Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich's prescription for fixing what ails the state's budget is to enact a slot-machine bill quickly, then spend the next year looking for ways to streamline government. There's plenty of sentiment for waiting a year on slots, but no answer yet on how much pain not getting that gambling revenue will cause.
The word on Ehrlich's slots-now, reorganization-later strategy came from House Minority Leader Alfred Redmer, who said passing the slots bill in 2003 would give the "Ehrlich team" time to study state government and see what changes might be made.
Without some sort of revenue infusion soon, however, the pain is likely to be great. The state's revenue shortfall is projected at $1.2 billion, a year after the General Assembly voted to endorse the Thornton Commission's recommendations to greatly increase education spending.
The first two years of that will be funded through a tobacco tax increase. But after that the legislature must come up with additional cash. Deciding not to fund that initiative is not an option, due to the extra funding that will be needed to implement that state's portion of the "No Child Left Behind" law.