Glendening Aide Picked To Oversee Transportation

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley (D) will announce his selection of John D. Porcari as Maryland's transportation secretary today, seeking to return the affable Prince George's County resident to the Cabinet post he held for the last Democratic governor, Parris N. Glendening.

The selection of Porcari, a well-regarded administrator acutely aware of the Washington area's transportation challenges, was shared by a senior member of O'Malley's transition team. Porcari's return, which requires Senate confirmation, would bring to a close a rancorous relationship between Democratic legislative leaders and Robert L. Flanagan, a former delegate who has held the transportation post under Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., the state's first Republican chief executive in a generation.

Porcari's selection was the latest sign of an accelerating transition process as Annapolis prepares for a return to one-party rule with O'Malley's Jan. 17 swearing in.

Before heading into a three-hour "retreat" with legislative leaders yesterday, O'Malley told reporters that he will not propose raising taxes during his first year in office, despite looming budget shortfalls. But O'Malley, the outgoing Baltimore mayor, said he is willing to listen to other views from lawmakers.

"I think that all of us should come to the table with our minds open," O'Malley said when asked about calls by Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and others to raise the state's gas tax to pay for transportation projects.

Speaking more broadly of the closed-door meeting he convened with lawmakers, O'Malley said: "I'm here to listen. I'm here to learn. . . . What we need to focus on this session is the things we agree on."

The General Assembly convenes for its annual 90-day session Jan. 10, a week before O'Malley's inauguration.

Porcari, 48, served as transportation secretary during the final four years of Glendening's tenure before becoming vice president for administrative affairs at the University of Maryland's flagship campus in College Park in 2003. He was a supporter of then-Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan during the Democratic primary for governor. But aides to O'Malley said Porcari was helpful to the O'Malley campaign, particularly after Duncan left the race in June.

In his previous tour of duty, Porcari focused on building the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac River, expanding what was then known as Baltimore-Washington International Airport and applying Glendening's "smart growth" policies to transportation planning.

Glendening also opposed the intercounty connector, but O'Malley supports the road project in Montgomery and Prince George's counties, a position the governor-elect's aides reiterated yesterday.

Other O'Malley priorities that Porcari will be called upon to implement include finding a dedicated source of revenue for the Metro system and moving ahead with the proposed Purple Line, a transit project that was the subject of an environmental impact study during Porcari's previous tenure. O'Malley has also voiced support for studying the expansion of Metro to BWI airport.

Porcari will become the second high-profile Glendening administration official to join O'Malley's team. O'Malley has already named Joseph C. Bryce as his senior policy and legislative adviser, a position similar to one Bryce held under Glendening.

T. Eloise Foster, a former Glendening budget secretary, is also being courted to return to state government in the same capacity. Foster is chairing a transition work group on the budget and is being lobbied by O'Malley allies to take on a more permanent role.

The budget has been a central focus of transition efforts to date. O'Malley is inheriting a $400 million shortfall for the budget he must propose two days after taking office. The shortfall is projected to grow to more than $1.5 billion the next year.

O'Malley and legislative leaders believe they can balance the coming year's budget without a tax increase, which would provide another year to scour the government for savings before deciding how to find additional revenue or overhaul the state's tax structure.

Senate Republicans, meanwhile, broke a deadlock yesterday and selected Sen. David R. Brinkley (R-Frederick) as their new minority leader. Some in the caucus, as well as Ehrlich, had argued that Sen. Andrew P. Harris (R-Baltimore County) would provide a more aggressive voice of opposition.

Brinkley pledged yesterday that he would "keep the heat on" the O'Malley administration. Sen. Allan H. Kittleman (R-Howard) will be the new minority whip.

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