum should emphasize what the state wishes children to know improve civil society, emphasizing marriage should be acceptable. • In 2000, the Maryland legislature passed legislation that would establish programs to encourage marriage education but the bill was act was vetoed by Parris Glendening. We should revisit the issue. Although America has invested trillions of dollars in social programs since the War on Poverty began in the 1960s, welfare dependency, juvenile crime, child abuse, school underachievement, drug abuse, suicide among children, and many other problems have increased. We spend much less to reduce out-of-wedlock births and divorce--the two principal causes of single-parent families in America. Let’s invest in building stronger communities. Maryland’s Natural Resources Safeguarding the Environment, Securing Energy Production, and Preserving Maryland’s History We must protect the Chesapeake Bay because environmental, cultural and economic benefits of the bay are immense. We also must ensure that Maryland’s unique history is treasured not only for posterity but also for prosperity. We have tourist attractions and we must make better use of them. I would like to work to make sure that the recent laws that have impacted septic systems are implemented properly. I will also focus on the following: Clean energy Cleaning up the bay Reducing nitrogen levels Protecting our farmland Preserving our forestThe Natural Rights Agenda No issue is as fundamental to the lives of the citizens of the Free State as our Natural Rights. I am a firm believer in these rights as outlined in the founding documents of our nation and our state. From the Declaration of Independence to the United States Constitution to the Declaration of Rights in the Constitution of Maryland (yes it is part of Maryland’s Constitution), the rights of the individual are clear and should be protected and not be infringed upon by any government law or regulation. These freedoms have proven to be the basis for a society that is the envy of the free world. While recognizing that there is much more to this issue, let’s look at these rights from the generalization provided in The Declaration of Independence: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Life – The term “right to life” has become synonymous with the abortion issue. While this is a powerful and polarizing issue, it truly encompasses much more than that one issue. Here are some examples to illustrate what I mean: Health Care – It is every citizen’s right to make their own health care decisions. The government has a duty to provide regulations and programs that ensure quality; affordable healthcare is available to the citizens. It is NOT the place of government to decide which doctor, insurance plan, or treatment option the citizen will use. We need common sense, fiscally responsible AND sustainable answers. Personal Defense – I believe that everyone has the right to protect themselves and their families from malicious harm. 2nd Amendment rights play a crucial part in ensuring this right. Current gun laws need to be examined and reformed, repealed or amended using common sense and empirical evidence to be in keeping with this most basic right. Did you know that there are current gun laws that cost Maryland taxpayers millions of dollars each year, yet the Maryland State Police Forensics department says these laws are totally ineffective and should be repealed? I agree with our experts. Liberty - This essential right goes to the heart of many different issues. To put this in perspective, I believe that all laws and regulations must pass a litmus test that ensures they serve a purpose for the common good of the citizens, yet are not oppressive. They must reflect that government originates from the People inclusively and does not discriminate against any individual, period. Government laws and regulations need to provide a level playing field while not stifling the ingenuity and diversity of the People that makes Maryland such a great place to live, work and raise a family. The Pursuit of Happiness – This most basic of rights is at the core of all government issues. It encompasses all laws and regulations that a government enacts. Health care, business law, taxation, even laws concerning our state parks affect each citizen’s ability to pursue their vision of Happiness. I read recently that the average American pays about 62% of his gross income in Federal, State and local taxes. That means that we have only 1/3 of what we earn to take care of our families. Let’s shine a light on how this affects the average homeowner. A responsible mortgage is calculated at 42% of your gross income. If the government takes 62%, that leaves you 4% in debt before you begin to feed, clothe, and provide for your family or build a business. It is no wonder that we have a debt crisis in this country. We must get government spending under control before we can provide for the Pursuit of Happiness. Summary – As I said before, this Roadmap is a draft. I realize that the issue of Natural Rights covers more territory than I have outlined here. I hope this gives you an idea of my commitment to protecting and supporting these rights for all of the citizens of the Great State of Maryland. It also shows how important it is to rein in government spending and control, if we are to retain our most basic human rights. I welcome any input that you may have on these or any other issues. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s work together towards a bright future for Maryland.