Long-term fiscal vision urged

September 27, 1992|By Carol L. Bowers | Carol L. Bowers,Staff Writer

Eileen M. Rehrmann and other metropolitan area county executives urged Gov. William Donald Schaefer at a private meeting Thursday "to look at the big picture" instead of handling the state's budget woes on a crisis basis each year.

"We're going to continue to have fiscal problems beyond this year," said Harford's executive. "We all don't want to go through this year after year, month by month."

But that's just how the state has been handling the financial problem, she said, by announcing upcoming cuts without providing clear information about how much state money each jurisdiction will or won't receive.

So far, the governor has only said the state's 23 counties and Baltimore City must somehow come up with $150 million in local aid to return to the state, leaving the 24 subdivisions to come to a consensus on their own.

George Harrison, a county government spokesman, said Harford expects to lose $5 million to $6 million, and possibly more if the governor uses his discretionary power to cut the state budget.

"It's all speculation right now, but they've already taken damn near all the money that flows in the county," said Mr. Harrison, referring to the $6 million in shared revenues Harford returned last year that were not renewed in the current budget year. "It's delicate. People are really uptight. Everybody is running around trying to chip pieces off the rock, but what they really have to do is move the rock."

Harford State Sen. William H. Amoss, D-District 35A, who sits on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said part of the problem is that the larger jurisdictions "don't want to give up an equal percentage" of state aid.

"That's where you lock horns. That's where politics comes in," said Mr. Amoss. "If the governor had made some recommendations, that would have helped, but he would have been criticized, just like I'm going to be criticized for what I'm saying now."

As an example, Mr. Amoss cited the current issue of whether the governor will use his discretion to cut 25 percent of the money the state contributes to community colleges and 25 percent of local police aid.

Because Baltimore City Community College was taken over by the state, the school receives no additional state aid, as do the other community colleges across Maryland.

"So if we cut 25 percent of community college funding, that doesn't affect Baltimore City," said Mr. Amoss.

The same applies to police aid, said Mr. Amoss. Two years ago, when the state took over operations of the Baltimore City Jail, the city in exchange gave up its right to receive local police aid.

"So when we cut police aid to other counties by 25 percent, Baltimore doesn't see that cut," said Mr. Amoss.

"Now the total of those two amounts is about $35 million, and a 25 percent cut would be about $9 or $10 million, so that's $9 or $10 million the other counties will lose and Baltimore City won't. You see there's a whole myriad of things that aren't quite the same for each county, and that's what makes it difficult."

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