Q: What is your view of government's role? We're looking for a statement of first principles.
A: I believe very strongly that there is a need for limited, well-run and efficient government, but a significant portion of our effort must be toward business development and jobs. Our job is to educate, not just our kids, but the work force. Government has to provide basic services and try to assure safe communities.
I also believe there is a role for government in empowering people, in supporting those who are most in need in our society: the elders, the handicapped, the unemployed. This role ought to be one of support and not one of maintenance or handouts.
People should remember from whence they came. I was the first Glendening ever to go to college. I remember when I was 5 and we got indoor plumbing for the first time; I remember being very, very poor. The doorway for me was education. I remember my grandparents giving me the extra parental care I needed. That's why I put so much emphasis on supporting families.
An increasing number of families are headed by a single parent or both parents are working. Government can help provide a good environment for kids: to help with before- or after-school programs, to establish public and private day care centers in a supportive role to help working families stay together.
Our son, Raymond, is doing well in part because we could afford a really good care-giver who's been with us since he was born. I would hate to think what would have happened to us in our professional lives or to Raymond if we didn't have her. In Baltimore City, people are desperately trying to hang on to a sense of community. Our idea is to come in and help with things such as targeted job credits, mini-urban development action grants, modeled after the federal program used at the Inner Harbor. Projects of $250,000 to $1 million could help fringe areas make it. I think it's an absolutely legitimate role for government.
Q: How would you bring jobs into communities and work with people who have not had a long history of employment?
A: We tell employers if you bring new jobs into a target area, you get a rebate on the income tax that the employee pays up to 20 percent. If you bring a new manufacturing plant to South Baltimore and hire 10 people and they pay $1,000 state income tax each, the company for the next five years gets 20 percent of that back. But if you take someone on welfare, then you get a higher ratio back -- 50 percent for five years. What that means is the employee has a job, the state collects 50 percent tax and is no longer paying welfare, and the company gets a tax rebate. If you only got 1,000 people in such a program, you'd be making a substantial impact. Current programs don't match the real world. If we moved into those sorts of programs, we could have an impact.
Q: Your opponent talks about programs that don't work, that we can't afford and that you don't ever use.
A: Again, that kind of rhetoric. The last phrase is meant to be divisive, to pit people against one another. I believe the responsibility of being a leader is to pull people together. The first two parts of the statement, she's exactly right. We ought to ++ get rid of them. But in our society there are a lot of programs that different people don't use. But in our society if we don't have a disability, are we going to get rid of programs for people with disabilities?
Q: How much economic crime is there, crime committed by people who are poor, who feel they have no stake in the welfare of the community and no future?
A: I'm not sure people think it through. But you go into community after community -- and Baltimore is a sad but good example -- and you see young people standing on the street and the only entrepreneur you see is the drug dealers, the only jobs they see are $4-an-hour retail jobs, which they know they can't support a family on that money. Out of this it's awful hard to convince a person to stay in school. For what purpose?
That's why we have to bring opportunity right into these communities. Then you can say, "Look at this. This is a $35,000 job and one where you don't take a risk of being shot." I intend to offer those incentives, to assemble parcels of land and bring those jobs there.
Q: Your opponent says government programs may actually promote crime. If getting a government grant makes you feel you're owed an income, she says, it's a short stop to armed holdups.
A: I think it's good political rhetoric. It's fun to beat on welfare recipients. It would be about like saying disability payments lead to the same thing. What it means is that "I know it's good politics to beat up on welfare recipients."
Q: Some voters would say you've been talking about programs we've tried for 30 years. You're just throwing the same old ideas at us.
A: I don't agree they didn't work. Where would Baltimore be without programs? This is one of the great success stories of the East Coast. If programs were legitimate for the Inner Harbor, why not for the neighborhoods?
If you move away from the programs, what do you do? To say that law enforcement efforts don't work perfectly is an obvious truth. But we don't say we aren't going to try anymore. The answer is we must make it work and we must make it work better.
Q: We seem to have a bit of intellectual gridlock in the area of welfare reform. We have a group of people who say the costs are too high to act and another who say we just have to cut people off. We seem stuck between those extremes. People despair of change in welfare.
A: In America, we've always cared about the elders, the handicapped and families. Unfortunately, there are people who are trying to be leaders who come at it with mean-spiritedness and divisiveness. I don't intend to fall into that trap.
I feel my greatest accomplishment over 12 years as county executive was to create more of a consensus and feeling of community. We helped overcome some of the racial antagonism that was here. That's what leadership is about. I want to project a positive vision that recognizes the potential of people.
Q: What would be the two or three principles of your welfare reform approach?
A: Have to have good jobs available. And if people aren't willing to take them, then you start taking benefits away.
But you don't go from welfare to a $40,00 a year job. You go to a $7,000 or $8,000-a-year job. So part of the answer should be: "You get a job and we'll phase down your payments so that at least you get an increase when you take a job." We'll permit you to maintain your Medicaid up to a certain level.
Q: Why hasn't government done these things already? These ideas are not new, are they?
A: No one is willing to take the risk. No one is willing to stand up to the public and say: "We can put people to work, but they'll still need some kind of a subsidy." I'd rather say: "We'll help with the transition" [from welfare to work].
The thing that would come out of that is a work ethic. Then their kids will see their parents going to work. Right now if all you see is your parent receiving a welfare check, you don't get that ethic.
In concept, these moves work out to a net savings pretty rapidly. You phase down the welfare payments. They keep 50 percent, but the government has 50 percent savings. Taxes are paid, so you start to change those numbers pretty quickly.
Q: Looking at what you're offering voters, do you feel disarmed by the suggestion that you don't have much to offer except that you'll do things better?
A: I don't buy the premise. I offer the experience of 12 years running a very tough county with a tax limitation. The citizens have overwhelmingly approved the job I have done three times with generally over 80 percent of the vote and when the primary came around, endorsed me by 80 percent.
I really believe we can do things significantly better. I think a governor has the best chance to do something for a state. I remember as a teen-ager in Florida, Gov. Leroy Collins saying after the desegregation decision of 1954 that Florida was going to desegregate because it was the law of the land. I remember his leadership. And former Gov. Terry Sanford in North Carolina: People think of North Carolina as a place that has one of the best job development programs in the nation and one of the best education systems in the country.
Q: We have a governor who cared a lot about economic development, yet now we have a campaign in which the candidates speak as if the problems have been ignored.
A: I try not to be critical, but I think the programs were too episodic. You need a thought-through strategy, not just for one or for one prospective new company but a comprehensive approach.
In Prince George's, it's very systematic. Our economic development people know how to go in and make it happen. I think that what has been missing at the state level is a sense of exactly what it is we are doing and why and how we're doing it. So it becomes episodic.
There are three things we absolutely must do: improve education, have a safe community, and a business atmosphere and process that bring business and help keep the businesses we have.
We're up a net of 119,000 jobs [in Prince George's] in the #F 12-year period I've been county executive.
Q: You're accused of throwing hundred-million-dollar bones to special interests and then when people ask how you can pay for them, you say you'll do it only if the state can afford to. It seems like you're trying to have it both ways.
A: Not really. At best, our commitments would be $200 [million] to $300 [million].
Q: Not $700 million?
A: Only one who said that was an opponent who is now a strong supporter of mine. What I have promised is an investment of $200 million to $300 million
Q: It's an investment? Is that a term of political art?
A: I look at really well-thought-through spending programs as investments: education, public safety and jobs. The first thing that must be done is to take care of the state's structural deficit. But it's largely taking care of itself as the economy improves.
We've outlined how to do all this:
We can absorb without firing 1,000 jobs a year with good management, reducing the levels of administration. That will save $34 million a year, $120 million in four years.
We can expand the economy. We've had immense success and if we can bring even a portion of it statewide, I'll be happy. Maryland is now at 2.1 percent growth. If we got up to the national rate of about 4 percent, you'd get $90 million more.
We pay $23,000 for convicted drug users to spend a year in jail. Instead, we should invest $4,000 in drug-treatment programs. If you do this, you start saving substantial amounts of money.
Q: Are the voters too impatient, asking government to do everything?
A: Impatience is part of the American character. It's a redeeming, positive characteristic.
Q: Won't a lot of the problems we have take a generation to solve?
A: Americans and Marylanders get impatient and want things fixed, but they also have the common sense, practical approach. That approach, I believe, will be ready to accept progress,
getting on top of the curve.
Q: Are you a career politician?
A: I don't think of myself primarily as a politician. It's not just political rhetoric. I think of myself as an educator. That is my profession. If I lost an election, I'd be right back into teaching.
In my mind, politics is a necessary avenue to do what has to be done to make policy work. I really dislike the every four-year political dance you have to go through. I know people who love the political dance and get bored with the policy end. But I have ideas. I know how to do the job.