Why are some General Assembly leaders so intent on picking a fight with Gov. William Donald Schaefer? Why are they so anxious to strip him of flexibility in dealing with the state's on-going fiscal crisis?
These questions have emerged during negotiations between legislative leaders and members of the governor's staff. They are trying to iron out differences over a bill that would cut $125 million from the state budget in order to make the government's books balance before the fiscal year ends June 30. The General Assembly will meet on Wednesday in special session to approve the money-cutting bill.
But a sticking point has emerged. If the legislature's fiscal analysts are right, there could be a modest surplus after the dust has settled. Already, legislators are eager to spend this money. Under heavy and loud pressure from local governments and environmental groups, key lawmakers have agreed to give first call on surplus funds to new parks.
That would hardly be our top priority in the midst of a budget crisis of immense proportions. The legislature's action would leave the Schaefer administration with no surplus whatsoever to handle emergency situations.
Such political irresponsibility should not be countenanced. Kow-towing to the parks interests may win legislative leaders brownie points with these groups, but it leaves state government in a precarious situation. Before the General Assembly convenes on Wednesday, legislative leaders should review their hasty and ill-conceived decision and give the governor the flexibility he must have to address unexpected fiscal developments.