Suburban Washington voters are about to discover what it costs to run local government. Montgomery County Executive Neal Potter is pushing for a broad, soup to nuts tax package worth $100 million. In Prince George's, County Executive Parris Glendening is counting on a 20 percent hike in the piggyback income tax to help pay for a $70 million jump in current spending.
There are large and small differences between these two approaches related to demographics and voter expectations. But both signal a swing away from the Spartan penny-pinching of the past two years. The trend is most striking in Montgomery, where Mr. Potter is betting that people are willing to keep afloat an expansive raft of civil services. "It's a county that takes a perverse pride in the quality of life," said Edmond F. Rovner, a former top aide to Mr. Potter's predecessors.
The county executive is depending on it. To make his $1.63 billion budget work, he's asking residents to shoulder a 20 percent hike in the local income tax, higher levies on real estate transfers and an extension of an energy tax that was supposed to expire in June. This would spare most, though not all, services from the chopping block and provide much-needed money for a school system facing an influx of 4,000 kids this fall.