Destructive rivalry Budget payback: Montgomery County's isolation only harms efforts to unify state.

April 02, 1996

AS THIS editorial is being written, an impasse threatens to delay passage of the state's $14 billion budget. At issue is the unwillingness of Montgomery County's lawmakers to look beyond their own parochial needs. Angry legislative leaders are in a get-even mood, spurring more ill-will and further isolating the Montgomery contingent.

That only harms the state. The continuing divide between Montgomery County and the rest of Maryland detracts from efforts to move forward on programs of statewide importance. The continuing failure of that county's delegation, especially its senators, to recognize the necessity to champion projects in other regions puts Montgomery in the legislative dog house.

This year's dispute is typical. Montgomery lawmakers not only opposed a football stadium for Baltimore but did so with an obsession and fury that alienated other lawmakers.

Because of the Montgomery senators' confrontational approach, at least $3 million in school construction aid for Montgomery probably will be lost. Yet little is served in meting out punishment to Montgomery if it deprives citizens of needed assistance. At the same time, there is no excuse for the arrogant, narrow-minded perspective of the county's legislators.

As Maryland's biggest and wealthiest county, Montgomery ought to play a key role in helping other regions. That has yet to occur. But top state leaders have begun to funnel the state's resources to address Montgomery's needs -- more money for RTC school construction, a convention center and highway improvements.

Now is the time for top Montgomery leaders to end the county's war of angry words. County Executive Douglas M. Duncan should take the initiative to set up a "summit" meeting with his Baltimore counterparts -- Kurt L. Schmoke and C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger -- to end regional grievances, devise a common agenda and set the stage for a legislative summit between the two regions. Neither side understands the problems and concerns of the other. A gesture is needed to signal an end to this destructive rivalry. Mr. Duncan is in an ideal position to provide it.

Pub Date: 4/02/96

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