When top Prince George's County business and political leaders met last week for the annual Chamber of Commerce economic development breakfast, neither County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan, Council Chairman William B. Amonett, nor Chamber President Les Smith dominated the meeting.
Instead, talk of TRIM and the effects of TRIM stole the show. By the meeting's end, Hogan, Smith and Amonett were not debating whether the tax-limiting charter amendment should be modified, but when. Smith favored modification by the end of next year, Amonett in 1981, and Hogan in 1982.
"The business community is not out to repeal TRIM," Smith told the crowd of 200."Most businessmen just believe that Trim needs to be amended. As it stands, TRIM is going to have a more severe impact than we ever imagined. The $15 million we got from the state last year, we may never get again."
"What it boils down to is that we pretty much get what we pay for," said Smith. "If we want a good transit system, we're going to have to pay for it. There are no easy answers."
Although somewhat less definitive, Council Chairman Amonett's comments echoed those of Smith.
"Some people are saying that when county residents passed TRIM last year, they didn't know what they were voting for and if they had fully understood it, would have voted differently, but I don't believe that's true," said Amonett. "Voters wanted a reduction in the quantity and quality of county services, and that's exactly what they are going to get."
Amonett warned, however, that the reduction in service probably would have an effect eventually on the county's ability to attract new business.
"Whenever you try and sell the county to new businesses, there are inevitable comparisions of the delivery of school and other public services. And very honestly, unless we are extremely innovative and imaginative, I just don't believe we're going to be able to compete."
In addition, the council chairman warned, "We're operating a surrogate government now and we're probably going to end up gong to the state government more and more every year if we hope to maintain our present level of services. We may succeed in getting the money, but it's going to move the purse strings further and further out of our hands."
Taking a slightly different approach, County Executive Hogan outlined his efforts to save money in county government. Defending the charter amendment, Hogan noted, "While our taxes are going down, Montgomery County is projecting possible property tax increases of 20 cents and Howard County is talking about a 41-cent increase (per $100 of assessed valuation).
He then emphasized his efforts to streamline the bureaucracy by consolidating services, personnel cuts, and turning over administration of county hospitals to the private sector.
"We're also pressing our state legislature to consider having the state take over the financing of some state agencies which the county is now financing, such as the Board of Election Supervisors, the sheriff's office, the state attorney's office and the court system," Hogan added.
Near the end of the meetings, when Chamber President Smith asked Hogan and Amonett whether they thought TRIM should be modified, Hogan said that he believed some modifications were in order, but ruled out open support of such change until 1982.
"I think there is still some fat yet to be cut," said Hogan.
Amonett said that he might support some kind of amendment next year, but added that he did not think it should take effect until 1981.