Petty political games, tax hikes and gambling held them up from performing the work of the people, the mainstream media said. But the real missing piece in Maryland's legislative equation was the leader of our state, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley.
O'Malley is running for president. He is a second-term governor and chairman of the Democratic Governors Association. He is also willing to do anything, short of jumping into I-95 traffic, to garner national media attention. Between his appearances on "Morning Joe" and "Face the Nation," O'Malley appears to have forgotten about hardworking taxpayers here in Maryland.
Since his re-election in 2010, O'Malley has mentally checked out of the state, using our annual legislative session not to govern Maryland, but as a soapbox for national causes. This year was no different. While most Marylanders still feel like they're in the Great Recession and want serious economic reforms, O'Malley used the first few weeks of the session to push gay marriage -- an obvious ploy to keep up with 2016 rival Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., who passed it last year. Days after the bill signing, he traveled to South Carolina, where he bashed Mitt Romney at a Democratic Party event in Myrtle Beach.
Meanwhile, legislative leaders from his own party began to openly grumble about his lack of participation back home. O'Malley's carelessness was apparent when he continued to advocate for an extremely unpopular gas tax hike even after he was told by both House Speaker Michael Busch, D-Anne Arundel, and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert and Prince George's, that it was dead on arrival.
O'Malley also failed to manage the priorities in both the state Senate and House. After it was clear legislative leaders weren't willing to compromise on the budget, O'Malley was too disengaged to force them to the bargaining table.
The final result is embarrassing. The governor was too busy running for president to accomplish the one thing he was hired to do: balance the budget. This turn of events begs the question: If he can't even manage a legislature in Annapolis, where members of his own party outnumber Republicans by more than 2-to-1, how could he possibly handle the intensely partisan United States Congress?
This specific incident is a symptom of a deeper problem. O'Malley has never been a leader. Throughout his tenure as governor, and as mayor of Baltimore before that, O'Malley has repeatedly refused to tackle big problems. Whether it's taxes, state employee pensions, transportation funding or the state budget, O'Malley has always played the blame game and chosen political gimmickry instead of the heavy legislative lifting necessary to address our long-term economic needs.
A fundamental quality in an American president is leadership. In the next decade, our leaders could be facing the collapse of Medicare, a debt crisis and a nuclear Iran. We need someone willing to tackle our most pressing issues head-on. Hopefully Maryland's embarrassing 2012 budget controversy will warn the rest of America of O'Malley as the careless show horse we've come to know here at home, and not the man they want leading a national ticket in 2016.
David Schwartz is Maryland state director of Americans for Prosperity. He can be reached at email@example.com.