A Handful Shows Up To Put State's Finances In Order

November 11, 1991|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff writer

Barrett McKown wants more money for the county libraries. Jim Quinn doesn't think the state needs to have a lieutenant governor. And Howard Schindler wants all state workers to take a 3 percent pay cut and have the savings reinvested in bonds.

These are just some of the ideas that a small group of county residents came up with Saturday during the first Citizen's Cabinet, called by the governor to get opinions on how state money should be spent.

Participants offered a long list of ideas that officials promise will be seen by Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

The residents, representing communities from Annapolis to Brooklyn Park, suggested everything from selling Baltimore- Washington International Airport to eliminating the property assessment office to lowering the sales tax to boost the economy.

But most people who spoke in the Anne Arundel Community College auditorium simply couldn't understand why the state can't be as fiscally responsible as the average homeowner.

"I don'tprofess to know anything about how a state budget is put together," said Bob Funk of Pasadena. "But I do know how to run my household. And what is plain to me is that the state government does not run the same way we do at home.

"They keep throwing money in without knowing how they are going to pay for it," Funk said. "And then when they get a shortfall, they don't know what to do."

Funk, who has survived two sets of layoffs at Westinghouse, said the state should be run like a business and make decisions without caving in to special-interest groups. He blamed Schaefer for some of his actions, such as getting into shooting matches with citizens, and state residents for not caring.

"The governor should start acting like a governor," he said."And the people ought to get concerned enough to come out to these things and start coming up with some solutions."

The gathering at the community college in Arnold was one of many town meetings held Saturday in virtually every Maryland county. George E. Surgeon, head of the Citizen's Cabinet for Anne Arundel, blamed the news media for failing to publicize the meetings early enough.

Newspapers serving the county printed stories on the town meetings Friday. Surgeon said that after the stories appeared, he received hundreds of calls, but fewpeople could make it on such short notice. He said he would scheduleanother meeting soon.

"The Citizen's Cabinet is an excellent idea," Surgeon told the half-dozen people who had arrived by 9:30 a.m. "If you can reach the people, we will be well on our way to some improvement."

The six residents said their piece, then left. Others trickled in until noon, all getting a chance to tell Surgeon -- who will report to the governor -- how the state economy could be improved.

Some speakers, like McKown, decried state cuts in programs. McKown is a biology professor at the community college and president of the Anne Arundel County Library board. He wants more money spent on libraries.

"A library is not just a place where you stack a bunch of books on a shelf and people come in and check them out," he said.

He noted that textbooks for his class now cost $100 each.

"It is unbelievable that the cost has gone up like that," he said. "Books for the library are just the same."

Quinn, an Annapolis resident, wasn'tready for more spending of any kind. "We don't need a lieutenant governor," he said, calling the job meaningless.

He also complained about cronyism, saying too many of the governor's friends are working in state offices "not doing anything."

And the state police could use some trimming too, he argued, especially where guarding Schaefer is concerned.

Schindler of Pasadena said one way to boost the economy would be to give every state worker a 3 percent pay cut, then return the money to the employees in the form of savings bonds.

He also said that the sales tax should not be raised above 5 percent, warning that consumers are already scared to buy things.

"This is not the time to raise taxes," Schindler said. "People are already tax-poor. This is the time for government to lower taxes to stimulate spending of personal money."

He said that if the state raises the sales tax, "I'm not going to go out and buy non-essential items. I'll put the money in my pocket and save it for a rainy day."

Larry Kaifer of Glen Burnie said he didn't understand why state officials could notcome up with a balanced budget.

"I account for every penny I spend," he said. "At the end of the month, I tie it all back to my checkbook. It's simple. It's not hard. How long does it take to write something down?"

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