In what surely will turn out to be a special blessing for Roger Hayden, the Baltimore County voters seemed to have vented all their frustrations over rising taxes on Dennis Rasmussen. In something of a surprise, voters decisively rejected the cap on property taxes. Had the county voted for the cap, Hayden's chances for a successful administration could have been crippled from the outset: In effect, he would have been elected to do certain things, and yet deprived of the tools necessary to carry out the task. So it was Hayden's good fortune that voters were sensible enough to see the contradiction in wanting to have the cake and eat it too.
Even so, with a 4 percent cap already in place, the first order of business for the new County Council will be a somber one: To come up with objective criteria for holding the line on spending in order to avoid a future tax revolt which might be successful. The only logical course is for each department to absorb any revenue shortfall commensurate with the percentage of the budget it comprises. It is a harsh prescription, to be sure. But it is the beginning of the tough choices the county will have to make.