Richmond M. (Max) Keeney, the Republican nominee for Montgomery County executive, said yesterday he opposes a tax-cutting charter amendment on the county's November ballot and promised that if elected he would cut taxes even more than the amendment would.
If the new County Council appropriated more funds than Keeney thought necessary under his "tax abatement program," he said that he would simply refuse to spend it.
"We have to reduce the cost of our government," Keeney, a planning board member and former county councilman, told editors and reporters at a luncheon in The Washington Post.
Keeney said his program, which seeks to roll back the general property tax levy from $2.60 for each $100 of assessed value to $2.12 over a four-year period, would have a "less traumatic" impact on county services than the ballot referendum question proposed by the Taxpayers League. That proposal, similar to California's Proposition 13, would chop the property tax rate immediately from $2.60 to $2.25.
To achieve the savings in the first year, Keeney said he would impose an immediate hiring freeze and use attrition to further decrease government employment. In subsequent years, he said, he would propose budgets lower than annual increases in the cost of living.
Keeney, administrator of insurance programs for the Air Force Association, is opposing State Sen. Charles Gilchrist, the Democratic nominee and a tax lawyer, in the race to replace Republican James P. Gleason, the only county executive Montgomery has had. Gleason is retiring after eight years in office.
But Keeney said he is "not satisfied" that fellow Republican Gleason has been as strong an executive as the charter commission establishing the executive-council form of government had intended.
He said that the all-Democratic council, which at times seems to be operating a parallel government to Gleason's, had effectively "checked the reign" of the executive. Gleason, "for some reason was not able to overcome the difficulties" associated with a relationship, said Keeney.
Keeney, who describes himself as "not a flamboyant person," said he would attempt to strengthen the executive's hand first by appointing his own department heads.
While refusing to be specific about individuals, Keeney cited the police department and the Department of Environmental Protection as two agencies with "obvious problems."
He also said "there are a couple of department heads waiting to retire," a "couple of department heads I specifically don't have a terrific amount of confidence in" and "at least two department heads I respect very very highly."
Keeney said he would appoint women and blacks as department administrators. He also said he would "reassign" some positions to strengthen the county's Office of Economic Development.
Keeney said he is against a regional tax to support Metro and believes that Montgomery County should develop its own source of Metro funding. "My preference is a gasoline tax. I don't think it should come from the property tax," he said.
In contrast to Gilchrist, Keeney said he opposes any form of rent control, consolidation of fire departments that would dilute that role of violunteer firemen and collective bargaining for county employes.
He also called the proposed "outer Beltway," a cross-county road that Gilchrist has opposed, "the most badly needed roadway in the county."