Glendening's Record

Solid Progress: Governor Has Delivered On His Promises, But Doubts Linger.

April 27, 1997

AFTER THREE General Assembly sessions, Gov. Parris N. Glendening can claim some notable successes and few failures. He has kept to his campaign priorities and remains focused on his prime goals -- education, law enforcement, the environment and economic development.

Yet along the way, the governor has encountered skepticism. Legislators remain puzzled by his tendency to exclude them from crucial decision-making, to vacillate on occasion and to go it alone. County executives have found him difficult to deal with unless they threaten to withhold support on key issues. And voters in polls express mild enthusiasm.

None of this deters the governor. He is an eternal optimist. He has benefited from an improving economy and a more upbeat outlook among Marylanders. He used this new uptick to champion a 10 percent income tax in advance of his bid next year for a second term.

Surely, he will remind voters that he has delivered on his promises. Education remains his top priority. Schools gained new aid even when the governor held other agency budgets to zero growth. Colleges have been promised a modest but predictable annual increase. School construction funds have risen dramatically.

Other initiatives proved divisive. Proposals for two pro football stadiums dominated last year's session. So did fights over a handgun-control bill and major reforms of the state's welfare and personnel systems. This year's furor over revamping Baltimore City's school-management system worsened regional splits.

In some areas, the governor came up short. He attempted to liberalize Maryland's Medicaid abortion policy and lost; he has not revisited that hot-button social issue. Auto insurance reforms failed to materialize and the governor lost a showdown over a treadmill vehicle emissions test that could cost the state millions in highway funds. Wetlands protection has diminished on his watch.

After some initial waffling, Mr. Glendening is now staunchly opposed to slot machines and casinos. Some lawmakers fear, though, that his income-tax cut and his big-spending plans could make a new revenue source -- such as slots -- imperative after the 1998 election.

As the governor tries to reap good will from local aid money he is dispensing in his most recent budget, he remains an enigma: not overly popular despite putting together a progressive record. Mr. Glendening must find new ways to build bridges to alienated Democratic leaders -- and to elevate voter opinion of his performance as Maryland's top elected official.

Pub Date: 4/27/97

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