Challenger says governor lives in 'economic never-never land'


ROCKVILLE -- Republican gubernatorial candidate William S. Shepard charged yesterday that Gov. William Donald Schaefer's resistance to planning and his big spending "binges" have led Maryland toward a "financial black hole."

Referring to budget deficits that the Schaefer administration said last week could reach $270 million, Mr. Shepard said the Democratic incumbent had resisted the General Assembly's efforts to rein in his spending tendencies.

The Republican said he had watched as the deficit projections had risen from just under $150 million to at least $199 million and perhaps well beyond if the economy worsens.

"I wonder what they'll be telling us next month," he said.

Mr. Shepard said Mr. Schaefer's constant prodding of the legislature and its spending affordability committee has pushed spending beyond the state's ability. That, coupled with the governor's penchant for large public works projects, such as the baseball stadium in Baltimore and light rail lines, create an ominous fiscal future, he said.

"If Schaefer is going to keep squeezing us in an economic downturn, that's made to order for a tax

increase," Mr. Shepard said.

The state must re-examine its spending priorities, he said. "Who now is really for a stadium?" he asked. "Who now is for light rail if the revenues are not there?"

The Republican candidate again decried the lack of a fully informed debate on Maryland taxes and urged Mr. Schaefer to release a report prepared at the governor's request by the so-called Linowes commission. The panel recently said it will not issue the report until after the November election.

If the governor does not plan to ask for tax increases, Mr. Shepard asked yesterday, "Why won't he tell us?" Mr. Schaefer, he said, lives in an "economic never-never land."

While the governor blames the national economy or the federal government for Maryland's difficulties, Mr. Shepard said, "It's his problem, and the whole state knows it." As a result of the deficits, he said, the state is cutting back on essential services and following a "lunatic idea of setting free criminals who belong in prison."

Paul E. Schurick, Mr. Schaefer's press secretary, said yesterday, "The budget situation is almost entirely a result of the economic downturn. Consumer spending is down, so sales tax revenues are down and corporate income tax receipts are down."

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