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Delegation must weigh its words 1/18

January 18, 2002

Delegation must weigh its words 1/18



In each session, Gov. Parris Glendening has served up some proposal that Western Maryland's conservative lawmakers find tough to swallow.

In the last session it was a gay rights bill. This time it will be a proposal to postpone the phase-in of the last 2 percent of a 10 percent tax cut approved in 1997. It will be tempting to rail against this idea, but lawmakers need to consider whether their protests will actually have some effect, or just irritate the man with near-total control of the state budget.

The delay would cost the average family of four about $75 a year, while ticking off Glendening could cost the area state assistance needed for the University Systems of Maryland campus planned for downtown Hagerstown.

We shouldn't have to say this again, but the potential economic impact of this campus on Washington County can't be underestimated. For many students who can't afford to go away to college - or those who've already joined the work force - this facility presents an opportunity to get a degree that will be worth much more than the tax cut.

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Glendening has promised that construction money will be in the budget, but the estimated $2 million needed for landscaping and parking hasn't yet been nailed down. It's essential to the success of this facility, because if students' first look at downtown shows a series of decrepit buildings and parking that's a long way from the classroom, the campus won't succeed.

The challenge for the delegation is twofold: Either look past the short-term political advantage to be gained by carping about the delay, or find areas in the state budget that can be cut.

We'd like to think budget cuts can do the job, but no area - education or health care, to name just two - seems to be asking for less. We recommend lawmakers begin ferreting out those cuts now, because, like Osama bin Laden, they'll be easier to talk about than to actually find.

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