Schaefer and Steinberg aren't in tune on tax package


To borrow an old Annapolis cliche, Gov. William Donald Schaefer and Lt. Gov. Melvin A. "Mickey" Steinberg aren't singing off the same song sheet. Steinberg, who normally takes the lead pushing for Schaefer's pet bills, last week declined to testify on the governor's Linowes tax package, saying his heart wasn't in it since the bill is widely viewed as dead. Steinberg's remarks made it into the newspaper Friday and we all know how well Schaefer reads the newspapers.

That same morning, Schaefer and Steinberg had a private breakfast with some legislative leaders and the chemistry between the governor and the lieutenant was a bit on the frosty side, according to witnesses.

Finally, Schaefer turned to his No. 2. "Thanks, Mickey, for stabbing me in the back."

Light rail, hot potato:

Always a popular target for lawmakers, the $426 million FTC light-rail program came under fire again last week. Members of the House Ways and Means Committee questioned Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer about Gov. William Donald Schaefer's proposed 5 percent gas tax. Committee members recalled the last gas tax increase in 1987, and how it was supposed to solve a growing revenue crisis for the Transportation Department and ended up, a year later, partly funding a new light-rail program.

William K. Hellmann, who was transportation secretary in 1987 and supported the last gas tax increase, conceded to the committee, "It's true, the words light rail never crossed my lips" during the tax debate.

But, he pointed out, he had left office by the time light rail had begun. Lighthizer, who took over last month as transportation secretary from retiring Richard Trainor, also disavowed responsibility.

Looking at Hellmann, he said, "Let's blame it on Trainor, he's not here."

Frankly speaking:

Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, who's been associated with Maryland government almost as long as the State House, has a knack for matching a colorful phrase with the situation. He was at it again at last week's Board of Public Works meeting. Criticizing less senior lawmakers for their reluctance to embrace tax increases, Goldstein advised one that sometimes "You have to take the bull by the tail and look him straight in the face."

Regular Joe:

Although a highly paid Annapolis lobbyist who hobnobs with the powerful, Bruce Bereano also likes to rub noses with Regular Joes, at least at the ballpark.

Last week, Bereano went to bat for the little guy at a legislative hearing on a bill that would limit smoking to designated areas at the new Camden Yards stadium in Baltimore.

Bereano took a keen interest in the plight of the steelworker who loves to fire up a cigarette and throw down a cold beer at Oriole games.

Bereano suggested that smoking limitations would hurt people of a certain "socioeconomic" class more than others since regular folks cannot afford a costly sky box, which would be exempt from the proposed smoking rules.

"If I work at Bethlehem Steel and I go there and I can't sit up in a sky box, I won't be able to smoke if I want to," Bereano said.

What's next? a shocked Bereano asked. "Drinking and non-drinking sections?"

Bereano, of course, lobbies for the tobacco industry.

Hiya, Mr. Congressman:

The House of Delegates, which usually strives for formality, took time Friday to greet one of their more distinguished former colleagues, former House Speaker and now U.S. Representative Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd.

Cardin dropped by the chamber over which he used to preside, and Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Eastern Shore, turned over his microphone to the congressman for a few remarks.

Lest anyone think the House is stuffy, however, a friendly message flashed across a lighted screen as Cardin addressed the delegates. It read: "Welcome Benji!!!!!!!!!!"

Copyright © 2021, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad