Issues for the Next Governor

May 08, 1994

As this year's election campaign starts to accelerate, Marylanders are confronted with the biggest group of gubernatorial candidates in decades. How to distinguish among this crowded field is a perplexing question for voters.

With this in mind, here are some issues that the candidates ought to address. In fact, voters should make it clear to those who want to be governor that detailed responses are mandatory. The state of Maryland is at a pivotal juncture. It has major problems that cannot be ignored much longer without long-term negative consequences:

* Structural gaps. The state faces a $1 billion deficit over the next four years because spending is far outpacing the growth of tax revenue. There is a need to downsize the government, make it more efficient and overhaul the tax system so it is progressive but also fairer. How does each candidate intend to handle these necessary but unpopular tasks? Bromides won't suffice.

* Education. Improved education efforts are on all the candidates' lips. But no one wants to say how much this would cost or how it would be financed. That's not good enough. To what extent are the candidates willing to stand up to the teachers' unions on issues such as weeding out incompetents and holding teachers and administrators accountable for schools that fail to meet state standards? How do candidates intend to close the school construction gap, bolster aid to local schools and improve higher education? We want comprehensive plans -- and an itemization of expenses.

* Transportation. How Maryland pays for new roads and urgently needed mass transit will be a top priority next year. What does each candidate propose? What should Maryland's long-range transportation program look like?

* Gambling. Will the next governor stem gambling's alarming spread in Maryland? What do the candidates think about rampant casino gambling in Prince George's County and the state's own rush to expand its lottery gambling? Should race tracks offer casino gambling, too?

* Economic development. Sure, all candidates say more should be done in this area, but where are the specifics? How can Maryland better compete against other states for businesses? What steps are needed to change the perception that Maryland has a hostile business climate?

* Baltimore City. Maryland's major urban center is its pride and its problem child. Unless ways are found to stem the city's deterioration, the heavy cost to state taxpayers will balloon. How will the next governor help create jobs in the city? How will he or she relieve the severe fiscal strain on the city? How will he or she build support in the rest of Maryland for lending Baltimore a helping hand?

Candidates must be held accountable for coming forth with specifics. They must fess up to the true cost of their proposals, too. That will provide all of us with a solid basis for assessing the gubernatorial candidates before the Sept. 13 primary.

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