Good plan, but. . .

December 18, 1991

Gov. William Donald Schaefer's 15-minute tell-it-like-it-is message to Maryland last night can be summed up in a sentence: Do it now and do it together. He proposed a six-point plan to attack the specter of a billion-dollar shortfall in tax revenues which the state confronts over the next two years. These include:

* Put people to work through an accelerated public works program.

* "Reform" welfare -- a euphemism for cutting support that goes to the neediest.

* Cut health-care costs by keeping people from getting sick rather than treating them after the get sick.

* Make the schools factories for success rather than factories for dependency.

* Create a greater volunteer ethic to persuade people to commit their talent and energy, not just their money, to meet social needs.

* Create Maryland jobs by encouraging Maryland citizens to buy Maryland products.

It is a mixed bag of recommendations, a little austerity here, a little economic fuel there, a little vision for the future. And as far as they go, the governor's proposals are good.

But of course they do not go far enough. Missing from the governor's pep talk is a single word: Taxes. He called for sacrifice on the part of those who have the least to sacrifice -- the disadvantaged who must live on shrinking welfare checks, the state employees who must accept furloughs.

Those who have jobs and secure incomes must now be told that they, too, must share the burden, to help weather the storm. The governor avoided uttering the hated word last night, but he cannot avoid it in his message to the legislature in January.

At that time he must tell Maryland citizens: "I propose to raise taxes, but this is what I will give you for your money." It will be equally incumbent upon the opponents of his program, like Republican leader Ellen Sauerbrey, to say: "We will hold the line on your taxes, but this is what we expect you to give up."

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