Viewers were seeking solutions Many unhappy about lack of any answers.

December 18, 1991|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Evening Sun Staff Mark Bomster, Patrick Ercolano, Michael Fletcher and Monica Norton contributed to this story.

Instead of shots of basketball players slam-dunking, the 11 television sets in Jilly's bar and grill in Pikesville last night showed a balding man describing Maryland's sagging economy.

Jilly's co-owner, Will Rich, 53, said he felt it was important to interrupt the usual fare to show Gov. William Donald Schaefer's 15-minute speech on the state's economy.

"We've had a couple of people call to make sure we would have it on tonight," Rich said. "We normally watch sports, but it seems like everybody was pretty interested in it."

At a front corner table, Dr. Jerome Sherman and Catherine Naff, paid close attention as Schaefer explained how the state's budget got so deep in the red.

"He looked determined," Sherman said. "I think a fireside chat was a good idea."

But Sherman, like many who listened to the speech, noted the governor provided no solutions. "In my opinion, he'll leave it up to the legislators."

He and Naff agreed taxes shouldn't be raised. "I think people have been taxed enough," said Naff, a 62-year-old medical technician.

At the bar, Mark E. Cutrera, 28, an unemployed broadcaster, said the governor's speech did little to correct the state's financial crisis. Pointing to a television set, he said: "There were no answers up there."

Not far from Jilly's, a Randallstown resident said she was "shocked and amazed."

"I don't know what I expected," said Karen Holloway, a federal government worker. "But I wanted a little bit more than a pep talk. I was curious about where the [state's] surplus went. He told us that. But when he got down to talking about what is going to make this whole situation better, he didn't say much," she continued.

Referring to the governor's call for strong holiday spending to boost state revenues, she said: "I'm glad I was sitting down when I heard that."

Holloway said if money had been wisely spent, "we wouldn't be where we are now." She said the governor "is kind of priming us for a tax rate increase."

David Petr, 33, who owns his own cleaning company and lives in Harford County, listened to Schaefer on the radio. He said he was disappointed the governor wasn't substantive or specific about revenue increases.

Petr said he thought it was ironic that Schaefer asked residents to spend more this holiday season, as more people are being laid off.

"I don't know if the public will buy into it," Petr said. "I know I haven't spent as much as last year, but I am trying to spend."

Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said, "I hope that the public reaction to the governor's speech is very favorable and I hope this leads to an economic summit involving the governor and the top legislative leadership to work out a balanced plan to remedy the state's fiscal problems." By a balanced plan, Schmoke means a mix of budget cuts and new taxes.

Jane R. Stern, president of the 37,000-member Maryland State Teachers Association, said, "I'm disappointed that he did not offer a strategy for restructuring the state's tax system."

Similarly, the president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, Irene Dandridge, said the governor sent the public a sobering message. "If nothing else, it will make people realize that he's not just cutting programs because he wants to do it. This is a real emergency."

The Rev. Russ Priddy, pastor of Colonial Baptist Church, Pikesville, said, "I thought he'd offer some plan of action, but basically he gave a pep talk, saying, 'Hang in there, things are tough, but we can make it.' "

The speech was "a good wake-up call" but "deliberately vague and general," according to the Rev. Sidney Daniels, pastor of Emmanuel Christian Community Church. He is also president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.

"I think he kept things in general terms because the man is tired of catching flak," Daniels said. "He's saying to the legislature, 'OK, you've heard me, I've taken a lot of heat, now the ball is in your court.'"

Dandridge, the teachers' union president, said of the General Assembly: "I'm sick and tired of legislators hiding behind the 'no-tax' business. That's what we elected them for, to make the tough decisions."

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