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Put this deal on hold

October 06, 1998

Put this deal on hold

With less than a month to go before the general election, and the pollsters pronouncing the Maryland governor's race too close to call, Gov. Parris Glendening will apparently take his supporters anywhere he get them, even if they've recently called him a liar and a man who can't be trusted.

So strained is the relationship between the governor and Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke that the mayor couldn't endorse the state's chief executive for reelection a day after Glendening agreed to have the state pick up the entire costs of running the circuit court system. That would save Baltimore $9 million a year, and shift yet another of the city's fiscal burdens onto taxpayers from all over the state.

We editorialized against this deal as soon as we heard about it, because we believe it should be debated in front of the Maryland General Assembly instead of hammered out in some political back room.

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Last week Maryland Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller said the shift was affordable, but only if cash were redirected from other parts of the state budget. In other words, for this proposal to succeed, some other program will have to lose and we believe voters should know which is which.

There are two other problems. Glendening's estimate of this deal's cost is $50 million a year, while the legislature's fiscal analysts peg the yearly bill at $73 million. That's a big difference that must be resolved prior to any final agreement.

Glendening's proposal would also be phased in over five years, which means future General Assemblies will still be searching for cash to pay for it even after the governor's second term is over.

Finally, the governor didn't consider this affordable in 1998, or he would have proposed it to the legislature this past session. If he has new facts that make it affordable now, he should put them on the table. If not, he should put this plan where it belongs - on the shelf until the opening of the 1999 General Assembly.

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