Hayden's raises

September 15, 1992

By deciding to give 4 1/2 percent pay increases to 37 ke appointed officials of Baltimore County, Roger B. Hayden served up a fat pitch for his detractors to hit clear to Cumberland.

Leaders of county unions have already begun swinging for the fences. Among their comments:

"My people are going to go bananas over this. This is how bad feeling starts."

"This opens up wounds we were trying to heal. It's totally unfair."

L "There's no way [the officials] should be getting anything."

Certainly the county executive's timing could have been better. The government is broke and faced with another massive deficit. County workers were furloughed up to five days this year to help ease the budget crunch, and they have gone without cost-of-living raises since January 1991. The same restriction has applied to department heads who earn $60,000 a year and up. They'll get little sympathy, though, from rank-and-file employees trying to make ends meet on a lot less pay.

There is also the awkward matter of having at least two department deputies who, thanks to their merit and longevity raises, earn more than the appointed department heads. The problem should be addressed and remedied, but is the middle of recession really the best time to do it?

By the same token, some questioned Mr. Hayden's timing when he pushed to include $8 million for county employees' step and longevity raises in this year's budget. But he did it anyway, taking heat from his old supporters in the anti-tax movement and from Gov. William Donald Schaefer, who felt there were better ways to spend funds raised through the increased piggyback-tax rate.

Mr. Hayden knows as well as anyone that county employees have had to shoulder an especially heavy burden as vacancies go unfilled and furlough days are mandated. To offer these workers a pat on the back, he fought for the $8 million in step and longevity raises and, apparently in the same spirit, he aims to give raises totaling a relatively paltry $34,000 to 37 of his top appointees.

Critics may question the wisdom of granting raises when the economic climate is so gloomy. But it would be less than fair to rap the county executive for giving raises to his department heads after he took a similar stand earlier this year on behalf of the rank-and-filers.

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