- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 19, 2002

BALTIMORE (AP) Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. thinks Gov. Parris N. Glendening's plan to balance this year's budget is on the right track, but the incoming governor is withholding judgment until he sees the details, a spokesman said yesterday.
While Mr. Ehrlich is pleased so far with Mr. Glendening's budget plans, some Democrats are unhappy that the governor did not act earlier, saying the delay hurt Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's campaign.
"I wish he had said that two months ago. We would have had a Democratic governor," said Delegate Howard Rawlings of Baltimore. "Leaving the deficit unsolved further complicated the charge that this government was fiscally irresponsible."
Mr. Glendening outlined his budget-cutting plans during a meeting with Mr. Ehrlich on Saturday in Austin, Texas, where both were attending a meeting of the National Governors Association.
Mr. Ehrlich is "pleased that the governor is finally turning his attention to the budget deficit," Ehrlich spokesman Paul Schurick said. "He's withholding judgment on the specifics that Governor Glendening has laid out, some of which still need to be defined."
Neither Mr. Glendening nor Mr. Ehrlich has disclosed specifics of the plan to reduce spending so Maryland will not end up the year with a deficit estimated to be as much as $600 million. Charles Porcari, Mr. Glendening's spokesman, said the governor will discuss his plans with legislative leaders later this week before making them public.
Mr. Porcari said all state agencies will be asked to reduce spending for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Maryland has a "rainy-day fund" of $500 million to help the state through fiscal hard times. Sources in the Glendening administration and in Mr. Ehrlich's camp, who asked not to be identified, said the governor will probably use some of the fund, but will leave much of it intact.
Mrs. Townsend had asked Mr. Glendening before the election to come up with a plan to cut spending so there would be no deficit this year. That would make it easier for the next governor to make up a revenue shortfall estimated at $1 billion or more for the next fiscal year.
Some Democrats said Mr. Glendening should have worked to improve the state's finances during the summer, when Mr. Ehrlich criticized Mrs. Townsend as a member of an administration driving the state into financial disaster.
"We Democrats allowed the Republicans to define our deficit as though it was a product of irresponsible tax-and-spend Democrats," said House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., Allegany Democrat, who lost his seat pending a recount. "When in fact, it was, like in 45 other states, the product of a national recession."
Mr. Porcari said Mr. Glendening "made it clear after the extent of the projected budget shortfall became evident that his plan was to wait until after the election was over to give the courtesy of consulting with the governor-elect on major budget decisions."
Former Townsend campaign spokesman Peter Hamm said Mr. Glendening refused to make budgetary moves that could have blunted criticism of the state's finances.
"He was asked. It was always, 'We are going to wait until after the election,'" Mr. Hamm said. "His disloyalty to someone who was loyal to him for eight years was made crystal clear. There were things he could have done to help her that he didn't do."


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