ANNAPOLIS — Several Carroll delegates say they are not as confident as the governor that the legislature can make bold moves forward in these uncertain times of recession and the Gulf war.
In his State-of-the-State address Friday, Gov. William Donald Schaefer implored legislators tolook beyond difficulties, to "be bold, don't accept the status quo, step out with vision, new approaches and innovation."
He outlined an ambitious agenda he wants lawmakers to support, including proposals to impose a 5 percent sales tax on gasoline to allow transportation construction projects to proceed; revise the tax code to redistribute wealth among jurisdictions and generate additional revenue for education; and provide state government a larger role in managing growth.
Known for his "do-it-now" approach, Schaefer alsomentioned initiatives to preserve forests and open space, grant morefinancial aid for the college-bound, provide more state support for community colleges and streamline some government departments. The governor said many advocacy groups have beseeched him to continue and improve a variety of programs.
"They ask for more expenditures," hesaid. "The question now is: Where's the money?"
Carroll delegatessay the governor might have to do without many of the program improvements and policy changes he seeks this year, especially if they costtaxpayers more money. While they applauded the governor's optimism and compassion, the delegates said the address was somewhat lacking inrealism.
"I find myself coming away from the speech in profound disagreement with many issues he mentioned," said Delegate Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, naming the commissions that studied tax restructuring and growth control mechanisms. "I believe as the governordoes that we should try to move ahead to the extent we can with the budgetary limits.
"I just can't have as upbeat and optimistic a view as the governor has that we'll be able to do all these things withthe state of the economy."
Delegate Richard C. Matthews, R-Carroll, chairman of the county delegation, said he believes the governor "means well, is hard-working and sincere in all he wants to do."
But he said he opposes the governor's efforts to raise any taxes while the economy slumps. Instead, Schaefer should be looking for areas to cut spending and consider tax increases only when economic conditionsimprove, he said.
"There comes a time when you have to shift gears and maybe put it in neutral a little while to get through," said Matthews.
Carroll's delegation is opposed to the 5 percent sales taxon gas -- which, at $1.30 a gallon, would amount to 6 cents a gallon.
Delegate Lawrence A. LaMotte, D-Carroll, Baltimore, said the initiatives the governor is supporting will be reviewed this year in the legislature; whether they'll be acted upon "remains to be seen." However, the governor's message was a good one, he said.
"What the governor is trying to get across is, 'Hey, life goes on.' Just because there are bad times doesn't mean we can abandon our responsibilities as public officials and policy makers of government."
Although it was the first Schaefer State-of-the-State Address he has heard as amember of the legislature, Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, said he detected an attitude change in Maryland's leader.