State should use surplus for aid ... How delightful...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

January 15, 2000

State should use surplus for aid ...

How delightful that problems such as poverty, hunger and addiction don't exist in Maryland.

At least that's the impression one might get from the state legislature's rush to reduce taxes ("State tax cut gains favor," Jan. 7). Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller backed that idea, noting it will provide taxpayers funds "not needed at this time."

Not needed by whom -- the healthy, wealthy and over-fed?

If Maryland's lawmakers lack ideas for constructive uses of revenues, perhaps they should read The Sun more closely.

In the past three months, the paper has disclosed that the state has failed to provide welfare-to-work recipients the Medicaid benefits they were entitled to; that arrested juveniles do not have proper access to drug treatment; that the state has insufficient community-based resources for people with developmental disabilities; and that, despite increased deaths from child abuse, only three pilot areas of the state have been given money for additional case workers.

Instead of giving me a $130 tax break, I'd prefer that the governor and legislature begin to examine the needs of this state's most vulnerable residents, for a change.

Patra Tate, Baltimore

If we only had the money.

We would replace obsolete school books and see that no child has to share; crumbling schools would be razed or repaired.

We would have enough security so all children could go to school without being afraid of bullies.

We would offer drug rehabilitation to addicts looking desperately for help to break their habit.

We could beef up our police enforcement to get the drug dealers where they belong: in jail.

We could find help for the unfortunate homeless people who make downtown Baltimore an uncomfortable place to be.

Libraries could be reopened so the saying, 'The City That Reads" would not be a mockery.

A billion-dollar state surplus is a lot of money. Tax refunds would be welcome, but minimal.

Our legislators should instead be reminded of the wish list of needs we once couldn't afford to address. They should spread the money around so that every Maryland citizen can profit from it.

We have the money.

Stanley Oring, Pikesville

... Give taxpayers their due

The Sun's "Agenda 2000" editorial "A time of plenty in Md. State House," (Jan 9) suggests it would be imprudent for the state to offer a major tax cut.

But what do you call it when the state overtaxes its citizens by $1 billion? I call it highway robbery.

We've had to beg just to get a 10-percent tax reduction which was brought because Ellen Sauerbrey scared the pants off the state's Democrats the first time she ran for governor.

Now the full 10-percent income tax reduction should be implemented, effective Jan. 1, 1999.

That would give us some relief from the state's overtaxing last year.

R. A. Bacigalupa, Baltimore

It is really surprising that more citizens are not outraged about the revenue surplus at the state level.

It seems so simple: The state collected $1 billion too much from its citizens to meet the 1999 budget. The money belongs to the taxpayers and should be returned.

But our governor acts like a kid in a candy store. He is working hard to find ways to spend this found money.

Apparently, it hasn't occurred to him that the surplus is our money, not his.

I encourage the chairwoman of the state Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee, Sen. Barbara Hoffman, and her colleagues, to do their sworn duty, and act in their constituents' best interests, by preventing the governor's money grab.

It's our money; just send it back.

L. Koch Reisterstown

Pencils, books before Internet

It's easy to applaud Mayor Martin O'Malley's desire that all Baltimore City schoolchildren should have equal access to the Internet. Certainly, the Internet is a valuable research tool.

Unfortunately, the announcement put Mr. O'Malley in the same camp as Gov. Parris N. Glendening and state schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, who have championed cyber connections in the past, while failing to remedy the real deficiencies that keep Baltimore's schools mired in mediocrity.

City schools lack even the most basic supplies, such as pencils, pens, activity books, staplers, copiers and copy paper. Libraries don't have enough age-appropriate books. Classrooms lack updated textbooks.

And if it weren't for many of the city's underpaid teachers buying school supplies out of their own pockets, the situation would be much worse than it is.

I'm not suggesting we should postpone Internet access. But we must first deal with more immediate priorities, such as attracting more qualified teachers, providing classroom necessities (including smaller classes) and encouraging more parental involvement.

What good is the Internet if a child can't read at grade level? How valuable is a Web page when there's a dearth of qualified teachers to teach lead and inspire?

I'm sure Mr. O'Malley's heart was in the right place when he championed Internet access. He just has to make sure his head is in the right place, too.

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