ROCKVILLE -- The Montgomery County Council gave itself emergency powers yesterday and removed a spending limit for one year to take advantage of the robust economy.
After a sometimes testy debate, the council voted 6-3 to ignore spending levels set last fall by a previous, and more conservative, council. It will set a new spending level April 20.
"This is an end run around the citizens," said council member Nancy Dacek, a Republican. "They wanted restraint on the process. They wanted us to think about what we are doing with their money."
Montgomery County law requires the council to set a budget spending limit each October. The limit cannot be exceeded by more than 1 percent without the approval of seven of the council's nine members.
Council President Isiah Leggett, a sponsor of the emergency bill, said revenue projections from last year were "artificially low," creating a widening gap as the economy blossomed. The revenue surplus is approaching $100 million.
County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's proposed $2.6 billion budget is 5.8 percent above the limit. He has expressed confidence he could get the seven votes to override the charter-imposed spending restriction.
The budget total is expected to grow as council members add their projects.
Requiring a seven-vote override this year would allow the minority "to dictate the terms and conditions of the budget," said Leggett, a Democrat.
That drew sharp criticism from council member Marilyn Praisner, a Democrat, who accused the majority of using an unusual set of circumstances to muzzle the minority.
Leggett responded, "No, this is so unique that I don't want three council members holding the other six hostage."
Pub Date: 3/31/99