- The Washington Times - Monday, November 18, 2002

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has assured Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that he will take immediate action to cut Maryland's budget deficit by $500 million.
Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, reportedly has a plan that includes spending cuts this year, but he will not provide details until he talks with his Cabinet secretaries later this week.
It was not clear whether the plan included tapping the state's $500 million emergency fund.
Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, has said he opposes using the fund to bridge the budget gap because it is at the legal minimum and it would not slow the spending that has created an anticipated $2 billion budget shortfall next year.
Though Mr. Ehrlich welcomed the governor's plan, he still will face a budget shortfall of about $1.4 billion when taking office in January. He has pledged not to raise Maryland income or sales taxes, cut aid to local government or lay off state workers.
The General Assembly is expected to make proposals that would break the pledges. But Mr. Ehrlich said last week that no legislation would be "dead on arrival" at his desk and that he would work with legislators to reach a consensus on spending reductions.
A commission on state revenues is considering increasing most state taxes, pay cuts for state employees and fewer student scholarships as measures to balance the budget.
New revenue estimates place this year's deficit at $600 million, about $200 million more than previous reports. If the deficit carries over to the budget year beginning July 1, the anticipated shortfall next year will reach $2 billion.
Mr. Glendening reportedly disagreed with the new estimates and put the deficit at about $500 million. He says his plan to reduce spending this year by $500 million should put the budget in the black and leave Mr. Ehrlich with a "hefty reserve."
He made the commitment at a private, hourlong meeting this weekend with Mr. Ehrlich at the National Governors Association convention in Austin, Texas.
Exposing the state's budget problems was a cornerstone of Mr. Ehrlich's campaign.
He blamed the problems on "overpromising and overspending" by Mr. Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, whom Mr. Ehrlich defeated in the gubernatorial race earlier this month.
However, Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Glendening have had an amicable relationship since election night, when Mr. Glendening made a congratulatory phone call to Mr. Ehrlich that set the stage for the Austin meeting.


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