Maryland State Overview
Already ranked relatively low in our previous index, Maryland declined further in 2009—10, mostly due to a slight, across-the-board deterioration in fiscal policy (government debt, spending, taxes, and employment).
Overall, however, Maryland remains better than average on fiscal policy. Its tax burden is average, but debt, public consumption plus subsidies, fiscal decentralization, and public employment are all better than average—in the case of consumption plus subsidies, far better (at 8.9 percent of personal income).
On the regulatory policy side, land-use planning is very centralized, local rent controls exist, eminent domain abuse is basically unreformed, there is no right-to-work law, health insurance mandates add a whopping 57.1 percent to the cost of no-mandate policies (an increase of over 6 percent in 2009—10), premium changes in small group and nongroup health insurance markets require prior approval from the state, cable and telecom remain unreformed, and occupational licensing is much more pervasive than average (however, the 2009—10 legislature deserves credit for legalizing independent nurse practitioner practice). On the positive side, Maryland’s court system is rated above average.
Where Maryland fails is the personal freedom dimension, where it is the second-worst-ranked state. Maryland boasts the seventh-strictest gun control laws in the country: carry permits are expensive and rarely issued; “assault weapons,” cheap handguns, and large-capacity magazines are banned; sales are banned unless by licensed dealers; and so on. Its marijuana laws are fairly harsh as well, except that the first offense of high-level possession is only a misdemeanor, and the state has an almost-useless medical marijuana exception. Maryland’s impositions on personal freedom also include extensive auto and road regulations, tight gambling laws, a ban on raw milk, a law allowing police to take DNA from certain felony arrestees, burdensome private and home school laws that require private school teachers to be licensed and effectively subject curricula to government approval, very high drug arrest rates (though incarceration and other victimless crimes arrest rates are low), lack of same-sex marriage or equivalent status (since enacted by the legislature and confirmed by popular vote), high tobacco taxes, and an airtight, statewide smoking ban. The only personal freedom on which Maryland is better than average is the freedom to consume alcohol: taxes on booze are low.
- Trim spending on housing and community development, parking lots, and corrections, where the state spends more than average. Lower income taxes, which are much higher than the national average.
- End rent control. This reform alone would have raised Maryland twelve places on regulatory policy.
- Strengthen the medical marijuana law by setting up a registry of patients who may legally possess the drug, decriminalize low-level possession, and reduce drug arrests. These policies will help reduce corrections spending as well.