Maryland's Finances Are Prudently Managed
While participating recently in a panel discussion at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce convention, I was challenged to respond to the commonly-held belief that elected officials are poor managers of government sources.
I know this view all too well. It assumes that we are too beholden to interest groups to make sound financial decisions.
The record of elected officials in Maryland proves quite the contrary. We have a long and respected tradition of solid, prudent and conservative fiscal leadership in our state.
Fortunately for our taxpayers, this prudent management is recognized by the three major bond rating agencies. Fitch, Moody's and Standard & Poor's again gave Maryland a Triple-A rating on its most recent $160 million bond offering.
The three agencies give only five states' bonds -- Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, Missouri and Utah -- a Triple-A rating. The other four states issue very little debt, favoring instead a pay-as-you-go approach to funding capital projects.
A Triple-A rating -- the highest rating a state can attain -- reflects the financial market's confidence in how a state manages its fiscal affairs. Maryland is the only Triple-A-rated state that aggressively pursues bond financing to meet its capital construction needs -- issuing nearly 50 percent more debt per capita than the other four Triple-A states. As a result, we have developed and supported superior facilities and infrastructure and fostered our state's quality of life.
All three rating agencies were very complimentary about our abilities and leadership as elected officials. Moody's commented, "Officials acted responsibly and prudently to correct sizable mid-year financial imbalances resulting from revenue revisions and increased expenditure pressures."
After acknowledging state employee raises that resulted in as much as a 10 percent increase for workers in the lower pay scales and restoration of a portion of welfare grant levels, they went on to say, "The fiscal 1995 budget continues a trend of restrained spending growth in line with relatively conservative revenue estimates."
My colleagues and I take pride in these evaluations, which are based on decisions made by the General Assembly during the past four years. . . .
Thanks to the willingness of many legislators to support decisive, prudent and sometimes unpopular budget actions, Maryland is once again on the road to recovery.
During the past term, the budget was under severe strain for three major reasons.
First, the worst recession in 50 years significantly curtailed growth in tax revenues. Second, demand for state-funded services -- such as education, public safety and welfare -- grew dramatically. Third, inflation for medical services was twice the overall rate of inflation.
These three factors drove up state expenditures at a time when revenues fell far beyond anyone's worst projections.
However, strong, fiscally conservative leadership enabled the state to take the appropriate actions.
The General Assembly adhered to limits established by the Spending Affordability Committee and oversaw the reduction of more than 5,600 state positions -- dropping our national ranking from 18th to 45th in state employees per capita -- and more than $1.2 billion in state expenditures.
Clearly, Maryland's government has been downsized and streamlined in response to the needs and demands of the public.
There are still some problems on the horizon, however. School enrollment, Medicaid enrollment and prison populations are projected to grow through the next 10 years.
This, coupled with continued increases in the cost of medical services, will be the driving force behind increased expenditures -- regardless of who is our next governor.
It now appears that the new governor and the General Assembly will need to make reductions totaling $150 million next session just to maintain control of the budget for fiscal year 1996.
Maryland has established a model for balancing progressive programs that serve the needs of its citizens with prudent budgeting.
We weathered the worst economic downturn in a half-century without disabling government, overburdening taxpayers, or sacrificing our standard of living. As an elected official, I believe we have proven ourselves as good managers worthy of continued support.
Howard P. Rawlings
The writer is a delegate from the 40th District and the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
Deceptive Selling of Health Care Reform
Jonathan Paul Yates' opinion piece, "Overreaching Killed the Health Bill" (Oct. 18), summarized why the Clinton health care plan failed. But it overlooked what many think also was another major reason for the bill's demise -- the way the bill was prepared and sold to the electorate.
I am one of the few who read and tried to understand the 1,352-page monster. Most members of Congress did not.
Reading it took me one hour a day for four weeks. The deeper I got into it the more I realized how at odds Hillary Rodham Clinton's secret task force -- from which representatives of the medical profession, insurance industry and pharmaceutical industry were excluded -- is with American people of both political persuasions. Some of the provisions are outright socialism.
But what fired my opposition to this plan was the methods the First Couple used to sell the plan to the American people.
Their appearances at town meetings all over the country at taxpayers' expense turned off many people. Their carefully screened, by-invitation-only audiences of sycophants were seldom permitted to ask unscreened questions or comment.
One of the reasons we have the best health care in the world is that we have the best pharmaceuticals. Anybody hospitalized in even the best overseas hospitals, as I was with a stroke in Germany in September 1992, realizes that their best drugs are generics of drugs developed years ago by American manufacturers. Some of their best are no longer used here.
The insurance industry became Mrs. Clinton's next victim in her campaign of demonization.
A few weeks after her attack on pharmaceuticals, she admitted to an audience in Hartford, Conn., the capital of the insurance industry, that her bill would have serious adverse effects on the industry . . .
Mrs. Clinton's repeated TV appearances with a disabled or deformed child in her arms, telling all who would listen that, if we'd had universal health care, that child would have been born perfect sent many of us up the wall.
All babies are not born perfect; accidents occur no matter how good their prenatal or postnatal care.
The lengths to which a medical advocacy group had to go to get access to the task force records made more people believe something was fishy.
After a fierce fight, a judge in Washington threatened to cite Mrs. Clinton for contempt and set a trial date. The day before the case was to go to trial, the White House turned over the records. I wonder how the media would have covered the First Lady being lead out of the White House in handcuffs.
I haven't met anybody who does not believe health care reform, including universal coverage, is a pressing need.
Perhaps next year, Mrs. Clinton, whose resume includes no health care experience, will butt out and let the 104th Congress study the subject and make whatever changes it deems appropriate. If Congress doesn't give us a workable plan, we can fire them in two years. We cannot fire Mrs. Clinton.
They want a program to be tested before it is put into effect nationwide, something the Clintons would not buy.
Changes that concentrate on cost control and insurance reform must be made incrementally and tested in a few states before being imposed on 250 million Americans. People don't want one-seventh of our economy placed under government control in one fell swoop, and they don't want their satisfactory coverage taken away.
Antique Row Open House Was a Big Success
I don't understand how you managed to report such a negative story Oct. 9, regarding the Downtown Partnership's open house event on Antique Row.
Every antique dealer that I talked to on Antique Row during the open house expressed a positive response to the affair.
In fact, there were at least five times the normal number of shoppers on the street. I know of one dealer who had a major sale on Sunday despite The Sun's pronouncement that the open house was a failure.
Your article's headline stated, "Promotion a bust for some city antique shops," yet in your article you only reported on the comments of a restaurant owner and a frame shop. I suggest that you talk to the antique dealers.
In addition, the photograph in your article showed the row with a fair number of shoppers. Your article said one thing but your picture said another. I'm confused.
Whatever happened to The Sun's community spirit? It is obvious to me that you only looked for the negative to report in this case.
Perhaps you should know there have been major changes on Antique Row in the last four years, with the addition of at least five high-quality shops. Antique Row is a collection of quality antiques and knowledgeable dealers.
Philip S. Dubey
4 The writer is president, Dubey's Art & Antiques.
The article "Promotion a bust for some city antique shops" by Norris P. West was not only negative, it was grossly inaccurate.
The promotion was anything but "a normal Saturday" for the merchants of Antique Row. Pedestrian traffic was not brisk, it was phenomenal.
Mr. West should have been more extensive with his interviews.
It is obvious to us that if a reporter writes an article about Antique Row, he or she should interview several of the antique dealers, in lieu of a restaurateur and a picture framer, since we are the mainstay of Antique Row.
When we read the article, we could not believe what we were reading.
As antique merchants in the 800 block of Howard Street, we witnessed hundreds of people perusing the shops. The atmosphere was carnival-like due to the efforts of the Downtown Partnership.
The Antique Row Association works closely with the Downtown Partnership, and it has a cooperative and amicable relationship. It is our opinion that the Downtown Partnership is making every effort to improve life in downtown Baltimore and has done an astonishing job since its inception.
We merchants owe them a great deal of gratitude for their constant concern and dedication to Baltimore. This promotion benefited Antique Row, and we are positive it benefited other merchants in downtown Baltimore.
Our hats are off to the Downtown Partnership for an outstanding job.
James E. Judd
The writers are president and vice president, respectively, of the Antique Row Association.
Slap on the Wrist
After all the negatives stated in its endorsement (Oct. 23) of Sen. Paul Sarbanes, it is amazing that The Sun can support him in the upcoming election.
The Sun mentions lack of leadership, lack of a more broad-based voting record and an anti-business record.
It then says that since he could become chairman of the House Banking Committee, he will have clout to increase his influence on behalf of Maryland's citizens.
If the editorial board believes this, I have a bridge in New York City to sell. After 28 years of elective office, Mr. Sarbanes is not going to change one thing.
Bill Brock may not be the answer, but The Sun could have endorsed neither candidate. This would have been a much louder "wake-up call" than the slap on the wrist it gives to Mr. Sarbanes, especially since his election is all but guaranteed.
It is time for The Sun to back up what it says.
C. D. Wilmer
I might be impressed with your argument that we should continue to compel the forced retirement of judges at age 70 if I didn't happen to know that in the entire federal judicial system -- from the Supreme Court of the United States to the U.S. District Court -- judges serve for life.
In fact, the chief justice of the United States, William H. Rehnquist, looking hale and hearty, was recently shown on television celebrating his 70th birthday.
And the story which immediately followed Justice Rehnquist on the national news showed President Clinton greeting the brave and brilliant president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, on the White House lawn. Mr. Mandela is 76 years of age.
Competence, good health and good mental condition should be the determining factors in mandatory retirement, not an arbitrary age level.
Kirby C. Smith
Patrick Ercolano's Oct. 8 column about Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden made some good points, but I don't think Mr. Hayden made all of his enemies because "he trimmed local government through tax cuts, privatization of services and reductions in the county work force."
I think he made many more enemies by not living up to certain campaign promises and not being totally truthful with the public.
As one of the 1990 leaders of the property tax revolt, I hosted Mr. Hayden as a speaker at three of our Property Taxpayers United meetings, where he agreed to help us bring the property tax assessments back to Baltimore County and out of state hands.
But when the time came to try this, Mr. Hayden fought it, despite the approval of the Baltimore County delegation in Annapolis, which brought it before a committee.
Mr. Hayden whined that the changeover would cost too much money and turned a deaf ear when we explained how it wouldn't cost a cent.
Mr. Ercolano is correct in referring to Mr. Hayden's recent demeanor as leaning "more toward whining than winning."
The county executive has been a whiner throughout his political career, but worse than that, his vindictive behavior toward those he deems his enemies . . . is known throughout the county.
I'll be the first to admit that I made a mistake in backing Mr. Hayden as Dennis Rasmussen's replacement. Mr. Rasmussen was, despite his extravagances, an honorable man.
Mr. Hayden's opponent, Dutch Ruppersberger, is highly respected and has a major advantage over the present county executive.
He has a vision for the future of Baltimore County, something many people (including your paper) say Mr. Hayden lacks . . .
I not only predict that Mr. Ruppersberger will win, but I believe he will win by an overwhelming majority.
In response to the screaming of the female fringe, a judge has been roundly criticized for imposing a short jail term on a man who killed his wife after he found her in bed with another man.
At the same time in the Court House, another judge sentenced a woman to a minor jail term because she had waited until her husband went to sleep and then covered him with lighter fluid and burned him to death.
Hardly any mention has been made of the second decision.
Please understand I am not criticizing either decision. From what I have seen and heard, I suspect that both judges exercised reasonable judgment. I know them both to be excellent and considerate jurists.
My complaint is that if the one judge sent a message to men that they can kill their wives with relative impunity, then why didn't the other judge send a message to the wives that they can kill their husbands with relative impunity?
I strongly suspect that if the judge who was criticized had been a woman or if the defendant before the court had been a woman, nothing would have been said.
I submit that this is rank, invidious, sexist discrimination.
James N. Phillips
Simon on O. J.
It is no secret that Roger Simon thinks O. J. Simpson is guilty. He has uncleverly danced around saying it point-blank for months.
What I take exception to is his recent implication that a jury composed predominantly of minorities, simply by virtue of being minorities, would be incapable of properly examining the evidence during a trial and finding O. J. Simpson guilty.
. . . Why would a predominantly white jury be more competent than a jury of blacks or Hispanics? Does being white indicate one has intelligence?
I am an intelligent, black female and I haven't made up my mind yet about O. J.'s guilt or innocence because I haven't seen all the real evidence, only the made-for-TV variety.
If he is guilty of these heinous crimes, I wouldn't care if they burned him at the stake. And if he is not guilty, then the jail time he is serving now is overdue from the period when he beat his wives.
Were I a member of the jury, I would use logic and reasoning to connect motive, method and opportunity between the crime and the accused. I cannot believe I am the only member of a minority race capable of doing just that.
For Roger Simon to imply that the minorities of downtown Los Angeles don't have among their legions 12 people who are qualified to do the same is an insult.
What is obvious is that at least one person is not capable of waiting for the evidence to make up his mind.
Alberta E. Brown