Common Sense from Schaefer

August 06, 1994

Leave it to William Donald Schaefer to talk like a sage elder to the Maryland Association of Counties. After nearly eight years as governor, Mr. Schaefer recently delivered a farewell speech chock full of useful, immediate political guidance.

Governor Schaefer is passionate about the role of government in bettering the lives of people. He is well aware of the high expectations placed on public officials by the citizens of Maryland. His message to the MACO delegates was that this year's crop of candidates should not be allowed to get away with spouting empty but emotionally charged rhetoric. As a longtime elected official, he knows that what counts is performance.

"In election time, you can make all sorts of promises," he said. But astute voters have to see through the facade of rhetoric and ask, "Do the numbers add up? Just use some common sense."

That is imperative in this year's election. Too many candidates are making too many pledges to do too many things without explaining how to pay for them. All of the gubernatorial hopefuls, for instance, promise deep reductions in current programs. But as the governor noted, "Where you gonna go" for these cuts? Deep budget slashes would hurt tens of thousands of Marylanders and may not be acceptable to the legislature. Candidates aren't addressing this aspect of the problem.

Take Mr. Schaefer's favorite punching bag these days, Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening. He has unwisely pledged a state pickup of local Social Security expenses of teachers, librarians and community college officials. This program favors rich counties over poor. It works to exacerbate disparities among school districts. Mr. Schaefer said of this proposal, which would cost $170 million, that it is "impossible. It can't be done, shouldn't be done. There's no money."

That's the voice of experience talking. Mr. Glendening ought to heed this advice. Donald Schaefer may be winding up his final term as governor, but he's still among the most astute observers of the Maryland governmental scene.

When W.D. Schaefer talks, people should listen.

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