Baltimore County's executive, Roger Hayden, who was carried to victory on a wave of anti-tax sentiment in 1990, says he now supports higher state taxes to prevent more severe cuts in local services.
Citing fiscal problems that have caused "the most tumultuous year in the history" of the county, Mr. Hayden yesterday told about 250 people gathered at the Pikesville Hilton Inn for the annual State of the County address that he will support whatever new state taxes are necessary "to keep Baltimore County on the right track."
He also repeated his support for a 5-cents-a-gallon gasoline tax increase, if it is used to help county government get through the rest of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Mr. Hayden said the county lost $27 million in state money last fall when the governor chopped grants to local governments to make up for the state deficit -- money that had already been appropriated for county services. And he warned of a possible loss of $23 million more before the fiscal year ends.
The cuts the county already has sustained, along with $15 million in lower county revenues, have forced the executive to slash services more drastically than he ever envisioned.
Mr. Hayden said the county has cut its work force by nearly 1,000 jobs, or about 12 percent, through attrition and a hiring freeze. Travel by employees has been restricted. Staff development programs have been curtailed. Overtime has been reduced. And all county employees must take five furlough days to save an estimated $13 million.
Even the usually sacrosanct education budget may be subject to cuts as the school population expands and county income shrinks, Mr. Hayden said. But even with a tax increase, he said, more cuts will have to be made next fiscal year.
Mr. Hayden's speech also outlined seven economic projects that county government is pursuing to expand the tax base and generate jobs. Among them are the sale and development of the Sparrows Point Industrial Park, development of the Research Park at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the extension of White Marsh Boulevard.
The executive also emphasized that the county must stop Baltimore's attempt to move federal Health Care Financing Administration offices from Woodlawn into the city. He cited the need to further develop the Owings Mills and Hunt Valley areas.
Mr. Hayden said today that he will back a budget plan by House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, which the Schaefer administration and the Maryland Association of Counties endorsed yesterday. Mr. Hayden said the county would lose $14 million under this plan, but it is better than the alternative -- $23 million in cuts proposed by the governor.