Maryland is one of the bluest states in the union. Obama won nearly 62 percent of the vote against McCain in 2008. Both of its senators and three-quarters of its representatives are Democrats. At the state level, Democrats control both houses with supermajorities, and its governor, Martin O’Malley, is a Democrat.Yet Maryland has just joined the fight against big blue. The Washington Post reports that Maryland Democrats are considering adopting public-private partnerships as the model for future infrastructure projects. In a radical departure from Democratic orthodoxy, the bill, which is advancing in the Maryland house, would
[m]ake it Maryland’s policy to seek out private partners to build, operate and maintain roads, bridges, schools, government buildings and most any other public asset.The practice, long supported by lawmakers in more conservative states such as Virginia, could allow Maryland to move forward with billions of dollars in projects that, because of debt limits, the state could not otherwise afford.
To be sure, there are distinctly Democratic fingerprints on the bill. To appease the powerful public-sector unions, provisions have been attached to ensure that “any jobs generated as the state hands off public assets would carry requirements that private enterprises pay living wages, ensure minority business involvement and put in place other labor-friendly protections.” Somewhat ironically, opposition has emerged from Republicans and from the state’s Chamber of Commerce, who fear the bill would reduce transparency in the bidding process.We’ll reserve judgment on whether this particular plan is a good idea until more facts are in, but it’s safe to say this is another sign of things to come. As states continue to suffocate financially, they will have to get more creative in their policy solutions. Maryland is not the first blue state to challenge the tenets of the blue model, and we suspect it won’t be the last. Rabid social Darwinists aren’t killing the blue social model; it is dying because it is too primitive, inefficient and crude to meet the needs of the contemporary world.