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Posted on December 20, 2000:
President Clinton, Governor Glendening and the Democratic controlled Maryland General Assembly have all benefitted greatly from an unprecedented booming economy over the past eight years. Clintonís job approval ratings are soaring as he prepares to hand over his presidency to George W. Bush, despite a slew of personal scandals.
I doubt though that a lot of this would have happened if not for the incredible economy. Clinton might very well have been booted from office or decided to quit if public opinion werenít on his side after his public scandals.
In good times, we talk about ways to improve our education system, health care, transportation needs, teacher raises, minimizing classroom sizes and a slew of other issues. But in bad economic times, we mostly have to figure out how to make sure people are getting their paychecks.
As we prepare to convene the 2001 General Assembly Session on January 10, many worry that we are heading for an economic downturn and we better prepare for it now so that we can continue to ensure that people are receiving a paycheck while we also tackle the important social improvements mentioned above. Only by being fiscally responsible can we do that.
Currently, Maryland has a budget surplus. And there are those who want to spend as much of it as they can, despite the fact that the prospect for a budget deficit looms in two years. Now, not then is the time to make sure that doesnít happen. We can get a hold of this economy and make sure the good times continue -- albeit on a smaller scale. We can avoid future budget cuts and layoffs that will be necessitated by a severe economic downturn. We can make sure people donít worry about their financial security. But we must be fiscally sound. The time to start is now or troubled times lay ahead -- believe me.
I was -- as were many other Senators and Delegates -- fortunate to get several bond bills passed last year. It was an ideal time to secure money for the Calvert Boys and Girls Club, the Summerseat Sanctuary and the Lexington Park Head Start Center for example.
But as much as Iíd like to introduce more bond bills for other worthy projects Iím less inclined to do so this year in order to maintain some fiscal responsibility. Bond bills cause debt and we canít keep borrowing the way we are and remain economically strong. Itís time to cut back on our spending. When it comes to bills introduced in this yearís General Assembly, we need to consider the cost of implementing every single one of them.
We must also pass a leaner budget than the governor is likely to propose.I have been asked to consider introducing a debt-reduction bill to ensure that our children and grandchildren arenít burdened tomorrow with the debt we create today. This debt bill will come due at one point and itís better to pay it off now than later or weíll be courting years of future economic hard times for the next generation.
We need not make a 180-degree turn, but we canít keep going the way we are. We canít keep spending as freely as we are and we must consider reducing our debt substantially. We can do this and still commit budgetary resources to education spending, environmental protection programs, prescription drug coverage for senior and uninsured citizens. We can also do this while finding a way to raise the salaries of those who work with the disabled and the needy from the paltry amount they make today. I will recommend that these direct care workers receive a raise to $9.50 from the less than $7 an hour they average today. We can make Maryland a better place to live while making it economically viable at the same time by being responsible caretakers of our limited budget rather than spendthrifts. If we donít, a lot of those who donít heed my warnings, will be out of a job in a few years.
While members of my staff and I will spend a good portion of our time in Annapolis dealing with the rigors of the General Session, it is imperative that all of my constituents know that our door is still open for all who seek our help or who want to weigh in on proposed or impending legislation.
Our Southern Maryland district office, which is normally operational Monday through Fridays when the General Assembly is not in session, will remain open on Mondays during the 90-day General Session. The rest of the time, we can be reached in Annapolis. As always, my office in Great Mills and in Annapolis has an open door policy. Our Annapolis number is (800) 492-7122 (ext. 3673). Our district office is (301) 994-2826. You can reach us by regular mail at 215 James Senate Office Building, Annapolis, MD 21401 or the district office: P.O. Box 229, Great Mills, MD 20634 or by e-mail: Roy_Dyson@senate.state.md.us.
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