First, Get Control of Spending The Candidates Speak Out

October 21, 1994|By ELLEN SAUERBREY

Next year, I'll raise the personal exemption on the state income-tax form from $1,200 to $2,200 and wipe out the 2 percent tax Marylanders pay on their first $1,000 of income. In succeeding years, I'll cut the top tax rate to 4 percent. These cuts will bring much needed relief to families and low-income wage earners.

To my opponent, this seems a horrifying prospect. When he isn't shamelessly misrepresenting my plan or saying it's impossible, he's imitating Chicken Little, proclaiming the sky will fall if we exercise the spending restraint required to implement it. I'm not surprised at the overblown rhetoric. For Mr. Glendening, tax relief really is impossible. He's spent his entire career as an elected official both embracing every new tax that came along and raising many taxes already in place.

Mr. Glendening's assertions that my tax plan will force reductions in public safety budgets or local aid are pure hogwash. They remind me of my budget battles with Governor Schaefer. Whenever Mr. Schaefer wanted to raise taxes, he'd proclaim a budget crisis and threaten to lay off some state troopers if he didn't get his way. Mr. Glendening is using the same scare tactics.

The truth is, we can fund my tax plan without laying off police, cutting local aid or raiding the state's pension fund. The arithmetic is straightforward. Without tax reform, state revenues are expected to grow by 4.5 to 5.0 percent per year; to implement my plan, we need to hold expenditures to about 2.2 to 2.4 percent growth per year. I've spent enough time working on state budgets to know we can cut enough fat to do that without cutting muscle.

Let me give you just one example of a budget line that's completely out of control: Maryland's $2 billion-a-year Medicaid program. A recent audit chastised the state for routinely failing to investigate cases of possible eligibility fraud. In May '93, there were Marylanders deserve a governor who will honor promises.

13,118 new notices about possible changes in eligibility status; seven months later, 79 percent of these still had not been investigated. Clearly, with more than 456,000 Medicaid recipients (up from 317,000 just five years ago), each costing about $4,400 a year, the waste resulting from this kind of sloppy administration is enormous.

But controlling runaway spending is just one challenge facing the next governor; controlling rampant crime is another. Maryland's crime rate is 35 percent higher than Pennsylvania's and 74 percent higher than Virginia's.

As governor, I'll reverse this sorry trend by making public safety my number one funding priority. My running mate, Paul Rappaport, has 37 years of experience in law enforcement and )) he'll head our administration's efforts to revamp our juvenile justice system and reform our courts.

Of course, Mr. Glendening likes to talk tough on crime. But his record shows he lacks the ability or will to back it up. He's consistently underfunded and mismanaged the Prince George's County Police force, and from 1985-1991 his county's violent-crime rate soared 33 percent -- more than any other large county's and even more than the city of Baltimore's. In 1990 Mr. Glendening campaigned for re-election with a promise to hire 400 new police officers. Immediately after the election he reneged on his promise and, by 1993, the Prince George's police force was actually 11 percent smaller!

I think Marylanders deserve a governor who will honor promises; one who will not just talk tough on crime, but be tough; one who will fight to cut taxes instead of raising them. I know that steering a different course for government will take work, and that the results won't arrive overnight. With your help, though, we can get started on November 8.

I= Ellen Sauerbrey is the Republican candidate for governor.

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