Schaefer assails would-be successors

September 08, 1994|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer

Gov. William Donald Schaefer just couldn't bite his tongue any longer.

So yesterday, Maryland's 72-year-old chief executive unloaded on the men and women seeking to succeed him, contending that most of them are making statements that are politically expedient or just aren't true.

Some of the statements at issue happen to be critical of Mr. Schaefer's tenure, but he insisted that he was not being defensive.

"I'm a citizen! I'm a citizen! I have a right to speak out. That's the trouble: No one wants to speak out," Mr. Schaefer said in an interview with The Sun.

"There's no sour grapes here. The sour grapes is they don't know what they're talking about, and they've been in the legislature."

Commenting broadly for the first time on his views of the gubernatorial campaign, the governor said he was incensed that Republican and Democratic candidates alike have accused his administration of fostering a bad climate for business. That isn't so, he said, but warned that the tactic of constantly repeating the claim could make it so.

He also bristled at the notion that the state budget is somehow wildly out of control, that the state faces some monstrous multimillion-dollar deficit, or that if the would-be governors could only trim away all the fat and waste in government, all else would be possible.

"All of them have been in government. They've all been there," Mr. Schaefer complained. "None of them has ever said there is fraud, there is waste, there is abuse. And if there was, why didn't they make it known before the campaign?

"It is just campaign rhetoric," he said. "They did not do a blessed thing about it."

The governor -- whose second four-year term ends in another four months -- had little good to say about any of the candidates, but he was particularly critical of Prince George's County Executive Parris N. Glendening, front-runner for the Democratic nomination, and Republican candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey of Baltimore County.

Though Mr. Schaefer is titular head of the Maryland Democratic Party, he refused to say whether he would back the winner of the Sept. 13 Democratic primary in the general election. He left open the possibility that he might support a Republican, just as he backed George Bush in the 1992 presidential election.

Before deciding whom he will back, Mr. Schaefer said, "I'd have to hear a realistic program, not just one of these programs to get votes."

The governor pointedly disputed claims by the candidates that they will be able to pay for millions of dollars in new programs or provide millions of dollars in tax relief to Marylanders simply by cutting fat and waste from government, by trimming the state work force through attrition or freezes, by eliminating unnecessary programs, or through similar shortcuts.

His budget advisers passed out a chart that shows that in the eight years Mr. Schaefer has been governor, the state work force has grown by 2,739 jobs, or 3.9 percent. But if the 3,471 new jobs created primarily to staff new prisons during those years are subtracted, the chart shows a net reduction in the overall work force of 732 jobs.

A second chart shows that since 1991, spending by the Schaefer administration has concentrated on entitlements such as Medicaid and welfare, on education and other aid to local governments, and on unavoidable programs such as prisons. Spending has grown on little else.

With the crime problem on the tip of every candidate's tongue this year, the governor and his aides are quick to note that the tougher sentencing laws advocated by most of the candidates would only mean more costly prison construction and the hiring of more prison guards, not less.

As for the "billion-dollar budget deficit" that several of the candidates say is among the biggest problems facing the state, the governor insisted it simply does not exist.

He acknowledges that required state spending is rising faster than projections for revenues. But, he says, state law requires the budget to be balanced each year.

"Three out of four of the [Democratic] gubernatorial candidates have been in the legislature anywhere from 10 to 25 years. If they don't know what the budget process is by now, they shouldn't have been there in the first place," he said.

"The fourth [Mr. Glendening] understands the budget, but he has had so many deficits in his own budget that the state has had to help him over the years."

The governor specifically disputed the wisdom of most of Mr. Glendening's major campaign promises, such as his plan to restore a $170 million state program that paid the Social Security costs of teachers and other local government employees.

"It is a nice way to get votes in Montgomery County, but it won't happen. Can't afford it. Won't be done," Mr. Schaefer said.

He also criticized as unaffordable or unworkable the Glendening proposals for the state to take over the Baltimore court system or to grant public employees collective bargaining rights.

The governor reserved his harshest criticism for one of his own harshest critics: Mrs. Sauerbrey.

"You don't pay much attention to a person always hammering away at you," he said of Mrs. Sauerbrey, the House minority leader. "You wait for a person who has some substance."

The governor said he believes it would be impossible for Mrs. Sauerbrey to implement the 24 percent cut in individual income taxes she has proposed over the next four years without seriously harming health, education and social services programs. Mr. Schaefer said he could not support Mrs. Sauerbrey under any circumstances, and called her tax cut idea "just a fabrication."

"It is a good campaign gimmick she hopes will get votes," he said.

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