Harford County needs a leader who would restore fiscal...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 23, 2002

Harford County needs a leader who would restore fiscal sanity

The suggestion that Harford County Executive Jim Harkins raised the local income tax to avert a budget deficit is an over-simplification of Mr. Harkins' handling of the county's fiscal affairs ("Executive challenge," editorial, Jan. 7).

Mr. Harkins did raise local income tax 20 percent, but he also raised the real property tax by 2.73 cents, the amusement tax by 400 percent, the landfill tipping fees by 10 percent and virtually every fee for local services by at least 20 percent.

All to avert a deficit? I don't think so. Harford County ended the last fiscal year with a $14 million surplus, which is approximately equal to the revenues generated by all of Mr. Harkins' tax and fee increases. Had he exhibited an ounce of fiscal restraint, the county could have ended the year with a small surplus -- without any of the increases.

Mr. Harkins blames the so-called "dire straits" of the county's budget on the residential development during the Eileen Rehrmann years, but he has issued more than 5,600 residential building permits since he took office. He has failed to develop a growth management plan and refuses to enact an "impact fee" that would make new housing pay its own way.

Moreover, Mr. Harkins has increased Harford County's operating budget by more than $70 million in just three budget cycles, and the county's debt has increased by more than $50 million.

During this time, Harford County's per-pupil expenditure on education has fallen to dead last in the state.

The voters who have been bamboozled by Mr. Harkins will have an opportunity in November to replace the "King of Tax and Spend" with someone who can restore fiscal sanity to Harford County government.

M. George Price

Bel Air

The writer is treasurer of the Committee to Elect Paul Gilbert.

Look long and hard at CareFirst conversion

The Sun's article concerning CareFirst's proposed sale to WellPoint Health Network reported that WellPoint released a statement declaring that health insurance premiums would not increase "substantially beyond normal inflation" ("Insurer files to convert, be sold," Jan. 12).

I find it hard to believe, after years of premiums increasing at least 25 percent per year, that once CareFirst turned for-profit, the premiums would only increase at about the rate of inflation, which is approximately 2 percent. You don't have to be a member of a consumer group or hospital trade association to doubt this proposed merger would decrease the rise in premiums that much.

The Maryland Insurance Administration, which is supposed to look out for the interests of the consumer, better look long and hard at this deal. The only groups that would benefit much from this sale would be CareFirst and WellPoint.

Brian T. Shorts

Sparks

Governor's vision leaves taxpayers holding the bag

Thanks to The Sun for the coverage of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's final State of the State address ("Governor seeks tax cut delay," Jan. 16). I was so glad to hear of all of Mr. Glendening's visions for the future of the whole world, including the environment and global poverty.

It's nice to be inspired once in a while, even by politicians. Too bad Mr. Glendening's grand visions for Maryland for the past eight years have now put the state in a fiscal bind that the public will end up paying for in additional taxes.

Political progressives will never understand that they are only stewards of the public trust, not creators of regimes. Fiscal accountability for public money is a governor's main job. Leave the rest to your pastor on Sunday morning.

Mr. Glendening has been true and faithful to his ideals, and we have all paid to help implement them.

Frank O'Keefe

Baltimore

Ellen Sauerbrey is right about excessive state taxes

The very informative column by Ellen Sauerbrey should appear daily until election day on the front page of The Sun ("State's Democrats spend us into hole, want to tax us out," Opinion Commentary," Jan. 15).

Yes, we will have to endure another and yet another series of tax increases to pay for more programs, more spending and, yes indeed, more waste.

Spend more, tax more, enlarge government while the entire United States is in the midst of a recession.

Lewis Ruttenberg

Baltimore

One `hake' of a story about area's `lake trout'

Thank you for the wonderfully informative and quite humorous article on the "lake trout" sold in Baltimore ("A Fish By Any Other Name," Jan. 14).

I have enjoyed "lake trout" from Lexington Market over the years and never knew it was silver hake, a member of the codfish family. That makes the article by staff writer John Woestendiek one "hake" of a fish story.

Joseph DaVia

Laurel

Slain Palestinian Christian is victim of terror, not martyr

The Sun's article "Mistaken identity likely in Palestinian's death" (Jan. 17) by Peter Hermann reaches a new low in inaccurate reporting and biased coverage of the complex issues of the Middle East.

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