Glendening Takes Command

January 21, 1995

The inauguration may have been held on Wednesday, but the real start of the Glendening administration occurred yesterday, when the new governor unveiled his $14.5 billion budget plan.

This budget makes dramatic shifts in priorities and sets an ambitious four-year agenda for shrinking government growth and spurring economic development. The key points:

* No tax increases over four years.

* Eliminate the state's long-term structural deficit by shrinking the size of government.

* Pump any extra money into education, law-enforcement and job growth.

* "Position Maryland for a responsible personal income tax reduction" in three or four years.

Note the terms: Position Maryland for a responsible tax cut. Step by step, Mr. Glendening wants "to get our fiscal house in order." Gradually shrink the bureaucracy and programs. Eliminate the structural deficit. And then when Maryland is in stronger shape, cut taxes in a major way.

What all this means for 1995 is a general operating budget with a mere 2.1 percent growth in on-going spending. The trick is to place $200 million in reserve funds for a rainy day (the biggest threat being federal cuts to state programs). That money might also be used next year to help eliminate the long-range structural deficit.

Mr. Glendening still found ways to reward the three jurisdictions that supported him in November. Baltimore City receives $42 million in new aid, most of it expected. Prince George's County receives $29 million and Montgomery County gets $31 million, including high-tech projects. (Baltimore County wound up with $18 million; Anne Arundel, $11 million; Carroll, $4 million; Harford, $7 million and Howard, $8 million.)

Educators must be pleased. Professor Glendening found funds to boost school construction, expand financial aid, enhance community colleges and spur private college fund-raising.

Business leaders must be pleased, too. There's $25 million to lure new companies here, business-related projects at state universities, $7 million for a small-business revitalization program and $3 million to promote the tourism industry.

And there's $20 million in one-time grants to troubled communities for law-enforcement efforts. More juvenile prison space claimed priority, too.

But some people will be hurt by limiting the growth in spending. A state-funded welfare program for disabled citizens was eliminated, though they will still receive state medical aid. Some 1,200 state jobs will be cut -- ostensibly through attrition. Pay increases for state workers were slimmed down from 2.5 percent to 2 percent.

Overall, it was a sharp reordering of priorities but in a conservative budgeting context. Mr. Glendening was very much in command. It was a budget that offered a little for just about everyone.

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