Worried legislators in Annapolis have decided it is time for them to go on a diet -- at least temporarily. No more pork, their leaders have decreed. It looks bad to dip into the barrel for $15 million in pet projects when Maryland is suffering through a prolonged recession and the state budget is being slashed by $1 billion.
Instead, the bond money will be used for school construction and other munificent causes. Putting legislators on this low-pork diet (a little lard will still be left) is seen as a sure-fire way to win public applause and convince citizens the General Assembly is reforming itself.
Senators, though, don't want to get too serious about cutting out the goodies. They defeated a plan to lower the General Assembly's own budget by $1 million. Attempts to reduce a big patronage plum -- legislative scholarship awards -- by another $1 million also met defeat in a Senate committee. And next year, the "no more pork" admonitions will come tumbling down. Once again, legislators will feel free to crowd around the barrel and grab for as much as they can latch onto. State lawmakers, like many of us, have trouble sticking to their diet.