As the financial picture in the State House continues to deteriorate, it becomes increasingly obvious that the burden of making ends meet rests with local government. Even now, the Schaefer administration is contemplating slashing $100 million in state tax grants and education and police aid. Part of this might be averted by a major tax increase, but this necessary fiscal antidote is far from assured. "We need the county executives and we need the guy on the street who realizes his services are going to be cut," said Sen. Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
At least one county leader has seen the handwriting on the wall. Anne Arundel County Executive Robert R. Neall ordered his department heads to slash spending by an average of 1.6 percent to make up for the roughly $10 million the county stands to lose in state aid. "If we begin planning now, we will be well positioned to face our share of any bad news that comes from the State House," said Mr. Neall. He is not relying solely on belt-tightening to avert a financial crisis, either. Mr. Neall appointed a diverse coalition of civic, professional and political leaders to find ways to reduce county government's dependence on property tax dollars and is mounting an effort to identify those services most important to taxpayers.