What a wonderful time to be county executive for Robert R. Neall, the only local leader who can't help but smile when he talks about the governor's plan to cut $150 million to $210 million in state aid to the counties. Reaction from Maryland's other "Big Seven" jurisdictions ranges from resignation to outright protest; Mr. Neall actually seems to be relishing the ordeal.
Why is this man happy?
Known as a cost-cutter when he was Republican Party leader in the state House of Delegates in the '70s and '80s, Mr. Neall anticipated this year's state budget crisis and its inevitable effect on local jurisdictions better than anyone. Ever since last spring, he has been warning that the state grossly overestimated its revenue estimates and that Baltimore City and the 23 counties were going to be in deep trouble if they did not prepare for cutbacks. Determined to avoid the trauma of last year, when the county lost so much state money that the budget had to be cut in mid-year and employees asked to take wage concessions, Mr. Neall made sure he was ready.
Thanks to his foresight, Anne Arundel County will be able to absorb its $15 million share of the governor's budget cuts with virtually no impact on citizens and county employees.