Baltimore County's Dilemma

November 03, 1990

Most Baltimore County officials predict a 2 percent cap on the increase in property tax revenue would be a disaster. Yet recent polls suggest voters simply refuse to believe that prognosis.

Arbitrary spending limits have wreaked havoc wherever they have been tried. Just ask Californians. They voted for Proposition 13 and saw that this economizing measure wore them threadbare.

Or ask residents of Prince George's County. They are still recovering from the devastation of TRIM, a dose of bad budgetary medicine. Baltimore County tax cap zealots say they can cut government costs without service cutbacks or human suffering. It is another promise of receiving something for nothing.

The timing of the proposed cap could not be worse. School enrollment is again increasing rapidly, requiring more teachers, material and new schools. On top of that, the price of gasoline, heating oil and all petroleum-based products essential to the delivery of county services is rising rapidly.

Baltimore countians have a sound alternative to the 2 percent ceiling and its negative consequences: the 4 percent limit on increased spending that County Executive Dennis Rasmussen and the county council have pledged to honor. That limit would not fully compensate for inflation; yet it would give the county enough flexibility to weather stormy economic seas. It also would help the county to keep its coveted triple-A bond rate, which allows it to borrow money at low interest rates.

Baltimore County's economic health is not based only on prudent governmental spending. It also requires ability from voters to avoid injuring the county with such self-inflicted wounds as Question T.

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