When John O’Malley worked at the Food and Drug Administration, he said he saw many of his coworkers leave Montgomery County and even Maryland to avoid the taxes levied by the county and state.
Many of the people were high-wage earners, and would commute from Pennsylvania or West Virginia, O’Malley said.
He said increases in technology and telecommuting possibilities mean that more than ever people can work at facilities based in Montgomery County without having to live here.
“Technology now is making that available,” he said.
The migration of high-earning taxpayers out of the county is a signal that Montgomery needs to lower taxes and focus on providing core governmental responsibilities such as roads, bridges, schools, police, fixing potholes and removing snow, he said.
O’Malley, 62, of Silver Spring, is running as a Republican for the District 4 Montgomery County Council seat currently held by Councilwoman Nancy Navarro (D) of Silver Spring.
Now retired, O’Malley lives near Ashton and operates a small sheep farm.
While their families come from the same county in Ireland, he said he’s not aware of any relation to the more famous O’Malley in Maryland politics, Gov. Martin O’Malley (D).
They’ve never met, but he jokes that the governor may have partially cost him a spot on the county’s Republican Central Committee in June’s primary election.
Asking Maryland Republicans to vote for anyone named O’Malley may have been too much, he said.
He’s candid in saying that he’s running for the council seat because the central committee asked him to, but he also believes government should limit its involvement in people’s lives to providing basic services.
The county has to balance out net-positive taxpayers, who don’t consume many county services, with net-negative taxpayers who use more in services than they pay in taxes, he said.
To do that, Montgomery can’t pursue policies that encourage high-earners to leave the county, he said.
O’Malley said he understands the need for a reasonable level of taxation, but believes Montgomery has gone beyond that threshold.
He points to money in the county budget for the arts as an example of non-essential spending.
“I’m in favor of the arts,” O’Malley said.
But when the county has schoolchildren in portable trailers because of a lack of classroom space, roads with potholes and neighborhoods that hire their own snowplows in order to get them dug out faster after a storm, he sees such spending as unnecessary.
O’Malley describes himself as a civil libertarian, and said part of personal freedom means being able to keep as much of your money as possible.
His libertarian impulses stretch into other areas.
On a national level, O’Malley said he’s troubled by the increase toward what he called a surveillance state, in which people have begun to “self-censor” what they say on the phone, who they email or what those messages contain for fear that the FBI, NSA or some other government agency might be listening in.
On a local level, he said the County Council and county government should not cooperate with anything it sees as a violation of citizens’ privacy.
The government shouldn’t be listening to phone calls, O’Malley said.
“If they want to know what we’re thinking, they can ask us,” he said.