ANNAPOLIS Delegates from the Eastern Shore mostly applauded Gov. Parris N. Glendening’s State of the State address today, but senators from the region were dissatisfied with what they view as a proposed budget that’s over-inflated.
The Eastern Shore delegation praised the governor’s emphasis on education but said the speech ignored key issues, such as health care, Maryland business trends, and tax cuts.
“I believe that the future of Maryland and the nation lies within the confines of education. Education prepares a person for change and this is what it’s all about,” said Rudolph “Rudy” Cane, D-Wicomico. “Education is the key.”
In his speech, the governor called for a host of education-related projects and programs, including school construction and renovation, reducing certain class sizes, and stringent teacher certification requirements.
Delegate Adelaide C. Eckardt, R-Dorchester, said the focus on education is fine, but health care programs need attention, too, and barely got a mention.
“That was strikingly missing for me,” Eckardt said. “We still have a fragmented system for our seniors…. An affordable, accessible health care system is not in place, (and) I was surprised there was no amount of funds considered for health care (programs).”
Delegate Mary Roe Walkup, R-Kent, shared that view.
“Health care is one of the most sensitive issues on the minds of everyone, she said. “We haven’t done nearly enough. I don’t know why that was missing. I think it would have been a better balanced speech if it said anything about that.”
Senators Richard F. Colburn, R-Dorchester, and J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Somerset, also praised the governor’s plans to improve education, but said the governor proposed an over-inflated budget and failed to address the acceleration of a personal income tax cut. Both issues tax cuts and a balanced budget are GOP priorities for this session of the General Assembly.
“I believe the governor should … accelerate the 10 percent income tax cut. When you have a $250 million surplus that means you’re overtaxing,” Colburn said, referring to this year’s projected budget surplus.
“(Education) is a priority and it should be a priority but you can’t solve all the problems by throwing money at them,” Colburn said. “The money’s got to come from someplace. We don’t know if we’ll have a $250 million surplus next year.”
Sen. Stoltzfus agreed, saying Glendening is asking for too much money for new programs.
“It’s unconscionable to me that we’re talking about increasing taxes…and our coffers are full and running over,” Stoltzfus said.
According to the two senators, the governor had said he would consider accelerating the personal income tax cut but failed to address that in the speech.
But Delegate Norman H. Conway, D-Wicomico, said he expects the budget will be balanced.
“The senators need to keep in mind that the governor proposes the budget. It’s up to the legislature to make a decision on it and we will do that,” he said. “While many great needs are met in the budget, we will take tough bites where we have to.”
Conway said he expected the governor to address economic development trends and business in the state, but he did not.
He also said Glendening’s proposed tobacco tax, which would increase the cost of cigarettes by $1 a pack over two years, would not keep young people from the Eastern Shore from smoking.
“When the state hikes the cigarette tax, our folks go to Delaware and Virginia,” he said. The governor’s proposal is doomed to fail in its mission to reduce youth smoking, he said. “I think we have to do that more through education.”