Baltimore County's Political Lesson

April 22, 1994

It looks like Baltimore County's legislative delegation learned a valuable lesson from its 1992 shutout. That was the year the General Assembly approved new taxes to balance a recession-wracked state budget, but with no help from the contrary Baltimore County delegation. Payback came the next year when the county was one of the few localities to suffer a cut in state funding.

During the recently completed session in Annapolis, however, the county's senators and delegates showed they had come to understand a key State House rule: Play along, get along.

Specifically, they played along by supporting Gov. William Donald Schaefer's proposed tobacco tax. Though the tax failed, the county was rewarded with a 7.5 percent boost in direct state aid for fiscal 1995. As a county official noted, when new House of Delegates Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. added a few Baltimore Countians to his power base, the delegation realized it had to own up to certain responsibilities after being moved closer to the leadership. Thus the stand for the tobacco tax.

Probably the biggest reward came in the $5.7 million in school construction money. Essex Del. E. Farrell Maddox, chairman of Baltimore County's House delegation, complained that the county should have received more money for the 10 "tough votes" the delegates cast for the tax. Tough as they might have been, they still fell short of a delegation majority. Maybe the chairman and colleagues should be glad they got as much as they did.

As for local bills, little of substance was achieved, typical of this overly cautious election-year session. For all the heat generated by school controversies last year, the delegation limited itself to approving only a few measures, including one adding two members to the school board and another mandating that school bus riders not be made to cross streets to board or depart buses on roads with speed limits of 40 mph and higher.

ZTC Even the administration of County Executive Roger Hayden, a virtual no-show at past sessions, displayed more interest this time around and, consequently, saw passage of its three main initiatives: to charge 16-year-olds as adults when they commit certain violent offenses, to lower the standard of proof required to convict zoning violators, and to make jail inmates pay for their medical expenses.

From the county courthouse to the State House, Baltimore County's elected officials discovered that cooperative politics has its rewards. For proof, see Towson's hefty share of the new state budget.

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