Gov. William Donald Schaefer wasn't about to let the war or the poor economy get him down.
Schaefer scanned a banquet hall full of county business people Tuesday night, and his gaze fell on J. Randall Evans, secretary of the state Department of Economic and Employment Development.
"Don't I tell you I'm optimistic?" Schaefer asked Evans, to whichthe secretary stood up and replied, "He's the most positive governorin Maryland."
The state needs that degree of optimism to forge ahead, rather than becoming paralyzed by a recession and war in the Persian Gulf, Schaefer told members of the Anne Arundel Trade Council.
Speaking at the trade council's annual legislative dinner, the governor repeatedly touted measures to preserve the state's economic health and proposals to collect a state gasoline sales tax, to overhaul the state's taxation system and to manage growth statewide.
He urged support from Arundel's business community.
"You may ask, 'Why doyou feel so good? Usually all in a funk, didn't get enough votes andcrying like a little baby,' " Schaefer said. "We've got the greatest opportunity right now, great bills in front of the legislature. People tend to say wait a minute, there's a war on. Wait a minute, the economy is down. Someday the war will be over. Someday the recession will be ended. Will we be ready?"
Schaefer has pitched a 5 percent sales tax on the price of a gallon of gas in addition to the current 18.5 cents a gallon tax. The new tax would channel $1.5 billion over the next five years into the state's Transportation Trust Fund. The fund pays for maintenance programs as well as new roads, bridges and transit projects.
"In Anne Arundel County, you haven't made up your minds on the gas tax," Schaefer said during the dinner attended by county State House delegation members. The tax, he said, will determinethe fate of $216 million worth of county road projects. "Who's goingto help us do this? Us."
If the General Assembly fails to pass a tax increase, lack of money could kill plans to complete expansions of U.S. 50 and routes 32, 3, 10 and 100, County Executive Robert R. Neall has said.
The governor also urged support for the Linowes Commission tax reform proposal.
The gubernatorial commission, headed by Montgomery County lawyer R. Robert Linowes, recommended raising $800 million in one year through new taxes and shifting some of that income to the state's poorer counties.
The commission proposed placing a greater tax burden on the rich, raising the state sales tax from 5 percent to 5 percent and imposing a 2 percent levy on cars and boats.
"When I was out campaigning everyone told me the state needed a tax restructuring program," Schaefer told the trade group. Linowes "has come up with a remarkable report. It's not complicated. If I canread and understand it, it's not complicated. It should pass."
But after an election in which voters ousted many longtime legislators in protest of rising taxes, legislators have vowed to vote against new taxes this year.
Besides restructuring the tax system and finding new sources of income for roads and light rail, the state should adopt the proposals of the 2020 Report on statewide growth management and environmental protection, Schaefer said.
The Governor's Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region called for legislation -- now before the General Assembly -- under which local jurisdictions would submit growth-management plans to the state.
Counties would berequired to place each acre within their boundaries into one of fourland-use categories and limit development in rural and ecologically sensitive areas.