'Prince of Perks'?

September 24, 1993

Maryland's governor received an unwarranted one-two punch last week when Money magazine and "Prime Time Live" named William Donald Schaefer the "prince of perks" among the nation's governors for his lavish lifestyle. It was, as his press secretary termed it, a cheap shot.

To call Mr. Schaefer frugal would be an understatement. He is a notorious penny-pincher whose idea of a good meal out is McDonald's; whose suits are years, if not decades, out of fashion; whose vacations take place not at posh resort hotels but in his own trailer in middle-class Ocean City.

Yes, he draws a $120,000 salary (set by an independent commission) and his official residence is a 48-room mansion. He does have access to a 112-foot yacht and a sky box at Oriole Park. But he hates living in the mansion, dislikes baseball and has mothballed the state yacht. That hardly classifies him as a high-roller.

Yet Mr. Schaefer brought this criticism on himself. While the governor might not be a free-spender, he has allowed some time-honored practices to get out of hand. For instance, the 17-member security force is a remnant of the Agnew gubernatorial days after the Maryland governor had been elected vice president. Why should that beefed-up security still be in place 25 years later?

Nor should state troopers run errands for the governor's companion, Hilda Mae Snoops, or serve as chauffeur or as dog-walker for her. And Mr. Schaefer's failure to pick one residence for his living quarters has meant extra security expenses to guard the governor's other dwellings.

As for the state yacht, given the tempered times it would make sense to sell it and borrow a yacht if there's a need to entertain dignitaries. And Mr. Schaefer would have gained considerable public admiration if he had refused to accept a pay raise during the recession.

In the past we have not hesitated to call the governor to task, but these recent charges have been shamelessly hyped. Besides, Marylanders don't want their governor living in penury. Citizens want their governor to reside in the historic Georgiant mansion in Annapolis: It says so in the state Constitution. And they want his safety protected. Perhaps, though, some expenses have gotten out of hand. Now is a good time for Mr. Schaefer to re-assess his official government spending as he prepares his last budget before leaving office.

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