It was perhaps a fitting epitaph to the 1983 Maryland General Assembly that within hours of its adjournment at midnight Monday, Gov. Harry Hughes and legislative leaders had turned their attention to the 1984 session, which is expected to be much more grueling.
"We have to be candid; we can't pull the wool over people's eyes," said Senate President Melvin A. Steinberg at today's traditional day-after bill signing ceremony and press conference. "We have serious money problems and there are only two major sources of revenue in the state, the sales tax and the income tax. We're going to have to look seriously at revamping one."
Hughes, Steinberg and House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin all took the same tone this morning, agreeing, after going through the litany of this year's accomplishments, that much is left to be done.
All three men agreed that pension reform would be of paramount importance next January. Steinberg's attempt to revamp the state's retirement system this year died in a House committee.
"There is no question that we will have to take some action on the pension system next year," said Hughes, who after some mid-session turbulence pushed through most of his modest legislative package.
Cardin declared a month before the session began that jobs were the major issue, and despite this year's actions to address economic problems, unemployment is likely to be a major issue again next year.
The economic programs instituted this year, including the Jobs Program and Training Act, will be triggered in the fall by an infusion of federal funds.
Legislation that increases unemployment benefits from $153 a week to $165 and extends a state program of additional unemployment benefits will expire after a year, forcing those issues to the foreground next session.
Because the legislature rejected Hughes' request for $22 million in increases in "sin taxes" on tobacco and alcohol, this year's $6.4 billion budget allows for virtually no growth. Hughes, Cardin and Steinberg agreed that, barring a turnaround in the economy, the state's income tax structure would have to be rewritten next year to generate increased taxes from those persons in high income brackets.
The state's major aid programs in the areas of education, police and transportation, especially mass transit assistance, are scheduled for revision next year. The fight for money among the local governments is likely to be intense, especially after a year in which legislators reluctantly helped bail out money-strapped Prince George's County and Baltimore City with a new lottery game.
The big winners of the 1983 session appeared to be the banking industry, which pushed through a sweeping credit and lending deregulation bill, and labor. The unions capitalized on campaign promises by Hughes and others to get a new department, passage of a new prevailing wage law and an increase in unemployment benefits.
Another winner was Steinberg, who went through a bitter fall struggle to unseat incumbent President James Clark Jr. Steinberg ended up winning kudos, even from critics, for his ability to dominate that unruly chamber.
During the final hour in the red-carpeted Senate chamber, Sen. James C. Simpson (D-St. Mary's), one of Steinberg's more outspoken critics earlier, rose to compliment Steinberg. "I said some harsh things in December after the election," Simpson said. "But I have to say to you Mr. President, you have been fair to those of us who opposed you and I think you have done an excellent job in providing this body leadership."
As Simpson spoke, the only empty senator's chair in the chamber was Clark's, the former president having chosen to depart before the finale rather than listen to the annual paeans to the presiding officer. That one should come from Simpson probably would have wounded Clark.
On the other side of the marble hallway, Cardin was receiving flack from the Montgomery County delegation for failing to inject himself into the last-second controversy that ultimately killed the bill that would have taken away the Burning Tree Club's annual $152,000 property tax exemption because it discriminates against women.
Cardin refused to overrule Ways and Means Committee Chairman Tyras S. Athey (D-Anne Arundel) after Athey appointed a lopsided three-member conference committee, a group that stalled, tried to hold secret meetings and eventually killed the legislation.
But for the most part Cardin was in control of the body he has now led for five years. "This is typical Cardin," said Del. Paul D. Muldowney (D-Washington) as he watched the final minutes tick quietly away. "Everything is well greased and on schedule and people look like they know what they're doing. Isn't it terrible?"