Baltimore County's executive, Roger Hayden, who was carried to victory on a wave of anti-tax sentiment in 1990, said yesterday that he now supports higher state taxes to prevent more cuts in local services.
Citing fiscal problems that have caused "the most tumultuous year in the history of Baltimore County," Mr. Hayden told about 250 people gathered at the Pikesville Hilton Inn for the annual State of the County address that he will support whatever new state taxes are necessary "to keep Baltimore County on the right track."
He also repeated his support for a 5-cent-per-gallon increase in the gasoline tax, if it is used to help county government get through the rest of this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Mr. Hayden pointed out that Baltimore County lost $27 million in state money last fall when the governor chopped grants to local governments to make up for the state deficit -- money that had already been appropriated for county services. And he warned of a possible loss of $23 million more before the fiscal year ends.
The cuts the county already has sustained, along with $15 million in lower county revenues, have forced the executive to slash services more drastically than he ever envisioned.
Mr. Hayden said the county has cut its work force by nearly 1,000 jobs, or about 12 percent, through attrition and a hiring freeze. Travel by employees has been restricted. Staff development programs have been curtailed. Overtime has been reduced. Some Health Department programs, such as home visits to the elderly, public health nursing clinics and public school nurses have been scaled back. And all county employees must take five furlough days to save an estimated $13 million.
Even the usually sacrosanct education budget may be subject to cuts as the school population expands and county income shrinks, Mr. Hayden said. But even with a tax increase, he said, more cuts will have to be made next fiscal year.
Mr. Hayden's speech also outlined seven economic projects that countygovernment is pursuing to expand the tax base and generate jobs. Among them are the sale and development of the Sparrows Point Industrial Park, development of the Research Park at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, extension of White Marsh Boulevard and the creation of a business park on a nearby property.
The executive also emphasized the importance of fighting off a Baltimore City attempt to move federal Health Care Financing Administration offices from the county to the city and efforts to further develop the Owings Mills and Hunt Valley areas.
Praising Mr. Hayden's speech, County Council Chairman William Howard, a Republican representing the 6th District, blasted the state government for "asking the county to take a disproportionately high share of the state's economic burden."
"I guess they're just doing to us what the federal government is doingto them," Mr. Howard said, "dumping the problem on the next lower jurisdiction."
Council member Charles A. Dutch Ruppersberger, a Democrat from the 3rd District, applauded Mr. Hayden for "having the courage to come out in favor of increased revenues," and said he agreed with Mr. Hayden's development proposals. "I think that's the best way to generate funds for all these programs that the people want," Mr. Ruppersberger said.
Mr. Ruppersberger called on Baltimore County's delegation to do a better job of bringing county fiscal concerns to the attention of legislative leaders. "From what I hear," he said, "that's not being done."
Last week Mr. Hayden was the one being rapped for not pressing his county's case in the capital when he went before the House Ways and Means Committee weeks after other county executives and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke had attended tax hearings.