The word from Parris Glendening is that he and Jim Hunt of North Carolina are the Democratic governors most in favor of the key economic sections of the Republican Contract with America.
At the National Governors Association meeting in Washington last week he backed the proposed Balanced Budget Amendment, welfare reform (with caveats) and a proposal that makes it harder for Congress to require states and localities to implement federally mandated programs without giving them the funds to pay for them. If the proposed line-item veto had been on the agenda, Maryland's new governor would have been for that, too.
Mr. Glendening's fiscal conservatism may impose some tough times on his administration over the next four years. But he believes federal frugality and the transfer of greater powers to states and localities will be "a good thing for the nation over the long run." For him, the big question is how these proposals will mesh.
A big question and a good question. For even if governors and mayors get greater control over programs in their back yards, they are sure to have less federal money to achieve their goals.
One issue worrisome to Mr. Glendening is the unresolved question of whether welfare reform is to take the form of block grants, as Republicans want, or individual entitlements, which (with limits) remain the governor's preference. Block grants offer greater local flexibility but -- here's the rub -- the virtual certainty of reduced funding.
As for the "unfunded mandates" bill heading for President Clinton's promised approval, Mr. Glendening thinks it is "weak legislation." Why? Because the House, much to the relief of liberal Democrats, grandfathered in existing federal mandates.
If Mr. Glendening considers this a weakness, so does House Speaker Newt Gingrich. He has announced plans for monthly "Correction Days" during which conservatives will have a chance to shoot down federal programs they consider the costly concoctions of the Washington bureaucracy. Liberals have reason to fear that long-favored programs to protect DTC disadvantaged and vulnerable citizens, the environment and safety in the work place could fall victim to conservative crusaders.
For this reason, we would advise the new governor to be wary of new fads inside the Beltway. This newspaper has long opposed the Balanced Budget Amendment as a slick way to get an easy vote while avoiding real-time, real cuts in federal spending. But we have long favored the line-item veto, welfare reform and restrictions on unfunded mandates that crimp and skew state/local operations.
Overall, Mr. Glendening's openness to revolutionary changes in Washington is welcome. We will hold him accountable for making sure that Maryland's interests are protected in the process.