IT WAS apparent even before the legislature reconvened two weeks ago that ideological differences wouldn't bog it down. This 90-day session is unlikely to see much philosophical debate. Anticipating a $240 million surplus, lawmakers are walking around Annapolis saying, "Show me the money!" If Howard County legislators don't come home with a sizable portion, their constituents will be disappointed. But it won't be a new feeling.
Last year, Gov. Parris N. Glendening gave the county $13 million in school construction money instead of the $20 million it requested. But that was when Republicans led the county. Democrats now hold the county executive post and a majority on the County Council. Mr. Glendening, who didn't carry Howard in 1994 but did last year, is expected to show his appreciation.
State Sen. Martin G. Madden, who chairs the county's Senate delegation, says he is making additional school construction money a priority. Del. Shane Pendergrass, who chairs the House delegation from Howard, says more money for roads is also sought.
Despite the budget surplus, legislators may have to vote on two tax measures before they see new money. An increase in the state cigarette tax will be easy for Howard lawmakers to support. The county has one of the toughest public smoking ordinances on the East Coast. They should have no trouble voting for a measure to help reduce underage smoking.
Legislators may also be asked to vote on a gasoline tax increase, although the chances of that seem to grow slimmer each day. A gas tax increase is a harder sell with surplus revenue predicted. Howard legislators should resist entreaties by the local Chamber of Commerce to remove mass transit from gas tax funding. The county needs more mass transit to bring workers to the service jobs available here. Mass transit is more likely to be cut if placed in the general fund.
Pub Date: 1/28/99