SYKESVILLE -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday that he intends to cover the state's current budget deficit without raising taxes and does not plan to propose a tax increase to balance next year's state budget.
Mr. Schaefer, who made his remarks during a campaign swing on behalf of Democratic candidates for the state Senate in Washington and Carroll counties, said he was not precluding a possible increase in the state gas tax, whose revenues go directly into the transportation fund.
The governor also said it was premature to say whether he might adopt any recommendations of his Commission on State Taxes and Tax Structure, which is not due to make its report public until Nov. 28. That commission, chaired by Montgomery County lawyer R. Robert Linowes, is charged with determining if the state's tax structure is fair and if the distribution of tax revenues among the state's jurisdictions is equitable.
Taxes and spending were clearly on the governor's mind yesterday as he and a bus load of aides traveled through Hagerstown, Eldersburg and Sykesville to give a lift to Democratic senatorial candidates Patricia Cushwa and J. Jeffrey Griffith.
Defending himself against charges by his Republican opponent, William S. Shepard, that he is a big spender, Mr. Schaefer repeatedly said, "Nowhere have I gone in the state of Maryland without someone asking for money."
And there is nowhere Mr. Schaefer has gone in Maryland in recent weeks that he has not reminded audiences how much money his administration has sent their way.
At a senior citizens apartment complex in Hagerstown, the governor -- who turned 69 yesterday -- whipped out a plastic-encased sheet listing every Washington County project the state has spent money on over the past four years. The tab, he said, was nearly $141 million.
Mr. Schaefer said the money was spent because the people in Washington County asked for the projects. Sharing both the blame and credit with the General Assembly, he added that not a penny could have been spent without legislative authorization.
At a shopping mall in Eldersburg, he repeated the refrain, although the list of projects changed and the price tag for Carroll County was $131 million. Again he defended the spending, saying it was not for his projects but for local projects.
In Washington County, where some still resent Mr. Schaefer's leadership in the gun control referendum two years ago, he campaigned hard for Mrs. Cushwa, who replaced her husband, Victor, in the Senate earlier this year on his appointment to the Public Service Commission. She is opposed by state Delegate Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, whose strong record of constituent service has made the race close.
In Carroll County, the governor tried to boost the candidacy of County Commissioner Griffith, who is also in a tight race with Republican Larry Haines. The major issue has been the candidates' opposing positions on abortion, although Mr. Griffith and his supporters also have tried to emphasize his government experience.
"If we have a drop of rain [on Election Day], it could go either way. It's that close," said Democratic Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, whose district straddles the Baltimore and Carroll County line.