- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 24, 2001

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening wants to go on a spending spree. He doesn't call it that, of course. He can't afford to call it that. He would never call it that because next year is his last year in office.

Indeed the budget for fiscal year 2002 is Mr. Glendening's penultimate budget. He calls it a "progressive and responsible" budget. But let's be frank and call a spree a spree. What else would you honestly call a $21 billion budget that busts the spending cap imposed by the General Assembly by about $250 million?

All told, the governor's 2002 budget proposes $1.6 billion in new spending alone, tax dollars primarily targeted at education, health care and public safety. Take public safety. The governor proposes $133 million to hire 108 new probation and parole agents and 166 prison guards a fatter payroll that, no doubt, pleases unions. He also wants the state to hire 134 employees for a new 256-bed unit in Western Maryland, 19 new judges and he wants taxpayers to pay for new technology for the courts and prison systems. He also wants to increase need-based scholarships by a mere $3 million. The governor's "smart-growth" initiative, on the other hand, would cost taxpayers $172 million.

Who, do you suppose, will take the heat over the next few months? Democratic and Republican state lawmakers know the budget is much too costly. They know Wall Street is watching and they know the economy is cooling. The state's lawmakers, then, must do on behalf of Maryland taxpayers what the state's governor did not. They must curb spending and maintain more than $660 million in the state's reserves. They must do that because Mr. Glendening pushed their backs against the wall with a downright irresponsible budget for fiscal year 2002.

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