2010 Candidate Interview: Jim Pettit (R-MD)

Jim Pettit is a candidate for House of Delegates in the 39th Legislative District. The district is currently represented by three Democrats, much like the 6th Legislative District where I live. The District was represented by Republicans in the early nineties – but has been represented by Democrats since. Pettit worked in the Ehrlich administration in the Maryland Department of the Environment and was one of the first members of the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security. Pettit was interested in being interviewed for Old Line Elephant.

Matthew Newman: What made you decide to run for the House of Delegates?
Jim Pettit: We need people in Annapolis who understand the dilemma Maryland is in when it comes to creating jobs. The alternative is watching incumbent public officials doing absurd photo ops every four years wearing tool belts and construction hats while Maryland bleeds jobs to other states.

Northrop Grumman, Computer Sciences Corporation, Hilton Worldwide, SAIC and Volkswagen North America all opted for northern Virginia over Montgomery County.  Thousands of jobs lost.  Why is that?

Maryland’s corporate income tax is 8.25% compared to Virginia’s 6%. The maximum personal income tax is 9% in Maryland compared to 5.75% in Virginia. Maryland’s sales tax is 6% and Virginia’s sales tax is 5%.

We must adopt a competitive tax structure. That will require strong legislative oversight of the executive branch so we can address Maryland’s chronic budget deficit. The one-party death grip we have in Maryland government guarantees lost jobs.

MRN: How do you feel your experiences / background will help you in the House of Delegates?
JP: Governor Ehrlich set up the Office of Homeland Security with just five employees, and I was one of them.  That required coordinating with every department and agency – some more than others – but at one time or another I worked with all of them.

I know how Maryland state government operates.  And I know how to make it leaner and more efficient. That requires legislators who take the power of oversight seriously and use it.

Bob Ehrlich and Ambassador Ellen Sauerbrey endorsed me because I am committed to making our government better perform its core functions ranging from public safety to creating jobs.

MRN: If elected, what would be the first piece of legislation you would propose in the 2011 legislative session?
JP: We need to get out of the thicket of anti-business laws already on the books that drive employers and jobs out of Maryland and make us look ridiculous to businesses deciding whether to locate here or somewhere else.

There are too many bills being introduced already, some 3000 this session alone.  I would introduce bills that repeal bad laws.  One example is the mandatory shift break law that requires retailers to document employee breaks at General Assembly-determined intervals or they will be subject to lawsuits.

MRN: In 2010, Maryland voters will once again have the opportunity to vote to hold a Constitutional convention. Would you be in favor of a Constitutional convention?
JP: This is a golden opportunity for Maryland to become a national leader in drawing rational political boundaries.

District 39 and Congressional districts 4 and 8 are case studies in gerrymandering. District 39 straddles both districts. I get an earful from people in CD 4 who believe, and rightfully so, that they should be in CD 8.

MRN: What is your opinion on the current slate of representatives from the 39th District, Delegates Barkley (D), Reznik (D), and Ali (D)?
JP: They win the silver medal for driving away jobs. Only one other legislative district in Maryland has a worse business voting record than district 39 delegates.

The district 39 incumbents have made a career of casting business unfriendly votes that drive away jobs. According to Maryland Business for Responsive Government’s 2010 Roll Call Report, they collectively rank in the 28% percentile – meaning 72% of their colleagues have a better business voting record.

All three of them voted to hit the little guy where it hurts. They voted to raise state-mandated auto insurance liability limits higher than surrounding states. No voter wants that. Special interest trial lawyers do, and they get their way with delegates in 39.

MRN: In 2006, the strongest Republican candidate only received 11.7% of the
JP: popular vote in District 39 compared to the lowest Democratic candidate who received 20.7%. How do you feel the 2010 election cycle will be different than in 2006?
Since 2006, we’ve had record deficits at every level of government, the federal bailout, the Great Recession, record tax increases and the Gulf oil spill, a national environmental catastrophe that affects voter sentiment in down ballot races.

Democrats, who comprise the majority of this district, do not want to see education, public safety and transportation compromised. They do not want the environment ruined while the President plays golf.

They are receptive to a fiscal responsibility message, because fiscal responsibility leads to jobs.  Jobs lead to a tax base and a solid tax base leads to good schools, good roads, cops on the beat and fully-funded environmental initiatives.

MRN: Under the “Economy” tab on the issues, you mention taxes, right to work legislation, and GSA-sponsored telework centers. What are some other broad economic measures you feel could help the State of Maryland?
JP: Maryland can’t print money. State-level fiscal responsibility enables real responses to real problems.  We don’t have that in Maryland because our political leaders refuse to address the state’s $2 billion structural deficit and instead enact weak election-year tax gimmicks.
The General Assembly passed, and the Governor signed into law, a tax credit that is $5,000 per hire. It’s funded at $20 million. That means that if 100% successful, which is unlikely, it would lead to 4,000 new jobs out of 230,000 people looking for work, a maximum effectiveness of 1.7%.

MRN: On your website, you say, “The General Assembly needs to use its power of oversight to review every penny of state spending, instead of delegating this authority to the three-member Board of Public Works.” What specific proposals would you recommend to help return this responsibility to the General Assembly?
JP: The General Assembly already has that authority, but they don’t use it. Under the Maryland constitution, the legislature can reduce the Governor’s budget. Since they do very little of that, the Board of Public Works does it for them. While 100-plus delegates trip over themselves introducing thousands of meaningless bills, Maryland’s budget deficit is papered over with transfers and fund raids.

I applaud Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell for submitting an alternative budget that reviewed state spending in great detail. He put a lot of work into that. He needs more votes.

MRN: On your website, you have three specific bullet points on health care. What do you feel the impact of the recently passed federal health care reform legislation package will be on the State of Maryland and how do you feel it should be addressed by the legislature?
JP: The legislature will not be a happy place when other vital services such as education will have to be cut to fund increased Medicaid eligibility. Maryland already has a state-managed health insurance program for those unable to obtain health insurance from other sources due to pre-existing conditions and other factors. For someone under 30, the premiums are nearly $400 a month.

The Maryland Health Insurance Plan is slated to become the government-administered exchange under the health reform law. I have no idea who can afford $400 a month, especially someone in their 20’s. And I don’t think people will be very pleased about being mandated to purchasing something that costs as much as leasing a brand new Lexus.

The Democrats sold this legislation by saying it will “bend the cost curve” while insuring millions without insurance. Very few people believe both can be done, including me.

MRN: In closing, what is one thing you want to ensure potential voters know about your candidacy?
JP: I’m doing more listening than talking right now. Politicians don’t listen very much.

I thank Mr. Pettit for his time. If you are interested in learning more about his campaign, you can check his official website here.

Cross-posted to Old Line Elephant