- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 17, 2002

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening and his Virginia counterpart and fellow Democrat, Mark Warner, offered a study in contrasts when they presented their budgets in Annapolis and Richmond this week. In a 40-minute speech Monday night that was interrupted 47 times by applause from the predominantly Republican General Assembly, Mr. Warner delivered a sobering message on the need for fiscal restraint. Mr. Warner prudently declined to commit himself to a $1.6 billion bond package for state parks and college construction being pushed by Sen. John Chichester and Delegate Vincent Callahan, both Republicans. While not offering specifics, Mr. Warner promised to launch "a top-to-bottom review of state government" which will be due by Labor Day. He also promised to limit new hiring to "essential" personnel, to cut agency budgets by approximately 8 percent by the middle of 2004, and to kill new spending commitments that would take effect after the 2002-2004 budget.
But a number of important caveats are in order. Mr. Warner and his top aides have repeatedly hinted that his version of "fiscal conservatism" includes raising taxes, and it's questionable whether he supports continuing the Internet tax moratorium. Asked about repealing the car tax, Mr. Warner's spokesman equivocated. Shortly before his inauguration on Saturday, Mr. Warner's advisers suggested that an array of tax credits would have to go in the name of balancing the budget. Even during his speech Monday night, the governor uttered lines like "We have a fundamental gap between the commitments state government has made and the revenue available to pay for them" and "In the current fiscal year, state spending continued without major adjustments as if revenue would continue to grow as originally projected." If this kind of talk turns out to be what Mr. Warner means by "fiscal conservatism," then Virginia's new governor is likely to find the talk about bipartisanship to be short-lived indeed.
In Maryland, by contrast, Mr. Glendening left little doubt where he stands on increasing taxes: He's for it. Mr. Glendening wants a delay in the final 2 percent of a state income tax cut passed five years ago. Taxpayers have other reasons why they should keep a careful eye on their wallets. For example, the Glendening budget uses a number of gimmicks to make it appear as if the governor is really attempting to control spending. The most prominent of these is that Mr. Glendening doesn't include any of the $1.1 billion in added public school spending recommended by the Thornton Commission. Have no doubt that, by the time this session concludes April 8, Mr. Glendening and the Democrat-controlled General Assembly will have agreed on a hefty down payment for this new bureaucratic behemoth on top of everything else.

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