Schaefer's Call to Action

January 15, 1993

William Donald Schaefer did not sound like a lame-duck governor in his next-to-last State of the State address yesterday. His firm call to action challenges the General Assembly to avoid the lethargy and do-nothing attitude that many lawmakers have voiced in recent days. With the recession ebbing, Mr. Schaefer wants to re-energize Maryland and re-shape many current programs to avoid wasteful practices of the past.

For instance, the governor seeks to reform our "runaway welfare system" by cracking down on "deadbeat dads" who avoid support payments; by preventing unwanted pregnancies; by making parents responsible for their children's actions, and by appointing Benjamin Civiletti to chair a commission to find ways to make welfare more of a temporary condition instead of a permanent subculture.

Prevention is Mr. Schaefer's goal. Why spend billions, he said, "taking care of the problems after they happen"? Why spend $91 million on delinquent juveniles, $372 million on prisons and $1 billion on health care for those on welfare? Why not spend some of that money on preventing unwanted situations from developing in the first place? That would free up millions for colleges and schools and other worthy purposes.

The governor's shopping list is long, but it is potent. Give the State Police a more focused mission. Coordinate law-enforcement efforts. Restrict access to assault guns. Clamp down on gun sales at gun shows. Get tough on carjackings. Expand community service options for offenders. Regulate slot machines and other gambling.

Local aid will get a shot in the arm, though state government programs won't gain much ground. A big increase in school-aid support is being proposed: Let's hope the money is not squandered.

Mr. Schaefer endorsed doubling the Baltimore Convention Center, noting it would be shortsighted to oppose this money-making project because of past differences between the city and Montgomery County. The project is a sure revenue-raiser for the state and a big economic boost for the city.

A few proposals may encounter trouble. He wants to leave restructuring and privatization of government to his successor. Others want to do it now. His experiment with a voucher system for school children is so small it might not prove anything either way. His indirect criticism of his AIDS Council for not focusing on prevention won't win him applause from that group.

But on the whole, Mr. Schaefer's spirited address struck the right chord. He was the state's cheerleader yesterday at a time when legislators needed a show of enthusiasm. He was an ambitious agenda-setter, too, without requesting much money to achieve most of these tasks.

We urge the General Assembly to give Mr. Schaefer's requests a positive reception. The governor is positioning the state for better days ahead. Maryland must once again become a progressive state, willing to embark in new directions.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.