In the world of political pragmatism, Montgomery County Democratic Del. Lucille Maurer has a rare affliction. The influential fiscal committee member is, whisper her colleagues, at times too fair.
"Lucy is a true, old-fashioned liberal who honestly believes that the wealthy counties should be willing to support the poorer ones," said one Montgomery official who has gone to the mat with the Ways and Means Committee member over the county's share of the fiscal pie.
The prospect of Reagan's new federalism, which would transfer 40 federal aid programs back to the states and could cost Maryland as much as $20 million a year, has county officials clucking a little louder than usual this year about bringing home the dollars.
Delegates like Maurer, as one of the senior members of the committee that determines how tax dollars are divvied up, should be more protective of the county's financial interests, say some delegation members.
Montgomery, with 14 percent of the state's population, receives 9 percent of state funds allocated to localities, while Baltimore, with 19 percent of the population, receives 36 percent, according to county figures.
"For years the county has been a self-sacrificer to urban-welfare related programs and Lucy, among others in the delegation, has always felt that if the county worked with Baltimore City, supporting their programs, then the county would be looked after and treated fairly," says Montgomery County Council member David Scull, the former head of the county House delegation who voted often to support Baltimore City's fund requests. "That hasn't always happened. . . . It's necessary that we begin to meet the charges that we're not looking after the county's interest enough."
Yet despite these financial criticisms, officials like Scull and County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist remain firmly rooted in their support of the 59-year-old Maurer, a former economist with a graduate degree from Yale. Maurer, they say, is one of the hardest working and most able of the county delegates. And, despite their frustration over a distribution of funds, she is, they agree, a "stateswoman" who has risen above the fray of backroom politicking and is motivated by belief and not gain.
Maurer, senior member of the Montgomery House delegation and author of the education formula that has determined distribution of state funds for nearly a decade, shrinks from the characterization of her as one who doesn't fight for her county's fiscal needs. As a former civic activist and county school board member, the pleasant-tempered Maurer says she is sensitive to county needs, but is also sensitive to how these needs are shared by other jurisdictions.
"I am only trying to be fair to both the state and county," Maurer says as she rearranges the piles of reports on her lap.
The reports, education task force documents that have led some delegates to call her the most influential force in the state's education for more than a decade, detail the formulas that have brought Maurer some of her strongest compliments as well as occasional salvos of criticism during the last few years. The Lee-Maurer formula, which distributes half of the state's education funds and also bears the name of former acting governor Blair Lee III, distributes money inversely proportional to wealth.
In the 1979-80 school year Montgomery County, with 13 percent of the state's public school students, received 5.7 percent of the $331 million in state funds handled under the Lee-Maurer formula. Baltimore City, with 18 percent of the students, received 23.9 percent.
The effect of other school funding proposals that came out of Maurer's committee in 1980, according to a report prepared by Maurer's education subcommittee, resulted in Montgomery County's receiving a net increase in 1981 of $100,000 while Prince George's funds rose by nearly $10 million. "Some people might see that as a sell-out of Montgomery County on Lucy's part," says Gerard Devlin (D-Prince George's), vice chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, of Maurer's vote on the social security issue, "but Lucy is aware of the obvious fact that Montgomery County has the money and Baltimore has the poverty."
"Above everything else, more than her knowledge and expertise in the area, Lucy is fair," Devlin continues.
"With her influence and mastery of the area, she could very easily do something very damaging and cost counties, who don't understand the formulas like she does, a lot of money. But Lucy is absolutely honest and will tell you exactly what a change in a formula will mean for your county.
"There are not a lot of people like that here," Devlin continues.
Although some attack Maurer's fiscal responsiveness to the county, almost all agree with Devlin's description and unanimously endorse her sincerity and integrity. Her expertise in education, they continue, is unsurpassed among legislators and her diligence and hard work are impressive.
Ironically, a recent Circuit Court decision striking down the Lee-Maurer formula as inequitable should quiet the attacks on Maurer's education funding. The decision, in Somerset v. Hornbeck, stated that an individual jurisdiction cannot spend more money on educating a student than another. In Montgomery County, if the decision is upheld, either the county would have to decrease its spending per pupil--currently nearly twice the spending of Somerset, the county with the lowest expenditure--or the state would have to bring the other jurisdictions up to Montgomery County's level. The case now is being considered by the Court of Appeals, the state's highest court. A decision is expected after the General Assembly session ends in late March.
In the meantime, Maurer says she will concentrate on pressing for a corporate income tax bill she and Del. Pauline Menes (D-Prince George's) have introduced in the House. The bill would require corporations to pay back some of the money saved due to recent federal adjustments in the tax law. With the new federal changes, the state, which uses the federal formula for state corporate collections, is expected to lose $80 million to $100 million in revenue. Under Maurer's bill that loss would be reduced to about $40 million, she says.
Sounding an old theme, Maurer explains, "the individual taxpayer faces far greater losses with the changes in corporation taxes. It's merely a question of being fair, isn't it?"