A wish list for the legislature

January 13, 2000

THE Maryland General Assembly opened its annual 90-day session in the Annapolis State House yesterday. It's a time of heightened political interest, particularly in a year when the state is sitting on a $1 billion surplus.

What should state lawmakers accomplish between now and the legislature's April 10 adjournment? Here are the wish lists of a variety of Marylanders.

Douglas W. Hamilton Jr. is president of Hamilton and Associates, an Owings Mills manufacturer of filter and respirator test equipment, elevator components and pressure washers. He's also a founding board member of the Calvert Institute, a public policy think tank.

One always comes back to the budget and spending, especially with the state's big surplus this year. I'm of the opinion that the surplus should be returned to taxpayers.

Companies could spend this surplus money far better than the state as far as job creation and business growth. Also, I don't think the surplus money should be built into the budget, where it will stay forever. Budget growth in the 1990s was far in excess of the rate of inflation. Is there no end in sight? That's a pretty serious issue.

I would like to see the governor's ability to hand out Sunny Day funds (to businesses) be curtailed completely. It's a corruption of the process. Business and the state should have a clear separation. It's an unholy alliance. Government rewards people who are insiders. It seems to me to be highly inappropriate. And the record is not very good. Once you start giving handouts, everyone is going to start playing the game. What, in fact, are you accomplishing?

Judy Morenoff chairs the Committee for Montgomery, a broad-based group of 35 citizens seeking a common agenda for that county.

Our No. 1 legislative and budget priority is meeting the needs of children. That includes education, school construction and renovation funds, of course; also, funds for attracting, strengthening and retaining teachers and preschool and after-school programs, funds for Montgomery Community College's expansion and for a new proposed Montgomery College-University of Maryland joint plan to offer programs in Montgomery County.

In addition, our agenda includes better funding and better restructuring for the whole juvenile justice system. The system is only as good as its staff. You can't retain and attract a good staff unless you pay them competitive salaries. The state is on its way to standards for juvenile facilities; if those don't already include standards for who works there, they need to.

Timothy Maloney is a lawyer and former state delegate from Prince George's County.

One, give Mayor Martin O'Malley the tools to make Baltimore City once again a safe place to live, work and go to school. If the city is to have a future, parents of school-age children must be able to trust their neighborhoods and their schools.

The state should expand property-tax relief to encourage long-term business and residential investment in failing neighborhoods. Parents whose kids are trapped in failing city schools should be given reasonable educational choices, either public or private.

Two, the surplus won't last forever. Don't spend too much of it on recurring operating expenses. Now is the best time to make critical, one-time capital investments, especially in higher education and transportation. Both beltways need it. So does the University of Maryland.

Three, Maryland continues to build expensive adult prisons. The future occupants of these prisons are now entering our failed juvenile justice system at age 11 or 12. Other states are finding structured, safe educational environments for their young offenders -- before it is too late. Maryland should learn from its mistakes and do the same.

Four, forget about poll numbers. Forget about partisanship. Do the right thing and the politics will always take care of itself in the long run.

Levi Rabinowitz, a Baltimore-area consultant, advises clients on image-making and how to deal with negative media coverage.

Maryland must become competitive. When minority entrepreneurs have access to investment capital and credit equal to that of non-minority business owners, Maryland will truly be the Free State.

The dreams of access, opportunity and ownership are attainable only when capital mechanisms are readily available. Providing long-term capital and credit for minority enterprises (and new ventures) must be at the top of the legislature's agenda.

Kevin Igoe is a Maryland-based Republican political consultant.

In 2000, the General Assembly should enact meaningful and rapid income-tax reduction on the hard-working families of Maryland. That definition excludes the 1997 joke of a 10-percent reduction phased-in over five years.

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