Solidarity for Greater Baltimore

November 12, 1992

Maybe this is where Baltimore City and its suburbs finally come together -- on the issue of where the state government should insert its surgical scalpel in the body politic. Gov. William Donald Schaefer and legislative leaders want to cut $147 million in local aid next week by eliminating the state's contribution to Social Security payments for school, community college and library employees.

The cut would take the greatest toll on Montgomery and Prince George's counties, which have higher Social Security payments due to higher teacher costs. Legislators from those counties have vowed to try to block the cut when a special session of the General Assembly begins next Wednesday.

Baltimore City and four of the five surrounding counties, however, have joined to say they would accept the Social Security change if the state agrees not to cut any more local aid this fiscal year. (They wanted guarantees of indemnity against state aid cuts in future years, but aren't going to get that.)

The mayor and county executives realize that a state in financial disarray -- the proposed cut is to help patch a $450 million hole in this year's budget -- does them no good. They maintain that they're willing to accept cuts so long as the state is willing to shed some dictates in return.

It's easier for the city and its suburbs to agree on this issue than many others because one side's loss isn't the other's gain.

But it must also be noted that the suburbs didn't go along with a plan pushed by Montgomery and Prince George's politicians that would have reduced the hit to the Baltimore and Washington suburbs while leaving Baltimore City and the state's smaller counties out to dry. In recent sessions in Annapolis, the city more typically aligned with Montgomery and Prince George's because Baltimore's smaller, whiter suburbs have had trouble identifying with or feeling a connection to the city.

Whether the suburban Washington legislators can dissuade or block the proposed cut seems unlikely, although bad blood from this special session will likely seep into the regular session in 1993. If this battle improves the coordination and communication between Baltimore city and its suburbs, though, maybe something good will come out of it.

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