But then, that may have been the point of the vote.
Gov. Parris N. Glendening, House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. had agreed to postpone any consideration of a tax cut until they determine how budget cuts proposed by the Republican-controlled Congress might affect Maryland. But Republicans, who ran under gubernatorial candidate Ellen R. Sauerbrey's tax-cutting banner last year, forced a vote, vowing revenge against Democrats who opposed them. Ninety-nine Democrats did it anyway, with Richard N. Dixon of Carroll County the only exception.
Following GOP strategy, state Republican Party Chairwoman Joyce Lyons Terhes quickly declared in a statement that Dels. John S. Arnick and Joseph J. "Sonny" Minnick, both of Dundalk; Diane DeCarlo and Michael H. Weir, both of Essex; and Katherine Klausmeier of Perry Hall now can be considered all but officially unseated in 1998.
"These delegates have the arrogance to vote against their constituents' expressed wishes," Ms. Terhes said. "They have forfeited their right to represent the hard-working families of Baltimore County. Come 1998, these five delegates are history. Their seats are going Republican."
Not mentioned was Dundalk's other Democratic delegate, Jacob Mohorovic Jr.
Reaction of the targeted was mixed.
"Lots of luck," said Mr. Weir, who turned 71 yesterday and has spent 20 years in the General Assembly.
"The only responsible thing to do was to wait until next year," he said. "With what's going on in Washington, anybody who would spend the last cent you've got would be a fool."
Ms. DeCarlo, a 6th District freshman, said, "1998's a long way off. I'm not even thinking about that yet." The GOP slam is "unfair," she said.
"This was strictly political," Mr. Arnick said, noting that Republicans who have been cheering for federal budget cuts that may have a major impact on state budgets were downplaying that impact before the state vote. "They said, 'Don't worry about the cuts. They won't happen,' " he said. A state tax cut would place Maryland in a "precarious position" if federal welfare funds were cut, the 7th District delegate said.
Ms. Klausmeier said she promised to hold the line on taxes, not to cut them, when she campaigned last year. "I did what I said."
Mr. Minnick, also of the 7th District and chairman of the county House delegation, had no comment.
Ms. Terhes said she targeted the five delegates rather than all of Baltimore County's Democrats because they represent districts where Mrs. Sauerbrey's call for a four-year 24 percent tax cut gave her the strongest vote over Mr. Glendening.
So why not Mr. Mohorovic? A mistake, Ms. Terhes said. She thought he had voted for the tax cut.
Election returns suggest that the three Eastside districts, all historically and heavily Democratic, are places Republicans feel
they can make inroads.
Mrs. Sauerbrey won the 6th District with 63 percent of the vote, took the 7th with 56 percent and won the 8th by 9,000 votes.
Two Republican delegates were elected in Ms. Klausmeier's 8th District last year and one in the 6th.
Lance Copsey, executive director of the state Republican Party, confirmed that the GOP sees the Eastside as fertile ground, and he dismissed claims by Democrats that they did the only responsible thing in voting against a tax cut.
"They're using scare tactics," he said about estimates of federal budget cuts on state budgets.
Mr. Copsey said federal block grants may enable states to eliminate failing or wasteful programs and use the money where it will do the most good.