Conciliation Will Take Glendening Only So Far

January 29, 1995|By C. FRASER SMITH

And now, government by the numbers and by conciliation meets the real world.

In the first nine days of his administration, Gov. Parris N. Glendening delivered what he called a trilogy of speeches, spiced with recognition that Republicans now hold a share of the power in Maryland.

First the Glendening vision of a state as family. This was followed by a four-year plan to restore fiscal order. He concluded on Thursday with the traditional State of the State address, an assessment of our financial and psychic well-being.

He finds Maryland balanced precariously between fear and hope. Economic insecurity and fear for personal safety invade the public consciousness, he said, threatening to overwhelm the citizenry's many reasons to feel confident about the future.

Over the next two weeks of his first term, the new governor will release the results of studies prepared for him by more than 500 civic and business leaders.

With these studies and his own manager's style, Mr. Glendening would show the way toward security by good management.

"Ninety percent of being a good governor is being a good manager," said Del. Peter Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat. The Glendening government, he said, will be a government of clear focus and follow-through.

After proposing to eliminate a $48 million welfare program, raise the speed limit, reorganize two or three Cabinet departments and increase spending for schools, Mr. Glendening had many fans in his own party.

Mr. Glendening knows a speech, even one given reasonably good marks by his opponents, offers no hope of a honeymoon. Reaching out to businessmen, putting Republicans in the Cabinet, raising the speed limit as he proposes to do and talking tough about the death penalty are also insufficient.

The Republican bottom line, as stated by Del. Robert L. Flanagan of Howard County, was unavoidable in his view. The new governor doesn't get it.

"There's no question the Democrats are trying to grab the center of the spectrum, but do they really understand what the people )) want? They talk about jobs, but they want government to get its hands on everything," Mr. Flanagan said.

He used this example: Mr. Glendening wants to offer a downsized version of urban development action grants --

"mini-UDAGs," he calls them. If they were good for Baltimore's Inner Harbor, the governor asked, why not use them in other parts of the state?

Wrong, says Mr. Flanagan. The idea of a new department of business development is wrong, too, he said, laughingly referring to it as the "department of government capitalism," a contradiction in terms for him.

"It's really not the job of government to create winners and losers [in business]. Baltimore did well because it used someone else's money. That money came out of the private sector. To be suggesting a return to that sort of program gets him an 'A' for good intentions but an 'F' for economics."

Reactions of this sort are likely to show both sides the outer limits of accommodation in a political context.

Republicans will pressure Mr. Glendening with their income tax cut proposal, a 6 percentage-point reduction promised by Del. Robert H. Kittleman, the GOP House minority leader, and others. With 41 Republican allies in the House (up from 27 before November's election) and many conservative Democrats, the GOP will be a vibrant opposition.

Mr. Glendening and his supporters will caution that Republicans in Washington, in pursuit of a balanced federal budget, may well confront the states with deep cuts in a wide array of programs.

"This is the major reason not to have a tax cut this year," said Del. Nancy K. Kopp, a Montgomery County Democrat. Delegate Kopp remains uneasy with Mr. Glendening's decision to lop off the $48 million welfare program.

"I want to see what his plans are for dealing with the people he's cut. If you have people who are physically unable to work, what will we do with them? They're still here."

The clear-cut, hard numbers, in other words, don't always compute in the real world.

And the politics remain. Mr. Franchot and a few of his Montgomery County colleagues met with Mr. Glendening recently to push for toll-free poison control phone numbers.

Why not hook up with the 800 number already working in Baltimore? Mr. Franchot had to agree this made sense -- but he said he would keep pushing for a Montgomery system. Various local needs make that reasonable, he insisted.

D8 C. Fraser Smith is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun.

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