Three weeks after making peace with the County Council, Prince George's Executive Lawrence Hogan yesterday attempted to assuage another group of past adversaries -- the county's legislative delegation -- with a carefully organized briefing on the county's state funding needs and promises of better communication between Upper Marlboro and Annapolis.
Hogan, who was criticized by state delegation leaders last year for failing to comment quickly or adequately on crucial legislation, yesterday gave about 20 state senators and delegates a numbered list of budget bills he would like to see enacted next year to bring Prince George's $29.6 million in direct or indirect state aid.
Hogan also released fresh estimates showing that the county is likely to face a fiscal crisis next year because of the tax-limiting TRIM amendment, despite an estimated surplus of $8.3 million.
Legislators and County Council members emerged from the briefing with varying measures of praise for Hogan's diplomacy and skepticism about his estimates of the county's surplus and budgetary needs.
"It was an exceelent move on Larry's part," said state Sen. Peter Bozick, the leader of the county's Senate delegation. "Larry had his problems with us last year, partly because he had just come into office. I guess it was a bad rap on both sides. I think we're ready to put partisanship aside now."
Most other legislators agreed with Bozick, although Hogan received only lukewarm responses from the senators and delegates with whom he publicly feuded last year.
"Hogan and I have been talking," said state Sen. Tommie Broadwater, whose communications with Hogan were abruptly severed last year after a shouting match at a legislative meeting in Annapolis. "He's taken a positive step. But I'm still working for the county -- not for Hogan."
"I think we will have smoother sailing because Hogan has recognized that he can't do his job by partisan politics," was state Sen. Arthur Dorman's grudging appraisal.
At least one of Hogan's old adversaries is still holding out. "I won't go to meet with him," said Del. Fred Rummage, who exchanged frequent personal attacks with Hogan last year. "He insulted me last time and I don't get insulted twice."
Hogan told the legislators that his top priority was a state funding source for Metro -- one-half cent of the 5-cent sales tax -- to allow the county to pay its $16.8 million Metro allocation for next year.
Hogan said he also is hoping for a $6 million increase in state aid to county schools, a $1 million increase in police aid, and a pledge by the state to assume the costs of the Circuit Court, State's Attorney's Office, Sheriff's Department and Board of Elections.
Hogan conceded that it was unlikely he would receive all the state aid he is hoping for, and Bozick and other legislative leaders predicted that Prince George's would be lucky to receive half of three-quarters of the $26.6 million on Hogan's list.
Meanwhile, several council members and legislators questioned Hogan's budget estimates -- particularly the projected $8.3 million surplus, which has been a subject of political debate since last spring.
"It was clear that they were playing the numbers game again," said council member Parris N. Glendening, who has consistently argued that Hogan would end up announcing a budget surplus because of underestimation of revenues.
"I think the surplus is going to turn out several million dollars higher than what they are estimating now. They are still underestimating revenues. And the real problem with this sort of thing happening is that it's increasing the frustration of the unions who are negotiating contracts and being told that there is no money."
Hogan and his aides maintain that the budget surplus has been created largely by cost-cutting measures they have instituted, not by deliberate miscalculation of revenues, although some revenue estimates for the current year have been revised upward since the budget was passed in June.