The anxiety in suburban Washington flowing from cuts in state aid has been answered with Christmastime furloughs, still more belt-tightening and local tax proposals. The latest fiscal aerobics come as no surprise. Montgomery and Prince George's counties are reeling from yawning gaps in tax revenue and slashed aid from Annapolis.
There are signs that the tough-times message is being heard. In Montgomery, where anti-tax sentiment pushed through a cap on property tax increases last fall, County Executive Neal Potter is calling for an steep jump in the energy tax -- which was just hiked in April -- to help suture a $57 million shortfall in this fiscal year. Montgomery Council President Isiah Leggett doesn't want to boost the tax again, but notes, "We're at a point where we don't have many options."
Prince George's County, facing a $37.5 million shortfall, wants to trim another $5 million from schools on top of $7.5 million cut a few weeks ago. County Executive Parris Glendening may have to renege on his promise not to fire more workers in Prince George's, where the payroll has shrunk by 1,000 slots from layoffs and a hiring freeze.