That costly white stuff Snow jobs: Budgets strained throughout Maryland and it's only early January.

January 11, 1996

"THE BUDGET IS busted but roads are in good shape." That was Gov. Parris N. Glendening's assessment of the situation yesterday as Maryland gradually dug out from under the snow dumped by the weekend's Blizzard of '96 and subsequent snowfalls.

Each year, the state and Maryland's 24 local jurisdictions take a gamble with their snow removal budgets. They allocate some money for storms -- hoping against hope that little, if any, will have to be spent and those funds can be used to cover shortfalls in other budgets.

In many instances this gamble works. Not this year, though.

Even though the clean-up is still incomplete -- and more snow in the forecast could add more expenses -- Governor Glendening estimated that state and local governments had so far spent over $20 million for emergency road services and around-the-clock snow removal.

If these governments had huge surpluses in other accounts, this would not be so serious. But Maryland has been slow in recovering from the effects of recession. Both property tax assessments and tax revenues are flat. Compounding the adversity are layoffs caused by corporate downsizings.

Governor Glendening is seeking to ease the fiscal crunch by asking for federal disaster relief for Maryland. "You can't expect this (aid) for just any storm. But this is clearly a storm of historic proportions," said the governor.

Mr. Glendening handled the blizzard situation ably. Unlike Pennsylvania, where the governor ordered all roads closed, Maryland was able to kept its highway network open. And his mobilization of the National Guard ensured that emergencies were handled promptly.

The expenditures imposed by the blizzard were high, but Maryland's reputation is untarnished. One way or another money will be found to remove the remaining tons of snow from roadways, even if allocations have to be shifted.

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