Some state delegates here say that Prince George's County Executive Winfield M. Kelly Jr. has become his own worst enemy.
Others say that Kelly just went a little overboard on his public relations campaign. However severe the judgment, Kelly's campaign to elicit support among the county delegation for his new tax proposal has instead created clouds of confusion and suspicion.
For the past two weeks Kelly has held a string of press conferences to tell the public that he was eliminating some of the county's most popular programs because there was not enough money in next year's budget. At these briefings Kelly said the General Assembly would have to pass laws changing the county's tax structure if the public ever hoped to have these project reinstated.
Nothing was said to the county's legislative delegation. Aides in Kelly's office would tell angry citizens to call their delegates in hope of creating a strong lobby for Kelly's proposals.
"He's treating us like children, his approach is all wrong," complained Del. Leo E. Green (D-Prince George's). "I respect Kelly but he isn't showing the same respect for the delegation. He's already hit me over the head with a hammer before he's told me what his problem is."
The hammer blow was the suspension of plans to build an access road to the Bowie Race Track in Green's district. Somehow, Kelly managed to threaten a favorite project in almost every district. If nothing else, this even handed division of the budget cuts brought the threat home to every county respresentative in Annapolis, including Senate President Stony H. Hoyer.
"There are some cuts I don't agree with. And if there are no new revenues I'm not sure that those will be the ultimate cuts anyway," said Hoyer. "But, sure, it makes good sense for him (Kelly) to make these public relations efforts."
Those public relations efforts end Friday when Kelly finally describes his well-heralded budget problems to the county delegation and asks it to support his tax proposals, but this year delegates have state budgetary problems to debate. They also remember Kelly's budgetary problems of the last two years.
Those two years, Kelly pushed through a tenants' tax that proved to be unpopular and unwieldy. The delegation almost unanimously calls the tax a political mistake that it does not want repeated.
"I'm fed up with Kelly's shortfalls," said Del. Frank B. Pesci (D-Prince George's). "Kelly's had a bad track record with his budget predictions. He's better not come in with one of his $25 million shortfalls again. This year he ended up with a surplus."
The greatest criticism came from Sen. Meyer M. Emanuel Jr., who said he feared that Kelly had taken the "we" out of government.
"It is his 'I,' 'I,' 'I,' that bothers me. There are many of us in the government and we have to show him what the 'we' in government means," Emanuel said.
This year the General Assembly faces the prospect of raising the state sales tax or adopting major reforms in the state income tax, issues that could overshadow the concerns of Prince George's County.
At his weekly press conference, Gov. Marvin Mandel warned against pressure on local delegations that could interfere with statewide tax debates.
"If we don't get a tax increase, we've got to cut aid to the local subdivisions," Mandel said. "There's no way we can be pressured. We're giving the subdivisions almost $800 million. That's a lot of money."
He asked that counties and cities leave their delegates and senators alone and not use any expected recommendation for a tax increase as a bargaining lever to secure additional financial aid from the state.