Barely four months after the election that was supposed to have thrown out the tax-and-spenders in Howard County, union members are imploring residents and business leaders to ask County Executive Ecker to tax and spend.
Ecker will be a hard sell; the county executive was swept into office, after all, by a wave of anti-government sentiment. Now, faced with dwindling revenues and simultaneously fighting to head off a taxpayer's revolt, he has announced a plan to cut the budget by 16 percent, lay off at least 200 government employees -- one out of every nine county workers -- and keep 100 currently unfilled positions vacant.
The county's unions charge that such deep cuts will compromise critical health and safety across the board. Ecker has responded with partisan finger-pointing, criticizing his Democratic predecessor, Elizabeth Bobo, for spending too much. But the fact remains, Ecker's plan will leave 300 positions unfilled -- one-sixth of the county's jobs. There is no way that many positions can remain vacant without compromising services.