When Prince George's County lawmakers talk about their priorities for the Maryland legislative session, they speak as though there was but one -- money.
"You may find other legislators from other places interested in regulating what kind of buckshot a hunter uses to shoot waterfowl, but the one thing we're interested in around here is money and how much of it we can bring back to Prince George's County," said Del. Richard A. Palumbo (D-22).
"I think that I and most of my colleagues in the county delegation feel that if a legislator hasn't worked to bring all the money he or she can back to Prince George's County, they haven't done their job."
If Palumbo is right, most county legislators seem to be on the job. Whether they speak of "bringing home the bacon," or "getting more aid for localities," the bottom line is always the same: more money for Prince George's
In this session, the Prince George's delegation will seek millions of dollars from the state to finance the county's mass transit system, schools, health department, circuit courts, parks and other activities usually viewed as local responsibilities. In the cases of the health department and the circuit courts, the county will ask for new funding.
The $229 million state surplus expected this year is encouragement for all legislators to try to take care of the constituents back home.
However, in Prince George's, the drive by lawmakers to get more state money has taken on an added urgency. TRIM, the county's tax-limiting charter admendment passed in 1978, has placed a lid on the primary source of local revenues: property taxes.
As a result, county officials are looking to the state for help and county legislators are expected to lobby vigorously with their colleagues for more funds.
"Legislators from other counties just don't sympathize with us when we tell them that we need more money because of TRIM," said Robert S. Redding (D-23), chairman of the Prince George's house delegation.
"So what we have to do is prove to them that our cause is right, that what's good for Prince George's is good for the state. But quite often, that's a pretty difficult thing to do. Our jobs are made more difficult because of TRIM. There's no question about that."
The county delegation plans to push hard for the formula for distributing additional educational aid detailed by the governor's task force on state-local fiscal problems.
If the recommendations in that report pass as legislation, Prince George's would gain an additional $9 million in school aid.
Meanwhile, Palumbo and several of his colleagues have already filed a bill that would increase the amount of police aid received by counties and municipalities.
Palumbo estimates that Prince George's received between $5 and $6 million in police aid last year. Palumbo's bill and another on police aid would raise that sum by at least 10 percent.
The county executive's office is also encouraging the legislative delegation to support a bill that would require the state to pay the operational costs of the circuit courts throughout the state.
"The judicial work done in the circuit courts is a state function, and it would seem to us that the state should pay all operational costs," said Ella Ennis, legislative liaison for the county executive's office.
Ennis says that the county presently spends $1.8 million a year on court reporter salaries, furniture and other expenses. Judges are paid with state money.
County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan is supporting legislation that would require the state to give subsidies to health department workers to compensate for cost-of-living inequities among counties in the state. At present, the Prince George's government spends about $200,000 per year on wage subsidies for health department workers. Subsidies go only to employes hired before 1978.
"We're losing a lot of our newer people in the health department," said Ennis. "The best information available shows that the turnover rate is around 30 percent in the social services and health departments. People come to the county, get trained, then move to better-paying jobs in other counties."
The county delegation also plans to support legislation that would give counties across the state additional money for park and open space development. c
Last year, and $11 million open space bill delayed by a filibuster in the senate, died shortly after reaching the house. Had the bill passed, Prince George's stood to gain an additional $2 million for open space development.
"We'll push hard for a bill this year, but I think we'll have to re-evaluate the way in which the money is used," said Del. Charles Blumenthal (D-27) "Last year a lot of people who opposed the bill thought that we had already taken too much land off the tax rolls. I think the emphasis this year will be on development of already purchased land."
Other legislative proposals include these:
Several southwestern Prince George's legislators have gotten together to sponsor bills to prohibit the construction of several roads included in the subregion VII Master Plan drafted by the county planning board staff.
Del. Frederick C. Rummage (D-27) will co-sponsor legislation, with the other members of the 27th district delegation, that would force the planning commission staff to drop three recommendations: construction of a new north-south highway called E-7, the widening of Allentown and Brinkley roads, and the extension of Anacostia freeway to Indian Head Highway.
"I don't guess these planners know that every time they draw a line on the map, they lower property values in residential neighborhoods," said Rummage. "There's a real problem of responsibility here. It may be a line to them, but it has quite an impact on the people who live in the area where the line is drawn."
Legislators from the 21st district in Prince George's are sponsoring a bill to give local jurisdictions more control over liquor establishments.
"We have real problems with some of the teenagers who hang out in College Park along the Rte. 1 corridor," said Del. Kay G. Bienen (D-21).