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Targeting Glendening Legislative ire: General Assembly leaders blast governor's big-spending plans.


GOV. PARRIS N. GLENDENING faces rebellion from his own party leaders in the General Assembly. They don't like his Lone Ranger style. They don't like his free-spending promises. They don't like his overt political gestures to interest groups that supported his election.

Most of all, lawmakers don't like the governor's flight of fancy that ignores the state's slow-growing economy and structural deficit.

In recent weeks, Mr. Glendening has called for a 10 percent income-tax cut costing $935 million over four years; a five-year, $254 million aid package for Baltimore City schools; a five-year, $170 million plan to preserve open spaces; an $80 million College Park sports arena; a phased-in free-tuition plan for B-average college students costing $40 million a year; free medical care for uninsured middle- and low-income pregnant women, costing $6 million; and a raise for state troopers, costing $5 million.

This correctly sent off alarms in the fiscally conservative legislature. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller publicly criticized the governor's "pie-in-the-sky programs" that "are not going to be put in place." House Speaker Casper R. Taylor complained about the governor "blatantly promising the moon" NTC knowing that the full fiscal impact won't be felt until "just as he's leaving office."

Such blunt public broadsides constitute a stern warning to Mr. Glendening. Unless he changes his approach, the governor could find his legislative program dead on arrival. He runs the risk of losing control of such key issues as taxation, education and social services.

It is quite extraordinary for both of the General Assembly's top leaders to attack the governor so roundly. Rarely has the legislative criticism been so sharp and unified. Democrats in the Assembly usually pay deference to a Democratic governor. But not this time.

The two leaders may have ulterior motives. Mr. Taylor is a potential Glendening foe in 1998; Mr. Miller disagrees with the governor over a tobacco tax increase and slot machines at race tracks. But their anger over Mr. Glendening's liberal-spending ways reflects the growing dismay of legislative colleagues.

Mr. Glendening needs to erase public disenchantment with his early stumbles and the debacle he left behind in Prince George's County. He can't do that without the help of the House speaker and Senate president. This requires a re-thinking of the administration's grandiose spending plans. Otherwise, the months ahead could be filled with more loud legislative blasts and an erosion of gubernatorial influence.

Pub Date: 12/08/96

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