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How will Glendening act in a second term?; Inauguration: Wednesday's speech gives governor chance to outline his aspirations. Agenda '99: Goals for the new year.


PARRIS N. Glendening would be the first to admit he'll never be mistaken for Jesse Ventura, the colorful wrestler-turned-governor in Minnesota.

Instead, Maryland's governor has employed a nose-to-the-grindstone approach. It may not be exciting, but it has resulted in solid achievements.

Now Mr. Glendening must build on these advances in his second term. His inaugural address Wednesday gives him the chance to lay out a compelling vision for Marylanders as they begin to contemplate life in the 21st century.

During his first four-year term, Mr. Glendening pretty much accomplished everything he set out in his campaign literature.

Among the highlights: A one-a-month purchase limit of handguns; a "smart growth" land-use policy; a phased-in state income-tax cut; a pro football team and stadium in Baltimore; personnel reforms; steps to curb dangerous fertilizer runoff into the bay; and a major overhaul of Baltimore City schools.

Things got off to a rocky start, though. Mr. Glendening survived a contentious court fight to get into office. His margin of less than 6,000 votes gave him little leverage in dealing with legislators.

Then he was hit by a wave of embarrassing stories: A cushy pension deal for himself and top aides, while they were running Prince George's County, and a gaping budget deficit Mr. Glendening left behind in P.G.

There was no honeymoon period with the legislature, or with voters. Indeed, the new governor's public approval rating sank to 18 percent.

Mr. Glendening carried on, using a gradual, building-block approach to achieve his goals. Slowly, he won over converts.

He's been a relatively cautious governor on budgetary matters. In his first year, he whacked $235 million from the budget put together by outgoing Gov. William Donald Schaefer. The following year, as recession lingered in Maryland, he produced the first no-growth state budget in 45 years.

Since then, boom times have let Mr. Glendening spend state dollars more freely, especially on education and health care. Yet he resisted legislative pressure for a big tax cut, reaching a compromise that has seen much of the state's surplus funds accumulate as a safety net.

The former College Park political science professor surprised no one in making education his centerpiece -- major aid packages for failing school systems in the city and Prince George's, proposing a free-tuition plan for B-average high school graduates -- which failed in the legislature -- and a shift in focus to renovating old schools before building new ones.

With the successes have come failures. The governor has been dogged by complaints that he doesn't care enough about economic development.

Two years ago, the House speaker accused Mr. Glendening of giving "lip service" to Maryland's economic climate. Last year, his business development secretary quit in protest.

Legislators still complain the governor's word isn't his bond. He's being accused of hedging on some of his most recent campaign statements.

The governor also doesn't work closely enough with lawmakers in formulating initiatives. That's why Senate and House committees frequently overhaul administration bills before passing them.

But in starting his second term, Mr. Glendening comes before the General Assembly in a much stronger position: Voters gave him a ringing endorsement last fall.

It is important that the governor set a cooperative, conciliatory tone. He may be tempted to seek retribution against those who opposed his election. But that would be counterproductive. Marylanders expect their governor to serve as a force for consensus.

They also expect their governor to continue the progressive trend in social legislation that has been a hallmark of this state. They appear content with a cautious fiscal approach that has given Maryland one of the strongest financial ratings of any state.

Mr. Glendening is fortunate to be governor in exceptionally good times. Polls suggest that people are content with their lives, and with the direction of state policies. That makes it easier to govern.

This will be the defining moment for Governor Glendening. He doesn't have to worry about positioning himself for the next election: He is barred by the state constitution from seeking a third term. That should liberate him and give him the confidence to create a lasting legacy.

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