What lies ahead in 1996? In Maryland: Our crystal-ball readings of future events for the region and state.

January 01, 1996

WHAT DOES 1996 hold in store for this state and the subdivisions of this region? Our editorial writers examined the outlook for Maryland and the six local jurisdictions and came up with the following predictions.

Events in Washington will have a major impact on decisions in the state capital, the county seats and at City Hall. This state, more than most, is heavily dependent on nearby Washington for jobs in both the private sector and the public sector. The uncertainty of budget and federal monetary policy make 1996 hard to decipher. But we'll give it our best shot.


THE PYROTECHNICS start early with the opening of the General Assembly's 90-day session next week in Annapolis. Big cuts in federal aid are expected to make budgeting hazardous for Gov. Parris Glendening and lawmakers. How they find room for a promised cut in income taxes while coping with federal parsimony and a weak state economy will become clear in late March.

Gun control, auto emissions testing, regulatory reform, abortion liberalization, collective bargaining, stadium funding, port dredging, election law changes and teacher certification, among others, will set off fireworks.

In mid-session, politics takes center stage as Maryland holds a March 5 primary. The Republican presidential contest could prove a test between GOP conservatives, backing Phil Gramm, and state party moderates supporting Bob Dole. But that race could be eclipsed locally by the cast of thousands scrambling to succeed Kweisi Mfume in Congress.

This fall, the November presidential election will dominate. Before then, though, the governor must make two critical appointments. Chief Judge Robert C. Murphy of the Court of Appeals retires in October after 24 years and Chief Judge Robert C. Sweeney of the District Court retires in September after 25 years.

Baltimore City

CRIME WON'T SUDDENLY disappear and the streets won't become spotless but many of the questions facing the city should be answered in Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's third term, as he attempts to establish his legacy.

The experiment with Education Alternatives Inc. ends in March, positioning the school system to make an assessment on the direction it is going. If EAI wasn't the answer and Superintendent Walter Amprey's "enterprise schools" don't work, he may be in peril.

With newcomers making up one-third of the City Council, the mayor must redefine his relationship. One of the main issues will concern property taxes. The last council pushed for tax reduction, with the mayor hesitantly going along. Given Baltimore's weakened tax base, he may now take a tougher stand.

With new leaders taking over the Baltimore Development Corp. and the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association, the city must start making more headway on economic growth. The new year should also see the Empowerment Zone take off with the announcement of several companies locating in the area due to enticing tax breaks.

Howard County

THERE IS APPREHENSION about 1996 in Howard, although local prospects haven't reached the dire proportions of other jurisdictions. Statewide, revenue growth from income taxes grew only 1 percent, but nudged up 2.8 percent in Howard. Unfortunately, officials expected 5.5 percent.

The strains on the county budget will hit hard in two areas: schools, which gobble up the lion's share of local funds, and solid waste management. County Executive Charles Ecker has decided to revise his plan for a per-bag trash-pickup fee. Instead of one bag per family, plus additional charges for more bags, residents will be allowed extra bags at no cost.

The brightest spot may be economic development. With office space over 10,000 square feet hard to find, officials believe the county will enjoy a new spate of built-to-suit construction.

Anne Arundel

BOTH ELECTED LEADERS and residents are bracing for the next countywide comprehensive rezoning, a contentious process that occurs roughly every 10 years. The last rezoning in Anne Arundel was a bloodbath; this one promises to be tense, at least.

Most of the controversy likely will be centered on rural but developing South County, where residents are adamant about preserving open space, and in West County, a designated growth area where some want to stop or alter the rapid development now taking place.

Six of the seven current council members have never been through a rezoning; this will be a test of their ability to balance constituent demands against what's best for the county.

Other major issues include deciding whether the school system should sacrifice some autonomy in the interest of efficiency and saving money by turning over school construction to the county; getting down to the nitty-gritty of funding and planning a new jail, and continuing to discern what services Anne Arundel taxpayers can afford with a tax cap in place and the revenue picture still bleak.

Baltimore County

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