Schaefer's Suburban Relations

December 19, 1992

Gov. William Donald Schaefer broke bread with county leaders at their recent winter meeting in Baltimore and told them that he isn't interested in cutting their state aid further this year -- which is a bit like the full-bellied fox informing the henhouse that he's sated and has no intention of eating any more of the occupants.

The fact is the governor hasn't really "played ball" with the local governments regarding the slide in state aid.

For example, when Mr. Schaefer and the legislative leadership in Annapolis dictated a plan to slice nearly $150 million in local aid last month, they ensured they had the requisite votes in the General Assembly to do so and then threw the local government leaders a bone that they wouldn't cut them any more this year.

This month, the governor offered the nouveau poor suburbs more of what they were hoping for: a guarantee that he won't pass any mandates next year that would add costs to local government.

We supported the governor's plan to eliminate the state's Social Security contribution to the jurisdictions, not as a cut to education, but as a way to shift to the locals a program whose costs they control. What we didn't favor was the governor and legislative leadership feeling they had clout enough to ignore the concerns of the local leaders, who have exhibited more conservatism in their budget-building than has the state.

If his tone at the Maryland Association of Counties' winter meeting was a sign that the governor wants to smooth his relationship with the local leaders, that's a good step.

Melvin A. Steinberg, who is Mr. Schaefer's estranged lieutenant governor, has blasted as a "sucker's game" the new keno lottery the governor wants to start Jan. 4. And Mr. Schaefer's own Democratic Party remains peeved at him for his endorsement of Republican George Bush on the eve of the presidential election. It's just a guess, but the governor may have looked around Maryland and realized that the group most willing to take him seriously and to work with him to right the ship of state may be, for the most part, the local leaders he once gave such short shrift.

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