They Just Don't Get It

January 12, 1993

Baltimore County's legislative delegation has made itself conspicuous during recent General Assembly sessions by vocally opposing budget-balancing measures that might peeve angry voters back home. The predictable upshot of this strategy has been a freeze-out of the county by Gov. William Donald Schaefer and other state leaders.

And yet, delegation members express hurt and surprise when they count the slights against the county -- new legislative districts that link parts of the county with Baltimore City, the governor's unwillingness to free up state money for the purchase and preservation of Cromwell Valley land, the lack of major committee chairmanships for county legislators, and so on.

But they salve their bruised feelings with the knowledge that their theatrics are like money -- or votes -- in the bank come election time. Never mind that the legislators, by alienating the big powers in Annapolis (and some voters) through this behavior put their subdivision at risk.

Anyway, one delegation leader has argued, why should Baltimore County legislators play along with state leaders when the county has been such an obvious victim of political payback?

They just don't get it, do they? Are these folks so politically naive as to believe their antics have no cost? Or are they more worried about keeping their jobs than doing what's best for their jurisdiction?

Most of the county's senators and delegates showed rare team spirit last fall when they backed the state's Social Security cut. It would be an upset, though, if the delegation continued in this cooperative vein. After all, when the 1993 session ends, the next election will be only 19 months away. County legislators were already playing to the anti-tax crowd last year; no way they'll let up now.

Strong leadership from Towson might do wonders for the usually fractious delegation, but don't hold your breath waiting for that. A day before the session begins, County Executive Roger Hayden still hadn't formally submitted his legislative proposals to impatient delegation leaders. Unless he wants to hear replays of last year's shouts of "Where's Roger?" Mr. Hayden will need to establish more of a presence in Annapolis this session.

As Baltimore County struggles with its increasing urbanization and budgetary woes, it could use all the help it can get from its legislative team. But the nagging question is, what concerns those legislators more -- their county or their chances of re-election? We're afraid we know the answer.

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