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Arundel councilman releases Schuh, Neuman political questionnaires

Questionnaires filled out by Republicans Laura Neuman and Steve Schuh when they were vying for Anne Arundel County executive a year ago have been released by a member of the County Council.

Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Democrat, released the questionnaires, which cover a host of topics, from personal backgrounds to positions on county finances, business development and thoughts on working with the school system.

Neuman and Schuh were among more than a dozen people who applied to become county executive last February after John R. Leopold resigned in the wake of his convictions of misconduct in office. All applicants filled out the questionnaires, but Benoit only released Neuman and Schuh's answers, saying they are now both campaigning for the county's top job in 2014, while the others are largely out of the public eye.

He said wanted to highlight what he described as Neuman and Schuh's inconsistent positions on stormwater fees as they compete for the Republican nomination for county executive.

But Schuh said he stands by his answers and has no issue with Benoit releasing them. "I've never changed my position," Schuh said.

Neuman, likewise, said her position has been "consistently clear."

Schuh voted for the state law that requires Maryland's 10 most urban and suburban jurisdictions to collect a fee to pay for projects that reduce stormwater pollution, but says the council approved fees that are too high and should cut the property tax to offset the fees.

Neuman, after being appointed county executive, vetoed the county council's stormwater fees. The council overrode her veto.

In last February's questionnaire, Neuman was asked if she had any concerns about legislation pending before the council at the time — which included the stormwater fees. She answered that she was not aware of any concerns. She also said she would review each piece of legislation "with respect for the County Council's judgment."

Asked specifically about the stormwater fees, Neuman answered: "State law requires it and we must comply."

Benoit said he thought Neuman would sign the stormwater fees into law, a key reason he voted for her to be executive. "I would not have voted to put Ms. Neuman in office had I known she would veto that bill," Benoit said.

Schuh, meanwhile, said in his questionnaire: "I have reviewed all pending legislation and will sign them if presented by the Council in their current forms." On the stormwater fees specifically, he noted his vote for the state bill and said he believes "this method of funding to be an appropriate means of addressing the County's stormwater management issues."

In an interview Friday, Schuh said he supports "modest" stormwater fees as one way of funding pollution projects. He said if he had been appointed county executive, "I would have held my nose and signed the bill" because an appointed executive should show deference to the county council, at least initially.

Schuh said he would have also proposed a budget with a cut to another tax to offset the fees, and would have put general fund money into the stormwater program. This week, he urged the council to cut the property tax to make up for the stormwater fees.

Neuman noted that her questionnaire answer said simply the county must follow the state mandate, and that remains the case. However, she said it's not fair for 10 jurisdictions to bear the burden of Chesapeake Bay cleanup.

"I could not and would not sign the bill. That's why I vetoed it," she said.

Benoit said voters should have information about candidates' stances on the stormwater fees before they pick a Republican nominee for county executive. "Neither of them are sort of pure on this issue," he said.

Schuh and Neuman are the only announced Republican candidates for county executive. On the Democratic side, the candidates are Joanna Conti, who ran unsuccessfully in 2010, and George F. Johnson IV, a former county sheriff who ran unsuccessfully in 2006.

Benoit, from Crownsville, is term-limited and cannot run for the council again. He said he does not plan to run for another office this year.



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