Revolt brewing over proposed aid cuts Howard lawmakers irked by plan

October 19, 1992|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

Howard County's Republican-controlled General Assembly delegation is leaning toward joining a brewing revolt against the governor's proposed $147 million cut in state aid to counties.

One big reason is Montgomery County, which shares most of the 14th legislative district with Howard County and is represented by Sen. Christopher J. McCabe and Dels. Robert L. Flanagan and Robert H. Kittleman.

Under Gov. William Donald Schaefer's proposal, the last in a series of reductions needed to eliminate a projected $450 million state budget deficit, Montgomery County, the state's wealthiest jurisdiction, would suffer the largest hit -- more than $26 million.

The GOP lawmakers want to barter their support for a public commitment from the governor and Democratic House and Senate leaders to begin significantly cutting the size of state government.

"We haven't downsized state government nearly enough and that's what is really needed to solve the long-term budget problem," said Delegate Flanagan, a Republican who represents District 14B and is the Howard County delegation chairman. "We've foisted this budget deficit problem off on the counties."

The governor's plan, which is backed by key General Assembly leaders, would mean loses of $21.2 million for Prince George's County and $6.9 million for Howard. If lawmakers from the three counties join forces, they could form a substantial voting bloc against the proposal, Howard Republicans say.

They contend that county governments have pared back substantially more in services and jobs compared to state government during the fiscal crisis. Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore City have already suffered cuts totaling $56.9 million this fiscal year.

"We've foisted this budget deficit problem off on the counties. What [the governor] has been doing is transferring the budget deficit problem to the counties. It's not at all fair," said Delegate Flanagan.

Sen. Thomas Yeager, a Democrat whose 13th District includes the northeastern corner of Prince George's County and who heads the Howard's three-member Senate delegation, supports the governor's plan.

"It's the proper way to do it -- bring it back to the county."

commit The governor's plan calls for local governments to pick op the state's share of Social Security tax payments for educators and librarians -- payments that amount to about $147 million. Howard has already suffered $1.3 million in state aid cuts this year. County Executive Charles I. Ecker has said he'll present a plan within two weeks proposing how to cover the proposed $6.9 million aid reduction.

Even Howard legislators who aren't willing to commit support of the governor's proposal generally agree it makes sense for the counties to pay Social Security payments for county educators and librarians.

What they don't like is that the governor wants responsibility for the Social Security taxes to shift in the current fiscal year because it gives county governments little time to adjust.

"All I can say is this is a terrible way to run a railroad," said Senator McCabe.

He argues that the governor and General Assembly leaders have known for months that additional cuts were needed to balance the budget and that waiting four months into the 1992 fiscal year before was inappropriate.

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