The chairmen of the Prince George's and Montgomery County state Senate delegations clashed today over the old question of who is to get how much money for local improvements -- often called pork barrel projects by those who aren't on the receiving end.
As Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., the Prince George's chairman, put it: "It's hard to explain how the richest county in the country may go home with pork barrel and a rather less affluent county may come up empty-handed."
Miller was disturbed by reports that Sen. Sidney Kramer, the Montgomery chairman, was helping to broker a deal to give Montgomery County millions of dollars in state aid for new schools and roads. Miller threatened a filibuster if Prince George's County is not guaranteed similar benefits by the legislature.
Miller, a Democrat from Clinton, confronted Kramer, a Democrat from Silver Spring, outside the Senate chamber today and asked about details of a tentative agreement to give Montgomery $3 million for new school construction and a like amount for highway improvements.
"I wasn't trying to queer Montgomery County's deal," Miller said later.
He added that "our constituents may well ask what the hell we've been doing down here" if Montgomery emerges the big winner in local improvements and Prince George's comes up short.
Miller's comments came less than a day after a Senate budget subcommittee rejected a $2 million appropriation to launch a government services center in Hyattsville, a project that is the centerpiece of Prince George's intense effort to win new state construction aid.
The subcommittee vote marked a setback for county legislators, who in recent days have clashed bitterly and publicly with County Executive Parris N. Glendening. Glendening pushed unsuccessfully for enactment of a law to permit taxing businesses' consumption of energy.
Many county officials have complained privately that Prince George's senators have not pushed hard enough for local projects when they believed local politicians would get the credit.
"If they can't get their act together, how can I help them?" Kramer said after his conversation with Miller. "What concerns me about Prince George's is that their frustration with one another . . . may harm us. They're trying to throw tomahawks at us."
There are signs, though, that many legislators believe the pie of state money is large enough to nourish both jurisdictions.
Today, in a move that saved face for several Prince George's senators, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee added $5 million in aid to the county's police to a measure designed to give $1.6 million in aid to Baltimore police.
Sen. Decatur W. Trotter (D-Prince George's), who voted for the police funding, said it was a legislative gesture toward himself and his county colleagues.
Sen. Stewart Bainum Jr., who with fellow Montgomery Democrat Laurence Levitan voted against the funding, said the additional $5 million for Prince George's "busts the budget of the state. It's not going to pass. Everybody on the floor will want to amend in."
The intramural warfare between Prince George's and Montgomery is not new in this political town, where allies of convenience often turn against one another the next day.
"It's all about perception," said Del. Timothy F. Maloney, a Prince George's Democrat. "I think Montgomery and Prince George's will both be able to take something home."