Montgomery County Executive Sidney Kramer plans to spend a lot of time in Annapolis during this session of the Maryland General Assembly.
Last year was his first as executive and he didn't stray far from Rockville. Now, with his government in place, Kramer said he will drive the nearly 50 miles to the state capital to help push for the needs and wants of a county seen by some outside its borders as so affluent as to have no needs, just greed.
That perception of the county is one that Kramer knows well. He spent eight years in the state Senate in the frequently unsuccessful battles to ensure Montgomery's fair share of the state revenue pie.
Yet, Kramer believes he heads into the 90-day session in an advantageous position. He has the rapport he established with legislators from throughout the state and has cultivated a good relationship with Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
Indeed, Schaefer already has endorsed the number one item on Kramer's 1988 wish list, construction of a $6.6 million instructional facility at the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center in Gaithersburg. The University of Maryland would use the classroom center as part of its effort with John Hopkins University, the county government and local business to provide specialized higher education in Maryland's high-tech corridor along I-270.
"We are presenting ourselves as the Silicon Valley of the East Coast," Kramer said, arguing that it is vital that the county have the instructional resources required by the companies flocking here.
Kramer believes that the center is virtually assured because Schaefer has publicly backed a plan for the state to pick up $4 million of the cost.
The private sector -- the high-tech and bio-tech industries of the upcounty -- is being asked to contribute $1 million, and Kramer estimates the eventual cost to the county will be $1.6 million.
Democratic Del. Michael R. Gordon, who chairs the Montgomery County delegation, agreed that the county is starting from a good position.
Gordon, who sees himself, Kramer and Democratic Sen. Laurence Levitan as speaking with "one voice" for the county, said that "nothing is ever sure in Annapolis" but the governor's support for the Shady Grove facility is powerful ammunition.
"We go in with the governor saying he will include the money in his budget," Gordon said.
School construction funding, a perennial concern in Montgomery with its growing population crowding its schools, is again a priority. Kramer has asked for $10 million, and last week the state Interagency Committee on School Construction recommended $8.8 million in state funds for Montgomery.
The county is supposed to receive $61 million in the next five years under a new school construction program approved by the Board of Public Works.
But county officials, who are building an unprecedented number of schools, are worried about the changes that might affect their bottom line.
Funding for education also figures into the county's concerns that the state improve its performance when it comes to community colleges.
"We feel that the state should be putting more money in," Kramer said. He explained that the colleges are supposed to be financed with a third of the money coming from tuition, a third from the state and a third from the county. Kramer said the state's share has fallen to below 30 percent.
With Schaefer pushing for $290 million for a light rail line connecting Baltimore with Annapolis, Montgomery officials will be on the prowl to get some kind of commitment for state participation in eventual Montgomery projects.
County officials believe they can make a case that if the first line were built on need, Montgomery would be at the head of the line.
Montgomery is studying its light rail options but, Kramer said, two likely routes are the Georgetown Spur connecting Bethesda with Silver Spring or a light rail extension of the Metro line north from Shady Grove to Clarksburg.
"It appears that light rail is a lot less expensive and more feasible than heavy rail. It is the mode of transportation for the future," Kramer said.
He said the county wants an assurance that when it is ready to build its project, the state will help out.
Kramer also said he planned to push yet again for an adjustment in the salaries of state workers who are assigned to Montgomery County and live here.
He said these employees, such as social service workers and tax assessors, are under a hardship because it costs more to live in Montgomery County than in other parts of the state. There should be an adjustment in their salaries, he said. Such proposals have been rejected in the past.