Schmoke veto of '94 budget likely to stand Cut in tax rate loses 2 supporters

June 23, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer Staff writer Sandy Banisky contributed to this article.

The Baltimore City Council doesn't have enough votes to override Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's veto of the fiscal 1994 budget, according to both opponents and supporters of the mayor's action.

At least two council members publicly backed off yesterday from supporting the cut in the property tax rate tentatively approved by the council Thursday. Others were said to be wavering. But it was not clear whether there were enough votes to kill the cut in the rate from $5.90 to $5.85 per $100 of assessed value.

Councilman Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., D-1st, was one of those who changed his mind. He now supports Mr. Schmoke's proposal for a budget with no spending cuts, no cut in the property tax rate and money for more police officers.

"I think it went down very fast last Thursday night. I think very few of us knew where the spending cuts were coming from," Mr. D'Adamo said of last week's council action.

"I think the mayor's theory is a good theory -- have the police this year and then cut the property tax the following year. That's what I'm going to support," he said.

Mr. Schmoke said the budget didn't provide the money to hire the additional police officers, which he felt must be the city's top priority. He said he would support a 5-cent cut next year in the city's property tax rate, the highest in the state.

Mr. Schmoke is to submit to the Board of Estimates today a new budget that includes the money for additional police officers and holds the line on the property tax rate at $5.90. He called a special session of the council -- which was to begin its three-month summer recess this week -- for Monday at 9:30 a.m.

By law, the city is required to have a budget in place by the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

It takes 15 of the 19 votes to override a veto but only 10 to pass a bill.

The council's first order of business at its meeting Monday will be to take up the mayor's veto of the budget bill, said Bernard F. Murphy, the council's director of legislative reference. If the veto is overridden, the budget will go into effect. If, as seems virtually certain, the mayor's veto is upheld, the council will take up the mayor's new budget.

But the council could not pass a new budget bill before next Tuesday or Wednesday because it is required by the City Charter to hold a hearing on a budget bill, Mr. Murphy said.

It is possible for the council to vote Monday to reconsider the budget bill it passed last week and restore it to the way it was submitted by the mayor, Mr. Murphy said. But a vote for reconsideration would require 15 votes and is considered unlikely.

Mr. Schmoke refused to speculate on what, if any, action he would take if the council passed a budget bill that mirrored the one he vetoed.

"He is confident that we are going to be able to work this out. There's no need to get into what-ifs," said Clinton R. Coleman, the mayor's spokesman.

Council President Mary Pat Clarke, the mayor's chief adversary on the budget, agreed there would "absolutely" be a budget by July 1, saying it was in the public interest.

Ms. Clarke reiterated that she would push for an override.

But Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, who supports the override, said, "I know realistically it won't pass."

"There are at least five members who, if the mayor asked them to pull down their pants on Charles Street, they'd do it," he said.

Thursday, five council members voted against the cuts in the budget on the key tally that paved the way for the property tax reduction. Those five alone, whose support for the mayor on the issue is solid, would be enough to uphold the veto.

Also, three council members who supported the cuts Thursday -- Mr. D'Adamo; Carl Stokes, D-2nd, and Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, D-3rd -- said yesterday that they would vote to sustain the mayor's veto.

Two of them -- Mr. D'Adamo and Mr. Cunningham -- said yesterday that they had also changed their minds on the budget and now support the mayor's position that the city could not both provide money for more police and cut the tax rate.

"The key factor is my faith in the mayor," Mr. Cunningham said of his change of heart, adding, "The mayor has the votes necessary to pass the budget."

Meanwhile, those who opposed the budget cuts last week are unwavering.

"We know that our homeowners need some relief. We hear them. But I think we have to continue to work toward being able to give that relief in a planned and reasoned way," said Councilwoman Iris G. Reeves, D-5th.

Council President Clarke and others say they will continue to press for a nickel reduction in the property tax rate, saying the money is there to provide both property tax relief and more police officers.

"My position is we can do both," said Councilman Lawrence Bell III, D-4th.

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