GOP legislators step up calls to cut spending

January 05, 2001|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Saying Maryland's good times may soon be over, Republican legislative leaders warned yesterday that the state is spending its money too fast and running up too much debt.

Key GOP lawmakers, who traditionally seek to limit state spending, stepped up their calls for caution on the eve of the General Assembly session that begins next week. The state enjoys a $375 million budget surplus but also shows signs of a slowing economy.

The Republicans held yesterday's news conference to urge Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, and the Democratic-controlled legislature to scale back the "feverish pace" of creating costly programs, hiring employees and issuing state bonds.

"We're spending all of our surplus and driving the state further into debt," said House Minority Leader Robert H. Kittleman of Howard County. "We're sailing into a storm. It's time to batten down the hatches."

Democratic legislators and the governor's office dismissed the warnings as overblown and said they were planning for an economic slowdown. "That's just an announcement of something we're already planning for," said Del. Howard P. Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat who is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor, an Allegany Democrat, added, "I think we've been very responsible and balanced [as] we have made significant and very important investments in our future in the areas of education and health care and transportation."

In the past few years, as Maryland's robust economy produced huge budget surpluses, Republican lawmakers had pushed for accelerating a phased-in 10 percent cut in income taxes. Glendening has resisted speeding up the tax cut, which will be completed next year, saying he considered education spending a greater priority and did not want to dip too far into the surplus.

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