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The drive for perfection not always a good thing

April 10, 2007

In 2005, the Chronicle of Higher Education held a live online chat with Joseph R. Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University and a leading researcher of chronic procrastination.

Among other things, Ferrari told his callers that there was a link between not getting things done in a timely fashion and a wish to complete tasks perfectly - seeking a 100 percent solution when 85 percent would serve just as well.

We thought about that this week, at the close of the 2007 session of the Maryland General Assembly, where once again a comprehensive answer to the state's budget problems was put off because the leadership couldn't agree on the perfect solution.

And so, they did what's been done in the past - borrowed from the state's Rainy Day Fund, delayed some funding for roads and made some cuts to the University System of Maryland.

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Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley has defended his decision not to renew the contentious debate over legalization of slots this year.

Instead, the governor said that he first wanted to make government more efficient and develop a long-term solution to the state's budget problems.

But O'Malley's biggest challenge might not be in crafting a solution, but in convincing the legislature's two top Democrats -House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller - to accept less than 100 percent of what they want.

According to The (Baltimore) Sun, Busch is a foe of slots and instead favors an increase in the state's sales tax, the cigarette tax and new development fees, all to improve health care and clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Miller wants a comprehensive solution and says slots must be part of that.

Ulysses Currie, a Prince George's County Democrat who chairs the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, was quoted by The Sun as saying that the cuts made this year were meaningless, compared with slots' potential to bring in $800 million per year.

Our suggestion to O'Malley: Do as your predecessor didn't and use the great power Maryland gives its governor over the budget to persuade the two sides to work together.

As we have noted previously, as a practical matter, it will take at least two years to get slots up and running.

If a bill can be crafted in the 2008 session, slots might be a factor in dealing with the structural deficit by the end of O'Malley's first term.

And, as we said at the beginning of this editorial, perfection is an ideal that shouldn't be allowed to stand in the way of progress.

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