State leaders pledge to settle key issues before end of session Glendening, Taylor vow to pass city school aid, tax cut and Smart Growth

April 02, 1997|By C. Fraser Smith and Thomas W. Waldron | C. Fraser Smith and Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

After huddling three times yesterday, Gov. Parris N. Glendening and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. pledged to end the 1997 legislative session with a 10 percent income tax cut, a major infusion of cash for Baltimore schools and new curbs against sprawl.

Sometimes bitter antagonists this year, the two held a joint press conference to predict solutions to problems that had seemed complicated enough to send the General Assembly into overtime. The 90-day session is scheduled to end at midnight Monday.

Exuding near sweetness and light, the two men said they see acceptable compromises on all the major issues.

"These five magic days" before adjournment offer plenty of time to finish the Assembly's important business, said Taylor, who described himself as "partnering with the governor."

"We're optimistic," said Glendening, who nevertheless continued to withhold a package of spending sweeteners he has dangled before legislators whose votes he needs for approval of his bills.

"In due time," he said, when asked if he would now release his so-called supplemental budget.

While the Senate has moved expeditiously though the major issues, a logjam had been developing in the House, some of it fueled by distrust between Taylor and Glendening.

But yesterday, House leaders were looking for ways to speed final approval of a tax cut bill.

They said they were considering accepting the Senate's proposal -- without the usual House-Senate conference committee in which differences are resolved.

The House leadership took this course in part because Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller made clear yesterday that he is willing to see a tax cut die if the Senate version isn't accepted.

It was unclear how many delegates would go along. The House bill calls for a 7 percent cut over two years, while the Senate proposes a 10 percent cut over five.

"Getting a fair compromise between the House and Senate tax bills should be much easier than on many of the other issues," said Del. James C. Rosapepe, a Prince George's County Democrat who helped craft the House version.

"My two big concerns about the Senate bill are that it's a budget buster. It's also, of course, tilted much more to the wealthy than the House version," Rosapepe said.

Senators believe their bill offers a simpler and equally fair approach to the goals of job creation and help for families through tax relief.

A more likely sticking point in the movement toward adjournment was the Smart Growth bill to control sprawl, but yesterday the sides seemed ready to deal on that, too.

"Smart Growth will work if both houses are flexible," Taylor said. "And I think both houses will be flexible."

Glendening and the Senate have backed a tougher set of state-level controls that attempt to limit new development by withholding state funding unless the projects are in approved areas.

While favoring the concept, Taylor and the House have been anxious to maintain a balance of controls that is sensitive to the needs of the counties.

The House version of the bill, which environmentalists say will do little if anything to stem suburban sprawl, was approved by the full chamber yesterday.

As for the school aid bill, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said yesterday's series of high-level meetings gave him renewed confidence.

The bill cleared the Senate with strong support last week, but Taylor has held up a vote in the House to see how much money the governor includes in his supplemental budget for education in jurisdictions outside Baltimore.

"The fact that they are talking is a good sign," Schmoke said.

Glendening and Taylor did more than talk. They behaved like good-natured adversaries, at least for a few moments. Before one meeting, Glendening gave Taylor a tongue-in-cheek present -- a collage of photographs of himself for the speaker's office.

Later in the day, Taylor and Glendening combined on an April Fools' Day gag, trying to convince the State House press corps that their legislative initiatives had crumbled.

Pub Date: 4/02/97

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