Under gray, stormy clouds, William Donald Schaefer was sworn in yesterday for a second term as Maryland governor. It was a fitting portrait: In the face of bad economic news and war in the Persian Gulf, Mr. Schaefer's public mood was upbeat. Realistically upbeat. He intends to remain an activist chief executive.
His immediate objectives are four-fold: comprehensive tax reform; statewide growth controls; crime prevention, and unifying Maryland. These he promised to accomplish while giving voters what they seemed to demand in November's elections -- better-run, lower-cost government with leaders willing to make tough decisions. "There's so much yet to do," he told the small, damp crowd outside the State House. "Together we can be bold."
Maryland cannot abandon the poor, the homeless, the elderly and the handicapped, he said. The rich and middle class "cannot turn their backs" on their fellow citizens seeking help.
Nor can counties turn away, for parochial reasons, from the rest of the state. Eastern Shore counties -- with millions in new roads -- should not oppose road work in the Washington suburbs. Montgomery County's gridlocked citizens should not deny Baltimore-area residents decent mass transit. Southern Marylanders should not oppose efforts to pump life into Western Maryland. As the governor noted, "when one area of the state is hurting, all pay" in higher government costs.
Mr. Schaefer's most urgent plea was for prompt consideration of the Linowes commission's tax reform proposals. It will take courage, he conceded, for politicians to do what they know is right. A comprehensive overhaul of Maryland's tax structure is decades overdue. The state's rich should not continue to profit at the expense of the poor and middle class. Implementing the Linowes recommendations would lead to a fairer tax structure, reduced property taxes, money to improve local schools, help for the counties and an income-tax cut for two-thirds of Marylanders.
Mr. Schaefer deserves strong support for his tax reform plan and his attempt to rationalize growth. No one wants to strip local governments of zoning decisions. Instead, the state wants to preserve green spaces and sensitive areas while focusing growth near existing development to keep all government costs down.
Maryland's depressed economy and its continuing budget problems mean Mr. Schaefer must adopt new strategies for his second term. The boom times that marked his initial four years have ended. Cost-efficient management now is essential. He will have to come up with creative, low-budget initiatives -- and work cooperatively with the General Assembly. Mr. Schaefer's message yesterday was that he is eager, and ready, to meet these challenges and continue his substantial record of achievement in Annapolis.