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  Page Two of Sauerbrey Interview

Sauerbrey at a political event.
Ellen Sauerbrey at a political event. (File Photo)
Q: But you don't see the need for serious budget cuts to accommodate the tax, either in education or other areas?

A: Well I certainly don't see any budget cuts in education or public safety because those are the two highest priorities to me. I do think that there are things that ought to be looked at. I think that we ought to be looking seriously at the amount of money that we're putting into public housing programs that is being ripped off every day to politically well connected people. When I read the papers and I see the stories just coming out, the stories keep coming and nothing gets done about it and it infuriates me.

A judge who owns a row house and gets a couple of hundred thousand dollars to rehabilitate a row house that he can rent and if at the end of five years he's rented it, he gets to write it off as a grant. Three hundred and ten thousand dollars ($310,000) being put into low-income housing in Baltimore City, which is megatimes the amount that the average house value is in Baltimore City. There's tremendous abuse in that program.

Sunny Day funds being given to in too many cases well connected people who in turn make political contributions. These kinds of things I think really, everybody ought to be concerned about.

Q: In essence, in November, one of the things you're going to have to do is convince Maryland voters to fire the incumbent governor, say he's not doing well enough to be reelected. How will you convince them to do that? How do you think he's fallen short of what's necessary to retain him in office?

A: I think Marylanders are going to have to look at Maryland and decide whether they think Maryland is underperforming. I think Maryland is underperforming and I think you can make a very strong case economically, by comparing Maryland to Virginia, that the people on our side of the river are every bit as smart, every bit as well educated, every bit as industrious.

And I look at commercial, the first quarter of this year, and I should have brought the paper along because I can't remember who to attribute it to, but commercial space in Montgomery County something like 100,000 square feet this first quarter. In Fairfax County 5 million, over 5 million square feet. There are many ways to demonstrate that Maryland is not keeping up economically.

And then let's look at our school system. We're spending something like 14 percent more than the national average, considerably more than, I think it's closer to 20 percent more than Virginia. But our kids are testing in the mediocre middle – at best.

The drop out rate, the graduation rate has not improved over the last four years, it's in fact gotten worse. Our test scores in our urban communities are among the very worst in the country, whether you're looking at reading, math, science, urban children are testing at the very bottom of urban communities in the nation. And then you start looking at the social issues. Look at heroin and cocaine emergency room admissions in Baltimore City, leading the nation. Syphilis in Baltimore City, leading the nation. The number of people who are arrested who have cocaine and heroin addictions, Baltimore is not one of, it is so far above that of the rest of the country.

Where's the war on drugs in Maryland? Where's the serious war on crime in Maryland? Have crime rates really gotten that much better.

Q: In contrast to four years ago when you ran for governor, ... unemployment in Maryland right now is invisible, growth may not be as fast as it is in Virginia but it's fast enough that companies in Maryland have a very hard time finding people to fill jobs. The first half of the question would be, ... how do you make the case that in good times for replacing an incumbent governor and when you put the emphasis on education and poor performing schools and heroin and cocaine addiction in Baltimore, people will immediately say well how's having a new governor going to change that? Where is a governor in the United States who's turned around a school system or turned around crime in an inner city? I'm really asking you two questions.

A: Well, I think we do have to look at where things have changed, and I will grant that it has been a mayor, with the help of a governor, but I think New York City is one of the best examples of how good policy can turn a city around. I see the phenomenal changes and I was up and met with [New York Mayor Rudolph] Giuliani a month or so ago and we talked about how he had cleaned up New York City and I grant that the governor has to be able to work with the mayor, but we have a governor who doesn't seem to be able to work very well with the mayor and I'd like to think that I could perhaps do better.

But, you know, this concern about the current governor is obviously not a partisan issue. And if it is a unique situation for a governor, an incumbent governor, to have the kinds of challenges that he has within his own party, I might not have to make the case because by September I'm thinking that the case may have been made for me. A lot of that case has nothing to do, I understand has nothing to do with policy, it has everything to do with character.

Q: You're out there every day, you're reading polls and whatnot, do you expect Glendening to win the primary?

A: Yes.

Q: Is that close?

A: Will it be close is that what you're saying?

Q: Is it now? Or will it be? You're saying it's not now?

A: It's not now and I think it's going to depend on the ability of his opponents to have the money to be on media. Obviously, Ray Schoenke has the ability to buy lots of television coverage and I suspect if he stays in, I'm waiting with bated breath to see what July 6 really brings.

But if he is in, he's clearly going to take the gloves off and I think that the issues that are going to plague Parris Glendening are the issues of honesty and trust. I cannot believe that he's still saying that he did not leave a deficit in Prince George's County. You know there was a deficit in Prince George's County. Wayne Curry knows there was a deficit. His county council knows there's a deficit, and he's going around the state still trying to claim he left a surplus, which is the story that I heard on the campaign trail when I was running against him in 1994, attesting his great management capabilities.

Well, if I were him I wouldn't be bringing that issue up. I'm not quite sure what that strategy is all about, the flip flops, the change of position on the ICC. I think that's a very major issue and it's one that I fully, fully understand that a strong economy and a healthy region has to be able to move people from their homes to their work, has to be able to move goods from the I-270 corridor to the port of Baltimore, and Parris is trying to tell us he's going to do it with light rail and bike trails.

That's nonsense, and people know that. We're not talking about gridlock that might happen in 20 years, we're talking about gridlock that is here today and projection that by 20 years from now the number of trips per day is going to potentially double and the region is going to be at a complete standstill if there isn't a governor who has the guts and the backbone to stand up for what needs to be done.

Q: You talked earlier about subsidizing professional football, there are also people talking about subsidizing even more money horse racing in Maryland and some of them are talking about doing it with slots at the tracks. Your opponent, [Howard County Executive Charles] Ecker, says absolutely no gambling as far as he's concerned, the incumbent governor says the same thing. What are you saying about the use of slots to fund either racing or education or anything?

A: I'm saying as long as I've been in government and long before, I've been consistently an opponent of gambling. And it started for me the day I went to Annapolis to testify against the creation of a state lottery. I don't happen to think it's a very good idea to build state budgets on the back of gambling. And I was one of the four leaders to oppose Keno when we expanded to Keno.

I joined the Black Caucus in their opposition to the expansion of advertising money in the state budget which, incidentally, has been increased again, to try to get more people to gamble. And the idea of slots for tots, if we can't fund our education program in another way then shame on us. I am completely opposed to that.

I am completely opposed to the concept of allowing casinos to spring up in communities. You know, because we've talked about it, that I am very troubled by the situation with Maryland's racing industry and I have been listening to people saying that the only answer to Maryland's racing is to allow them to compete on a level playing field with West Virginia and Delaware and I believe this: No. 1, we don't have decent independent financial data. There was an attempt by Republicans during this last session to allow Maryland to have access to independent financial data of the racing industry. So at this point we're hearing a lot of stories that are very conflicting about what really even is the situation. No one has convinced me that slots are a good solution and I have said, consistently, that it would be a very, very hard sell because it goes against everything I believe in.

I have not slammed the door shut because I think that it is an issue that impacts on so many people, particularly low income, unskilled people who have those jobs that are going to disappear if Maryland racing goes away, that I've been willing to listen. But no one has convinced me that slots are good for Maryland or the right answer to the racing industry's problems.

Q: Do you believe that environmental regulation at the state level in Maryland is out of balance in any way? What's your view of the legislators' response to the Pfiesteria outbreak last time around? Do you think that was a balanced solution? Do you think it went too far in pushing the poultry industry, do you think it didn't go far enough?

A: I think that the way it ended up was reasonable. I think that the original bill was not, that it did not give enough time for agriculture to meet the goals because the technical information isn't even now fully available. ...

In terms of setting the deadlines, they have enough flexibility built in that the next administration will have an opportunity to review and make sure that we are providing farmers with the technical assistance to allow them to achieve what we're trying to get them to achieve.

I think you have to look at Maryland and compare Maryland with Pennsylvania. Maryland farmers have brought over a million acres under best nutrient management programs with voluntary cooperation between state government and the farming industry. In Pennsylvania when they went the bureaucratic and punitive route, it took four years to get the regulations written and the last numbers I saw were something less than 600 acres compared to our million that have been brought under soil nutrient management programs.

I also think that the state needs to put its own house in order. When I was in Shelltown during the Pfiesteria episode and talked to some of the mayors down there, what they told me was they were responsible for removing the solids out of the material coming out of their municipal treatment systems but that they were not under any state mandate to remove the phosphates and the nitrates and, clearly, we need to bring those systems into compliance.

This administration has been widely criticized for failing to monitor municipal treatment systems to ensure that they are in compliance. And I think we've got some other very serious issues that the next governor's going to have to address. Sewage sludge, 600,000 tons of sewage sludge being spread on Maryland farmland seems to me raises some of the same issues that spreading poultry litter raises.

What are we going to do with sewage sludge? Are we going to continue to allow farmers to land spread it and, if not, how are we going to dispose of it. I think we need to be looking very seriously at improving the technology and I've talked to people at AAI who have a cooperative relationship with another company in Europe which is burning and using chicken litter for energy. There are companies right now that have developed technology which allows a chicken breeder or farmer to be able to heat their chicken houses by burning chicken litter, poultry litter, and I think that needs to be assisted by state government.

I think we need to address the issue of open water dumping of dredge spoils and I think that is going to be a huge issue and we've looked towards working diligently with the federal government to try to get what I believe is the solution, which is allowing us to use the land at Aberdeen, there's huge amounts of land at Aberdeen Proving Grounds that would be I think very appropriate for slurrying dredge spoils and probably making that into more productive land in the process.

Q: The governor has been praised for some of his gun control legislation. I'm wondering how you feel about that legislation, is that something you would have supported and then what are your future plans regarding gun control?

A: I believe that if criminals obeyed laws we wouldn't have crime problems and I've never believed that the person who will hold you up at the point of a gun is going to pay any attention at all to a law that says they can only buy one gun a month. And I don't think most criminals get their guns by buying them in a gun shop anyway. So while I don't think that this particular bill probably impacts on a lot of people, I'm fairly sure it doesn't have any impact on the behavior of most criminals.

So my belief has always been, through the years that I was in the legislature, that we needed to do very serious things because I don't think gun control solves the problem. I think it is criminal control that solves the problem. And I have a long track record of working for tough sanctions. And I'll give you some examples. One of the first things that I undertook as a legislator was to bring the five year mandatory sentence, which was on the books at the time that I was elected, to the commission of a crime with a gun to close the loophole that made it meaningless, which was that parole could be given the next day. And I worked on that for a couple of years and we did get that passed.

I tried to get the other loophole, which is plea bargaining. You look at the criminal records and I got them from our own department, our own state Department of Corrections and you see case after case where someone commits a crime with a gun and it's plea bargained away. And they end up out on probation.

I believe that we should have a state law that says if you have committed a felony, and you're caught on the street with a gun, you're breaking the law. And I would make that a mandatory one year sentence. No ifs, ands or buts.

Q: Wouldn't both proponents(?) be even more effective, limiting guns and cracking down on crimes committed with guns?

A: Well I think the numbers speak for themselves and the areas that have very tough gun control, like Washington, D.C. are certainly not safe places to walk the streets at night. Maryland has about as much gun control already on the books as much as anybody can think of to do and I don't see that it has made our communities much safer.

Q: And would you try to repeal the one handgun a month law?

A: Look, I'm not going to waste political capital on things that I know are not going to happen. I'm not going to waste my opportunity to be a good governor trying to fight with issues that for all intents and purposes I think once you get a law on the books like that, you don't get rid of them.

I'm just saying I don't think they do a whole lot to improve our crime situation, and what I want to focus on is okay, we've tried the gun control, we've got all the laws on the books, now let's go after the criminal. Let's really get serious about the guy who commits the crime. And that's where I'm going to come from. I'm going to focus on trying to extend the five year mandatory sentence that is on the books today for the commission of crime with a handgun to the commission of a crime with any kind of a gun. It doesn't make any sense to me that you can walk into a 7-Eleven with a shotgun and hold the guy up at gunpoint but there's no mandatory sentence with a shotgun.

It doesn't make any sense to me that there's a five-year mandatory sentence for the commission of a crime with a handgun but a subsequent crime there's no five-year mandatory sentence, so the second time that you commit the crime you don't fall under the mandatory sentence.

And we've got to do something about the plea bargaining. Bow I happen to live in a county that has a good state's attorney who does not routinely plea bargain charges away and Baltimore County is a lot safer than Baltimore City. But you look at the rap sheets in Baltimore City and they're deplorable.

Q: You said you would not waste political capital trying to change gun control laws or policy. Do you feel the same way about abortion, that you wouldn't waste political capital trying to change laws or policy on abortion?

A: I said in 1994 with one of my few dollars that I had to run any television advertising in 1994, I ran an ad to the effect that I recognize the rights of citizens in a democracy to vote on issues at referendum and I respect that right. Maryland citizens have voted for the current law and as governor I will abide by it and support the legislation that the people have put on the books.

Q: Do you have in mind any more moves against tobacco? Taxes?

A: What I would really be focusing on is trying to stop children from having access to tobacco. I think we need to have much more severe penalties for people who break current law in terms of selling cigarettes to minors, in terms of having vending machines in places that children can't have access to them. And I've always believed that people who are not obeying the law should be penalized. And that's another example of that.

Q: One thing you would control as governor is the contracting for the state and the head of the board of public works. One thing this governor has been very aggressive about is trying to direct more money, more state contracts to minority owned businesses. I think the first year he took office they bumped up the target of the minority contracting from 12 percent to 16 percent, rough numbers. Do you think that was a good idea? Would you try to undo that?

A: I don't believe that you end discrimination with discrimination. I believe in equality for everyone and I support goals. I support aggressive movement in both the public and the private sector to try to give more opportunity to minorities. I don't believe, however, that you should have a situation where minority businesses become totally dependent on the whole program that allows preferences.

In other words, I'm a whole lot more interested in helping minority businesses that need to be able to get started. But when you get a minority contractor who has become highly successful and bringing in significant business, then I think at some point in time you should break that dependency on the state contracting.

Q: What would your evaluation be of the way the Maryland program is run? Do you think it's the right balance or do you think it needs to be changed?

A: I will give you an example of an abuse. And it's in court right now. I've lost track of it. But when we had, we had a, I think it was Frederick County contractor, who did everything according to what he was supposed to do to try to get whatever the percentage was. It was a transportation contract. He did everything he was supposed to do. He went out, he aggressively tried to get minority subcontractors to bid and he came in something like a half of a percent short of what he was told he had to deliver.

The contract ended up going to a Pennsylvania company that came in with a little higher percentage, you know, complied, I think it was 12 percent, I don't remember for sure, and we ended up as a state sending the business to a Pennsylvania contractor and paying about a half million dollars more for the same contract. Now to me that doesn't make any sense.

As governor I will work diligently to try to build small businesses, minority businesses, and some of the things that I would be trying to do are first and foremost to make sure that urban children come out of school with an education that enables them to be successful. And as someone who doesn't think jobs are good enough, I mean it's great to have a job but it's better to be the owner of a business and to be able to employ other people, my goal is going to be very much directed towards building minority businesses and a merchant class in urban communities.

And I think a couple of the things that I would be focusing on would be ensuring that there is truly access to capital. Small business people have a heck of a time getting small loans, and they may only want to borrow a thousand bucks to start a small, get some kind of a venture started. And bankers will tell you they don't want to be bothered with making these small loans. It costs them too much.

So I've had some conversations with some people in the banking community about creating small business banks that really are there for the purpose of making capital available to small startup minority, particularly minority, businesses. To putting in Baltimore City some storefront and other urban areas – I don't want to just to be focusing on Baltimore City – but other urban areas where there are these needs, putting small neighborhood training centers that people in the community feel comfortable to walk into where you utilize the talents of retired business people, organizations like SCORE where retired business people would man those centers.

I think it could be done very inexpensively, where you help a small business to be able to understand how to develop a business plan, walk them through how to apply for loans. And really focus on trying to restore the merchant class of people who create most of the jobs in small business settings.

Q: When Chuck Ecker was here he said he thought there was a great difference between someone who'd run a county as county executive and someone who was head of the minority party in the House of Delegates and suggested that he had far more managerial experience than you do. What do you say about that? Do you feel you have the experience to run a state like this?

A: Well what I would say about that is that a good leader hires managers. A good leader needs to be able to pick the right kind of people. And I can assure you that the kind of people that I'm going to be putting in charge of running state government are going to be people who come out of the private sector, who have managed things. Who know what it means to meet a payroll, not political hacks. And one of our problems in government is too often that it's political hacks that get put into running agencies, who really have no management capability.

The governor, I think, needs to be the person with the vision. The person with a sense of the big picture and overall direction of where you want things to go. And a good governor's going to be able to hire managers. I think we've had some experiences with, in my own party when Ronald Reagan was elected governor of California he didn't have any managerial experience but I think he did a darn good job of running the state of California. George Bush, who was the ultimate resume guy, was certainly not as successful in his efforts as Reagan had been before him.

Q: You mentioned earlier your original opposition to the state lottery. If you were governor, would you try to end the lottery? Phase it out? Reduce some advertising? Change it in any way?

A: Unfortunately, we have become very dependent on lottery revenues. What I would not be doing is trying to encourage, through additional advertising, more people to get involved in the lottery, trying to think up new games, trying to build sports facilities and create lotteries to fund sports facilities. I would not be allowing my lottery administration to be taking lottery terminals or lottery opportunities into nursing homes, as happened in this past couple of years with this current administration. To the degree that I could face down the dependence of the state on lottery revenues, I'd love to do that.

Q: But originally you'd keep advertising levels ...

A: I would probably not do anything to dramatically change what's there today simply because we've got to maintain some source of revenue and as you look at the projections for the future, I see an awful lot of similarities to where we are in Maryland today with where Prince George's County was in 1994.

Prince George's County had gone through, after a county executive who had increased taxes 16 times in Prince George's County, in an election year suddenly discovered the advantages of tax cutting at the same time he was giving big contracts and pension benefits to county employees and committing to a variety of new spending programs. Prince George's County ended up with $110 million shortfall plus another $29 million in another fund that has never been talked about, which was also a shortfall, meaning it's really like $140 million in shortfall.

The state right now is looking at a very similar scenario. Promises of tax cuts at the same time that pension benefits and salary commitments for state employees have been made and a huge array of new spending programs and the department of fiscal services saying that assuming that revenues continue to come in at the current level we're going to be a billion dollars short over the next four years.

So there are serious I think similarities and, as [Prince George's County Executive] Wayne Curry found out after the election, not only was he not able to deliver on a tax cut, but he laid off a lot of county employees and a lot of the labor agreements that had been reached went by the wayside. And I hope that we're not looking at the same kind of scenario.

You wrote, in The Washington Post, you wrote, somebody wrote the article about what happens if the stock market in Maryland suddenly cools, and I don't think that's a very far fetched thing to think that because so much of our revenue that has been generated during the surplus has not come because of some big expansion of the businesses in Maryland, it's come because the stock market has been generating a lot of dollars into state coffers. We could find ourselves in a real mess in the next year.

Q: Your party seems to becoming, especially in the South, more and more dependent on the so-called Christian right for support. I'm wondering, do you sense that there's a strong movement in Maryland and, if so, how do you respond? And they have a fairly wide agenda and Ralph Reed has now become a successful consultant ... Are you looking at what they might want, you talked about abortion but how about in areas of schools and so-called family values?

A: Well, I'm not sure exactly what your question is. I think that we have, we certainly have a lot of people in Maryland who consider themselves social conservatives who believe strongly in fundamental values, strong families and that it is quite okay for people to go to church and practice their religion and that society should not step on their basic values. And I welcome the support of social conservatives, just like I have welcomed and have sought the support as I have been traveling around the state, of Jewish constituents, of black churches that I've gone to visit and I would hope that as governor I could be representative of the interest and concerns of a broad range of people.

Q: Things like prayer in the school and Ten Commandments on the wall in the classrooms, how do you ...

A: As someone who taught in the days that it was a routine matter to have a Bible passage at the beginning of the school day, I never thought it harmed any of my kids. In point of fact, the Supreme Court has said we're not going to have it and, again, it's not something that, I mean I'm a realist and I believe in spending my energies trying to do things that I think are going to advance the well being of Maryland families in a practical sense. And it's not a state issue to fight over whether there is or not going to be prayer in the school.

Q: What about school vouchers?

A: School vouchers I believe in. I will tell you, this is one area that my own beliefs have changed somewhat over the last four years. In 1994 I did talk a lot about school vouchers and what got lost in the discussion was my fundamental belief that the governor of a state's first and foremost responsibility is to make every public school so good that no one wants to have to flee to a private school.

And yet I also have developed additional concerns that vouchers not be something that allows the government ultimately to start running private schools. So my interest has shifted more from the voucher to tax credits, to parents for things like transportation and nonsectarian textbooks and technology that they are involved in.

But if you go to Wes Unseld's school in Baltimore or you go to a school, I've forgotten the name of it that I went to on Caroline Street in Baltimore City, both of those schools are educating children and doing a very effective job of educating them for under $3,000 a year in very poor communities.

There's a young woman named Ursula Parker who was a student at Northern High School and Ursula Parker in the 9th grade at Northern High School was literally told she was not going to amount to anything, that she couldn't learn. Well, Ursula Parker's parents pulled her out of Northern and scrounged and scraped to spend $200 a month to send her to this small private school in the city. The girl graduated with honors, and I really relate to her because she's a biology major which is what I was, and she's at University of Maryland Eastern Shore now with something like $8,000 in scholarship assistance. If that girl had stayed at Northern High School she probably would have dropped out.

Now to me if you can help a family to be able to save a child from a failed school situation, with some kind of tax credit that enables them to do that, I'd sure rather that happen than that child drop out of school, or be a failure. And I also believe that with our urban communities we're seeing in Baltimore, when you talk about the problems of draining the state for Baltimore, if we don't do something to keep the middle class from moving out of Baltimore, Baltimore is going to continue to be sucking the resources out of the rest of the state.

Well Baltimore City, a large number of the people who are moving are moving to get their kids into a better school system, so maybe we'd be better off to provide some sort of incentive for those families to be able to stay in Baltimore and send their child to an alternative school.

So I think if I had the opportunity to deal with this issue what I'd really be trying to do was focus any kind of help to low income kids who are trapped in failed schools with the effort to say, okay, if we're going to take a child who's costing the public school system $6,000, $6,500 and we're going to give a tax credit, say the tax credit's $1,500, so you're going to save not a full $5,000 but you're going to save a considerable amount of money that that child was otherwise going to cost the public school system.

Why couldn't we come up with a program where we took the money that we saved and plowed it into the public school to make smaller class sizes or better paid teachers or textbooks available to make the public school better. And it seems to me that if we did that it's a win-win situation.

Q: We appreciate the time you've given us. But I wanted to ask you one last question. You've been comparing Maryland and Virginia when it comes to the progress of the economy, economic development, why business is located in one state rather than another, but one difference between the two that every business executive would immediately point to is that in Virginia there's a right to work law. I'm not talking about political possibilities here but just as a matter of personal preference, would you favor such a law for Maryland?

A: As the daughter of a card-carrying union Democrat, a steelworker, I grew up in a union family, I grew up with a father who believed strongly in the right of people to belong to unions and I share that belief. But I also grew up with a father who always said if the union is doing a good job, people shouldn't be forced to join because they would earn the affiliation of their members. And to me it is an issue of personal liberty that people should not be forced to belong to any organization if they don't want to belong to it.

So philosophically I do believe in the idea that no one should be forced to join a labor union. Practically, I know that Maryland is not going to be adopting a right to work law any time soon and it's one of those things again that, as a governor, I would be choosing very carefully things that I try to make happen because I know that you can't fight every battle without losing most of them.

Q: We appreciate your coming here. Thank you very much.

A: Thank you.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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