The Baltimore County Council introduced a bill last night that members say would improve government accountability, but the executive blasted it as a naked power grab.
If enacted, the bill would require the executive to list individually all personnel positions in his proposed budgets and would prevent him from adding new positions without the consent of the council.
Council Chairman Kevin Kamenetz said the bill, co-sponsored by all seven council members, would enable the council to more easily track the creation of government positions.
"The council is extremely concerned about maintaining our AAA bond rating. We have no desire to raise taxes, and we want to make sure we stay the fiscally responsible county we are," Kamenetz said.
County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said the bill would have disastrous consequences for efficient governance.
"The council is proposing ... a radical agenda for political purposes," Smith said.
Under current rules, the executive sets out a budget appropriation for groups of employees, but doesn't specify the number of positions or salaries the people in them will earn. The executive is then able to create new positions by moving money within a budget category.
"If this passes, I won't be able to hire a police officer, a firefighter, a snowplow operator or a crossing guard," Smith said.
But Kamenetz said executives in the past have used that power to sidestep the council's authority to influence policy by making cuts to the executive's budget.
"Certainly the executive should be able to hire people of his choosing and have a competent staff," Kamenetz said. "But the council wants to be able to exercise budgetary restraint. These are tough times, and we keep seeing salaries and positions being created."