The increasingly powerful teacher and public employe unions that generally get their way in the Maryland General Assembly will be facing a governor next year who opposes binding arbitration, collective bargaining and the right to strike for these unions.
Both Republican J. Glenn Beall Jr. and Democrat Harry R. Hughes came out against these major union goals yesterday in joint appearances before the Maryland Association of School Boards and the Maryland Classified Employees Association. In addition, both men took positions supporting a pension reform measure the unions successfully worked to defeat in the last session of the Maryland legislature.
"I know you may not favor my approach. "Beall told representatives of the state's merit system employes, "But I have not favored collective bargaining or strikes by public employes."
At both appearances, there was surprisingly little disagreement between the two candidates for governor.
Beall stressed his views that all government bodies should "heed the warning of the Proposition 13 fever" while Hughes framed his remarks with the promise to "find careful ways to reduce spending without sacrificing our social goals."
When practical issues were raised, the candidates' solutions were almost identical. After the men had endorsed pension reform, supported increased state spending for education and called for a reorganization of the state bureaucracies, Maureen K. Steineicke, executive director of the boards of education, describe the candidates' agreement as "unbelieveable."
"Both told this audience what it wants to hear," she said. "Their positions are absolutely compatible with the goals of our association."
As the officials who must negotiate the salaries of teachers and other local school employes as well as administer state program often mired in red tape, the local board members seemed pleased with the stands of both Beall and Hughes.
"It's great. We're lucky both of these men have enough guts to say what they've said on education," said A. James Golato, a member of the Prince George's County Board of Education.
Hughes told the school board members that he found binding arbitration a position he could not accept either practically or philosophically. "I do not believe that an elected official should be bound to pass laws and I wonder if there might be a constitutional problem."
He also told the officials who fear the threat of a teacher strike that "it should be implicit in the terms of employment that public employes are working for the public and should not strike."
Beall and Hughes gave separate but identiacal description of their ideal pension reform proposals to the merit system employes. Both said they preferred a plan that would not change the pension plan of current employes or pensioners, one which would be implemented quickly to avoid bankrupting the current plan and one designed by the employes as well as the legislators.
"I fully understand your fears and concerns about any pension reform." Hughes told the representatives of the 30,000 member employe association. "I assure you it won't take away from you what you've fought so long and hard for."
During the last legislative session, a measure to restructure the pension plan by changing the way it is funded and reducing the benefits paid to new members was soundly defeated. The changes generally would have eliminated the automatic increases in pension payments that state employes have previously received as the cost of living went up. The changes, would have applied only to new state employes.
Beall accused the state of making "inadequate contributions" to the pension fund and placing it is in its current precarious position. Proponents of reform have claimed that the state's pension fund will be bankrupt within 20 years if changes are not made.
Beall told the state employes that they were taking the blame unfairly for citizen's anger over expensive government. "The problem doesn't lie with you people but with the leaders," he said.
Beall also promised to provide more merit pay increase to worthy state employes and cut down on hiring experts on contract, a practice he described as a perversion of the system." He won sustained applause for that remark.
Hughes also took pains to separate his criticism of government management from the employes who work for the state. "I'm telling you the public is very concerned about the size and efficiency of government," he said. "But I know you are not allowed to be imaginative or innovative because the system is stifling. Only the governor can change that.'
Both men alternately promised to cut government spending and at the same time increase the stat's contribution to local education. "Education is our highest priority," Beall said. "The state is not paying its fair share."
Local boards of education now receive $694 per pupil in state aid. It costs between $1,200 and $2,000 to educate one student for an academic year in Maryland.
Beall said his plan to increase aid to education by as much as $8 million each year could be paid for by surplus funds and the annual growth in revenue from sources like the state lottery.
Hughes cited on figures to back up his pledge to increase the state's contribution to local school budgets. He promised, however, that any increase would be given through some formula that took into account the varying costs of hiring teachers or buying supplies in the different parts of the state.