Teachers, Townsend win big in governor's surprise

The Political Game

Plan: The `challenge' to local governments to raise educators' salaries aided by state money also could make the lieutenant governor look good for the 2002 election.

February 15, 2000|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

THE BIG WINNERS last week in Annapolis were state teachers and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

The wins were courtesy of Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who startled pretty much everybody with his surprise "challenge" to local governments to increase teacher salaries by 10 percent over two years, using a combination of local funds and $89 million in state aid.

The state's share would represent a major increase in state education funding, and an observer might expect county officials to respond to the idea with good cheer.

But the governor's challenge has prompted mostly grumbling among county executives.

The bottom line is Glendening's plan calls on counties to spend a bit more on teacher salaries than they otherwise might or lose out on millions of dollars in state matching funds.

Two county executives considering a run for governor in 2002 against Townsend seemed to struggle to find ways to cast the plan in a negative light.

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan criticized Glendening's pay-raise initiative, not on its merits, but because it would run only two years, potentially leaving local governments to pick up the entire cost after that.

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger declined to discuss the proposal publicly, but privately, he laced into administration officials for springing the bill on county officials without consultation.

Adding to their discomfort was the prominent role Townsend played in the announcement. She took center stage when Glendening left to be with his wife, who was hospitalized with a partially collapsed lung.

Any of the possible Democratic candidates would welcome the endorsement of the politically influential Maryland State Teachers Association, but the proposal may well have cemented it for Townsend.

Some legislators seem intent on rewriting the governor's bill to make sure the money flows from Annapolis -- but not necessarily designated for teacher raises.

It's safe to assume, however, the teachers union will use indelible ink when it tallies a list of legislators working against a bill designed to give teachers a 10 percent raise. The same applies, no doubt, to would-be governors monkeying with the proposal.

Legislature must approve change in city primary date

The voters of Baltimore approved a charter amendment in November changing the date of the city elections to coincide with presidential elections. Case closed, right?

Not exactly. The state attorney general's office has concluded that under Maryland law, city voters had the authority to change the date of the city's general election, but the date of the city's primary is controlled by the General Assembly.

That means city officials must get legislation passed in Annapolis changing the primary. Without action, the next city primary would occur in September 2003 -- 14 months before the next general election in November 2004.

Normally, the legislature would bow to local courtesy and approve such a proposal, as long as it has the support of lawmakers from Baltimore. But one powerful legislator -- Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller -- opposes switching the primary date.

The Senate president, a Democrat from Prince George's County, pushed in the past to shift the city election to coincide with state elections -- a move many figured was aimed at stopping members of the Baltimore City Council from running for the legislature without having to give up their city seats.

That effort failed, and the City Council responded with the charter amendment to move the election to presidential years.

Some wonder if Miller is opposing the primary switch out of annoyance with the City Council. Miller says no. He argues that moving the primary to 2004 would depress voter interest.

Stay tuned.

Gov. Kemp sounded good to Haines; he's not interested

Try this one on for size: Gov. Jack Kemp.

That was the fleeting wish of Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Carroll County Republican, who recently wrote Kemp -- a Bethesda resident and former congressman -- asking him to consider a run for governor in 2002.

"I believe your candidacy offers our Party the best hope of capturing the Governorship and our State the best hope of ending spiraling government spending and control of every aspect of life in Maryland," Haines wrote.

Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is the only prominent Republican to express interest for 2002. Several big-name Democrats are raising money and weighing such a race.

Kemp's son Jimmy put a quick end to the speculation. "He was very honored, but respectfully declined," Jimmy Kemp said.

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