Gary's economic agenda Anne Arundel's future: Executive wants to invest in programs, rather than a tax cut.

October 20, 1997

JOHN G. GARY made an unambiguous statement last week about taxes. In spite of a surplus of $11.2 million this year, Anne Arundel County does not have enough revenue to take care of its pressing needs, the county executive said at the annual meeting of the Anne Arundel Economic Development Corp.

"I can't fix the school system without money," he said.

Mr. Gary told the county's business and civic leaders -- who generally favor less government spending -- that he already has plans to spend the surplus rather than return it in the form of a tax reduction. Schools, the community college, libraries and drug prevention and treatment programs will all be beneficiaries of this year's unexpected jump in revenue.

Mr. Gary, who has always operated as a tight-fisted fiscal manager interested in making government operate more efficiently, has not been transformed into a tax-and-spend liberal.

He still believes in spending prudently and indicated that he does not plan to increase the tax burden on property owners. However, he made it plain to the business group that it takes money to maintain a good school system, expand a thriving community college and sustain a healthy business climate.

To generate the revenue to maintain the county's highly rated quality of life, Mr. Gary said the only realistic option is to create more jobs that will increase income tax collections. And in order to encourage workers to live in the county, the quality of life must remain attractive, which means government must maintain a high level of service and plan carefully for growth. It is all very cyclical.

Local government must serve as "a helping hand" to businesses that want to locate in Anne Arundel, he said, as well to those already established. Recent efforts toward that end included opening a branch of Anne Arundel Community College in Glen Burnie, shaping a curriculum there to meet the needs of a large employer such as Northrop Grumman and creating a tax district to finance roads in West County.

Judging from the applause, most of the audience agreed with Mr. Gary's position.

Given the strength of his support around the county, most of the residents seem to concur with his economic strategy.

Pub Date: 10/20/97

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