It's an elected official's dream: With an election year looming, the budget suddenly shows a large and unexpected surplus. That's the situation facing Maryland lawmakers now, and it will take some real strength of character to resist the temptation to make 1998 the year that nobody in Annapolis says "no."
How big is the surplus? By next June 30, it could be close to $900 million, way more than anyone predicted. But their failure to predict it hasn't stopped some lawmakers from dreaming up ways to spend it.
Del. Robert Kittleman, R-Howard, make a persuasive argument that it's the people's money and that when times are good, it ought to be returned to them. The state budget director's office says business groups want additional funds for work force development, and that advocates for the disabled want additional cash for services.
Gov. Parris Glendening hasn't said much about those areas, but does favor more health-care dollars for pregnant women and children, and school cash - for instruction and construction.