Dissatisfied, Not Defiant

September 29, 1992

It doesn't appear the leaders of Maryland's "Big Seven" jurisdictions will lie down on the road that encircles the state capital in defiance of Gov. William Donald Schaefer's plan to cut their state aid by $150 million this year.

Last week, after a meeting in Annapolis of the elected chief executives of Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Prince George's counties, Parris N. Glendening, the Prince George's executive, proclaimed, "We are not going to acquiesce in the destruction of local programs."

Mr. Glendening and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke both pointed out that the effect of the governor's cuts on the locals will be closer to $210 million, or nearly a half of the total proposed state cuts, not one-third of the cuts as the governor had described.

Since then, comments from the various city and county halls have sounded less belligerent. Surely, no local leader is happy about the massive aid cuts.

All, however, are of like mind in thinking that the governor should take the lead in a major restructuring of the flow of money and mandates from Annapolis to the locals. That's preferable to dealing with this as a semi-annual crisis.

Whatever way the governor handles the situation is bound to be unpleasant; government must help and employ fewwer people at a time when the need for assistance and jobs is at a peak. If the budget is handled as it has been for the past three years, however, the locals are left to guess if the state has predicted its revenues correctly, then guess some more later as the state revises its original estimate. What a mess.

This season's budget crisis isn't exactly a case of deja vu.

On the plus side for the local leaders, they won't have as tough a time convincing employees and constituents of the reality of their dilemma.

To the local executives' detriment, though, most already have cut their operations and work forces, through early retirement sweeteners and attrition, to the extent that the easy cuts have been made. For those interested in re-election, they are a year nearer to local elections, so a vote to raise taxes comes with greater peril.

At least, most metropolitan area leaders seem to realize that waging all-out war against Governor Schaefer and legislative generals in Annapolis is an unproductive fight they can't win -- politically or in terms of public relations.

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