- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

BALTIMORE Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. put a transition team into place yesterday and said he would meet with outgoing Gov. Parris N. Glendening to work on reducing Maryland's anticipated $418 million budget shortfall.
Mr. Ehrlich emphasized during his campaign that the shortfall, which could reach $1.7 billion next year, was proof that Maryland needed a more fiscally conservative governor. Yesterday, he reiterated that streamlining government will be a top priority when he takes office Jan. 15.
He has openly blamed Mr. Glendening's overspending for the budget problems. Still, Mr. Glendening called yesterday morning to congratulate Mr. Ehrlich on the victory. The conversation led to plans for a meeting to discuss ways reduce the deficit.
Eliminating the anticipated deficit still would saddle Mr. Ehrlich with a $1.3 billion shortfall for his first budget when the next fiscal year begins July 1.
Mr. Glendening made no promises about cutting spending, said Mr. Ehrlich, who remained optimistic that "real progress" could be made toward reducing expenditures during the next eight months.
Mr. Ehrlich backed away from his plan to introduce slot-machine gambling at horse-racing tracks within 15 months of taking office. Legalizing slot machines was an integral part of his budget plan during the campaign.
Yesterday, Mr. Ehrlich said he would have to sit down with General Assembly leaders to discuss the gambling legislation, which he indicated would be more effective in generating long-term income than solving the immediate budget problem.
Political observers said Mr. Ehrlich's plan to put slot machines in select Maryland horse tracks helped him defeat Democrat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who steadfastly opposed slots.
Mr. Ehrlich is expected to find support for gambling among some top Democrats, but the issue may be divisive within the Republican Party, some lawmakers have said.
He has promised to work closely with the Democratic majority in the General Assembly and build an inclusive administration. Mr. Ehrlich began that effort by speaking highly of Mr. Glendening and promising to tackle the budget problem immediately.
Mr. Ehrlich also has appointed James Brady, a former Glendening Cabinet secretary, to run the day-to-day operation of the transition team under the supervision of Michael Steele, the lieutenant governor-elect.
Mr. Ehrlich, elected as Maryland's first Republican governor in 34 years, says he is a pro-business conservative who supports developing the state's biotechnology industry. He has promised to make business growth an important part of his agenda.
He announced the first appointment of his administration yesterday, naming Steven Kreseski his chief of staff. Mr. Kreseski holds that same position in Mr. Ehrlich's congressional office.
The potential turnover of leadership in the General Assembly could help Mr. Ehrlich push his agenda.
Tuesday's elections put House Speaker Casper R. Taylor's 28-year political career in peril and threw into doubt Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller's chances of being re-elected Senate president by his colleagues.
Absentee ballots, which Mr. Taylor's opponent strongly pursued in the campaign, will decide the speaker's re-election. Some lawmakers have said that Mr. Miller is not likely to be reinstated as Senate president because Democrats will hold him responsible for the party's poor performance in this election and for the redistricting plan that in some cases have hurt Democratic candidates.
The Senate, through two retirements and two election defeats, lost the chairmen of all four major standing committees. Those Republican victories gave the party 15 of the Senate's 47 seats. In the House, where leadership losses were not so widespread, Republicans gained 13 seats, for a total 48 of the 141 seats.
"With the speaker out and possibly the Senate president, it's a great opportunity for the new governor to step in and fill the void of leadership," said Paul Ellington, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party.
Though Democrats still hold an impressive majority in the General Assembly, the rise of fresh leadership and the arrival of a Republican in Maryland's powerful State House will force lawmakers to work together, he said.
Meanwhile, the Ehrlich administration had no comment about 150 homeless people in Washington demonstrating yesterday outside a shelter for reportedly not being paid to distribute fliers at polls in Prince George's County.
Ehrlich staffers on Tuesday morning picked up the homeless people outside the Community for Creative Non-Violence shelter and offered them $100 each, said Jeri Bishop, executive director of the shelter at 425 Second St. NW. She also said the men and women were not paid and were left stranded in Maryland.
Maryland law prohibits campaigns from paying poll workers.
On Tuesday, Ehrlich campaign spokeswoman Shareese DeLeaver denied reports that homeless people were hired to work at polls. "The charges are a desperate attempt to maintain power when the state is ready for change," she said.
Doyle Niemann, an unopposed candidate for the House of Delegates in District 47, said the Ehrlich campaign recruited people from the D.C. homeless shelter and paid them $100 each to distribute partisan literature in Prince George's County precincts with heavy black populations.
Staff writers Scott Galupo, Henry Brier and S.A. Miller contributed to this report.

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