Four Prince George's County delegates filed legislation yesterday that would allow the county to impose a 3 percent tax on energy use, the proceeds of which would fund the county's magnet school program.

Dels. Frank Pesci, Joan Pitkin, William Bevan and Albert Wynn, all Democrats, filed the measure in light of reports that Gov. Harry Hughes would have Maryland fund only $3.5 million of the $12 million the county requested special programs designed to improve racial balance without busing.

"The county is under a court order, which is a very serious matter. Magnet schools is a plan favored by almost everyone over busing," said Pesci, a frequent opponent of new taxing authority in the past.

Pesci and the others said the current proposal is more equitable than an energy tax proposal killed in the General Assembly last year.

The new tax would apply to both residential and commercial users, he said; low-income households could be exempted.

Nevertheless, other officials were not receptive to the plan, saying the bill is poorly drafted and politically untenable.

"The sponsors of that legislation must not want to get elected in an election year," said state Sen. Frank Komenda, also a Democrat, who represents the county on a budget committee that would review the bill.

"To raise utility rates in an election year? Wow!" said Komenda.