K-12 Tax, Referendum & Spending Climate

John Judis:

Jerry is in his late 50s. He is a sales representative in Southern Maryland for a multinational corporation. He has a college degree and makes about $80,000 a year. He considers himself a “moderate Democrat.” He voted for Obama in 2008 and O’Malley in 2010. He says of Obama in 2008, “He was a breath of fresh air.” But after Obama became president, Jerry became disillusioned. He didn’t like Obama’s stimulus program. “I really think Obama messed up with all the money that we were giving out,” he said. He suspects that both Obama and O’Malley primarily gave the money to “their constituencies”—most notably, labor unions. In 2012, Jerry voted for Romney, whom he admired as a “businessman.” In 2014, he voted for Hogan. Taxes were an important reason. “Every year I seemed to pay more with Maryland state taxes,” he explained. “I am not happy with what is happening with the taxes. I don’t seem to be getting anything more from them.” Brown, he feared, would continue along the same line as O’Malley. “Hogan seemed to have the message,” he said.

Connie is in her mid-40s, a college graduate and a paralegal at a property-management firm. She lives in north Baltimore County. She was a Democrat until a month before last November’s election, and she voted for Obama in 2008 and O’Malley in 2010. In 2012, having become disillusioned with Obama, she voted for Romney. “I was disenchanted. [Obama] made a lot of promises. I have just seen our country turn around and go backwards,” she said. “I work in property management. The number of young people living on entitlement programs is overwhelming to me. I have seen it increase as never before.” Last November, she voted for Hogan. “I was upset with the number of taxes that I was being hit with as a single parent,” she explained. “We are overspending, and someone needs to get a handle on it, and perhaps a businessman was the best person to do that.” Connie supports abortion rights, but she thought Brown misrepresented Hogan’s position. “Hogan is not for repealing anything,” she said. She characterized Brown’s attempt to paint Hogan as a foe of abortion rights as a “political jab.” Hogan’s antiabortion position “didn’t bother me,” she said.

James is in his early 30s, a college graduate and a coordinator of services at a university in Southern Maryland. He lives in Howard County. He is one of the millennial voters on whom Democrats have rested their hopes. He voted for Obama twice and O’Malley in 2010, but in 2014, he backed Hogan. “I didn’t entirely like Hogan,” James said. “But I liked the idea of reining in spending.” He also thinks there was “some point” to Hogan’s attack on Brown as a tax-hiker. “The important thing with Brown is that he was likely to spend money. That would mean more taxes,” he said. James rejects the idea that Republicans are antigovernment. “Republicans are skeptical of government,” he told me.