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War clouds -- in Annapolis


Are we heading into a period of confrontation, perhaps open warfare, between Gov. William Donald Schaefer and the General Assembly? Some fear that is about to happen as the governor heads for his second term in little over a month without recovering from his election blues.

The governor's quick rejection of some budget-cutting ideas offered by legislative leaders this week suggests confrontation. Schaefer said some alternatives to layoffs proposed by lawmakers wouldn't help the long-range needs of the state in coming hard times. Well, those suggestions were not supposed to be long range. They were temporary quick fixes for the estimated $242 million budget gap for this fiscal year, which ends June 30. For long-term planning, the governor should be seeking a consensus with House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. and their top legislative leaders. That doesn't seem to be in the cards, though the governor was to meet today with Mitchell and Miller.

Legislators see the governor's plan to fire some 1,800 state employees just before Christmas as a public relations blunder. He even has threatened cuts of as many as 12,800 state workers. At the same time, the governor's salary will increase along with those of his Cabinet. And Schaefer keeps wondering why the message of his administration's accomplishments isn't getting through to the public, a complaint he repeated again this week to his Cabinet.

Rather than furloughing employees, the governor will be firing some. He doesn't want to take cuts in some of his economic-development programs. He wants his Rocky Gap State Park golf course in Western Maryland left alone. A delay in completing the light-rail line would be unthinkable.

One legislator suggested the governor should be satisfied with "two monuments" to his administration, referring to the new Camden Yards baseball stadium and the light-rail line. And he should, therefore, be willing to accept some necessary cuts, perhaps the golf course, Ocean City beach replenishment, maybe even some costly updating of University of Maryland sports facilities.

There is no sign of any movement on those substantive projects. What is also concerning legislators is no sign of action on the Linowes Commission recommendations, no initiatives on a gas tax or other means to replenish the Transportation Trust Fund. There is concern that Schaefer's post-election depression may continue. And that he might let slip away a leadership position in the hard times ahead.


By the way: As does Maryland, most other states have budget problems. Three of them -- New York, Michigan and Minnesota -- have shortfalls of about $1 billion each. Michigan is solving it with a 9 percent across-the-board budget cut. California is on top of the deficit pile with a potential gap of $4.3 billion for next year. Florida is chopping $270 million in spending now and planning a 5 percent cut next year.

If former Baltimore Mayor Clarence H. Du Burns raises enough money to challenge Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke next year, it wouldn't remain a two-way contest. Former city State's Attorney William Swisher is telling his friends that he would then enter the race. He has a strategy planned for such an "up the middle" try. He would propose to settle the city's long-troubled educational system by appointing Boyse Mosley, principal of Northwestern Senior High School, as the school superintendent.

Former Baltimore County Executive Dennis Rasmussen seems to be heading for the private sector in the coming year. He could wind up with the Maryland Chamber of Commerce. His Howard County counterpart, Elizabeth Bobo, however, has been offered a job by the governor in the Department of Housing and Community Development. Schaefer once suggested that the 1994 Democratic gubernatorial ticket might be Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening and Bobo.

GOP sources report that former Ambassador Alan Keyes is taking a serious look at a possible 6th Congressional District race against Rep. Beverly B. Byron, the Democratic incumbent.

The most expensive contest for the House of Delegates? It might be in Baltimore County's 9th District, where six candidates spent some $268,444.66 in the primary and general elections for three seats.

The Executive Committee of the state Democratic Party has adopted a resolution endorsing the idea of a Maryland presidential primary on the first Tuesday in March 1992. That's just one week after the New Hampshire primary. The proposal will go to the General Assembly and probably will be approved despite some grumbling that there could be poor weather that early in the year.

How about a Thursday primary? It may never have happened before, but the city's primary election next year is scheduled for Sept. 12, a Thursday, not Tuesday, Sept. 10. How come? Rosh Hashana, a Jewish holiday.

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