Glendening's Slump

March 19, 1995

It happens to many a rookie. Promoted to the big leagues, unfamiliar with the players, called upon to assume responsibilities that dwarf prior assignments, the rookie stumbles and performs below expectations. Gov. Parris N. Glendening is in just such a slump.

He's been in office 60 days. Yet he has won few friends in the legislature, lost some major battles, expended huge amounts of personal capital to win approval of minor cabinet appointments and made some bad patronage picks.

Except for business development issues, things are not going Mr. Glendening's way. His staff lacks political savvy in dealing with the 188 senators and delegates. That has cost him dearly.

Mr. Glendening has yet to grasp the internal dynamics of the General Assembly. As a result, he antagonized both House Speaker Casper R. Taylor and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller on important issues.

The governor's involvement in setting up a lucrative pension program in Prince George's County for himself and some aides he brought with him to Annapolis sent alarm bells ringing in legislative hallways. When his successor in Prince George's discovered a $107 million deficit, it raised more doubts among state lawmakers.

There's an uneasiness within legislative ranks. No one -- not even diehard Democrats -- wants to embrace the new governor just yet. Thus, when Mr. Glendening tries to lobby legislators, he gets a polite hearing but no groundswell of support.

So far, the governor has lost an important vote on Medicaid funding of abortions and has repeatedly been rebuffed on legislative efforts to partially lift a no-smoking ban in the workplace. His budget scheme to raid an automobile insurance fund of $60 million didn't fly. His special crime grants were erased. And his elimination of an aid program for disabled and impoverished Marylanders has been harshly denounced.

In the next three weeks, Mr. Glendening can snap out of his slump. To do so, he has to change his stance and try new techniques. For instance, he must find ways to work with, not against, Mr. Taylor and Mr. Miller. That could be critical in working out a compromise on the tax-cut issue.

In a sense, Mr. Glendening was rushed to the big leagues. He had to fend off court challenges almost up to Inauguration Day. He had to submit his budget just two days later. There was no time to formulate a strong legislative program or get to know the wants and desires of the Assembly players.

He has made more than his share of "rookie mistakes" and blunders. Before the legislature adjourns April 10, Mr. Glendening needs to show he can run a $14 billion operation and work effectively with a complex and contrarian legislature. He needs some game-winning hits to prove he belongs in the major leagues.

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