The bright fire of rank-and-file rebellion that burned long enough to get committee approval of several state spending limit measures began to fizzle out today, dampened by the furious lobbying efforts of the House leadership.
In a series of meetings with the major local delegations this morning, House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin and his lieutenants handed out papers covered with columns of figures detailing how much state aid each locality could lose if the spending limit measures were enacted.
The staff of Gov. Harry Hughes had already begun their assault on the measures Monday afternon, when Hughes met with legislatively leaders and passed out more data projecting $271 million in revenue losses if the bills became law -- losses that staff adides said would decimate such politically popular programs as aid to schools, police, and mass transit systems such as Metro.
Even as the efforts began, the spending-limit forces were conceding that they were as least 20 votes shy of the two-thirds majority they needed to win House approval of the two constitutional changes that are an essential element of the package of bills.
By day's end, legislative vote counters said that the margin was becoming even wider. "We've got no chance. When we get to the floor we're going to get our rears beat," said Louis L. DePazzo, a prolimits delegate who represents the working-class Baltimore suburb of Dundalk.
The House Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee gave another sign of the bill's imminent demise today when it voted, by a 13-to-7 margin, to disapprove the two consittutional ammendments that would enable the spending limit measures to take effect.
That vote was more symbolic than effective, however, since it was taken after committee leaders agreed that the entire package of bills -- including the amendments they had disaproved -- would be permitted to come to the House floor for a vote.
Even after their victory had been conceded, however, Cardin and other House leaders did not stop their dogged pursuit of delegates who might be wavering on the issue. "The bills are dead, but I think Ben wants to make the point that they're deeaaadd," said Cardin's leglistative aide, drawing out the last word.
But even as support in the House fell away, and with that support their chances for enactment, the limit bills were on everyone's mind here.
They were on State Sen. John A. Cade's mind when he spoke against the $90 million transportation aid measure, the cornerstone ofHughes's leglislative package, which was approved by the Senate on a 28-19 vote today.
Cade, a Republican from Anne Arundel County, complained that the sweeping measure, which provides $23 million next year toward the Maryland suburbs' share of Metro costs, represented "one of the reasons we're hearing about spending limits."
The Senate also today approved a $67 million package of increased aid to schools across the state, but this measure must now go to conference committee to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions.
Over in the House, there were still some raw feelings today left over from Saturday's vote in the House Appropriations Committee. Committee chairman John R. Hargreaves had brought the measure before the group thinking he had the votes to kill it, only to find crucial supporters slipping away at the last minute.
Today, one of the rebels, Prince George's County Democrat Frank B. Pesci, claimed that Hargreaves was getting revenge on him by holding up two of Pesci's bills while letting similar legislation come before the committe for a vote.