ANNAPOLIS, MARCH 3 -- Sounding conciliatory for the first time in a week, Maryland Gov. William Donald Schaefer said today that he has not given up on having a successful legislative session and described his difficulties with the General Assembly as a "battle of egos."
The governor extended at least one olive branch today, dropping his threat of retaliation against Prince George's County by assuring County Executive Parris Glendening that an additional $5 million in magnet school aid will be forthcoming. Schaefer, angry at Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), had said earlier this week that he did not think he would be able to come up with the promised funds.
While Schaefer seemed determined to end a week of name-calling in the State House and move on with his legislative agenda, it was unclear what issues he intends to push during the second half of the 90-day session. And even as he acknowledged that he had made some mistakes in dealing with the 188-member legislature, he seemed to be running the risk of setting off another round of feuding.
Today he reiterated hope for some of his pet projects that have been killed or modified by the legislature, including a residential math-science high school for gifted students and a light rail system for the Baltimore area.
"He's not conceding anything is dead yet," said Schaefer spokesman Robert Douglas.
At a late afternoon news conference, Schaefer said the compromise plan on the light rail system worked out by legislative leaders and agreed to last week by the administration is unacceptable because it will delay the project.
He said Transportation Secretary Richard Trainor will present the administration's new position Friday before a meeting of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. Trainor has questioned the legislature's commitment to completing the project and said he has "concerns about spending $10 million for something that may not happen." Trainor was ordered to appear Friday before the committee by angry senators upset over the secretary's remarks.
"Light rail is something that we will lose over egos, not because it's right or wrong," Schaefer said this morning. "I would be so happy to lose on merit; I'm not happy to lose on ego."
But key senators said today that he may lose it altogether because he wants to alter the compromise. Sen. John A. Cade (R-Anne Arundel) said that if Trainor does not commit to starting the project with the $10 million as agreed, he will move to kill any funding for this year.
The feuding between Schaefer and the legislature started a week ago, when the Senate dealt back-to-back blows to the governor on the math-science high school and the light rail project. Schaefer retaliated by blasting legislators and declaring "war" against them. He even canceled a bill-signing session to avoid an appearance with Miller and House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. (D-Kent).
The governor said today that there is "no question I have a big ego," but said he thinks the legislature is full of "big heads, egomaniacs, know-it-alls." He said he bungled protocol in the way some issues were handled, but added that the legislature should be "sympathetic" to that handicap of his administration, not critical of it.
Asked whether there would be lasting scars from his battle with the legislature, Schaefer said: "I'll wait, I'll see."
Schaefer said his priorities for the rest of the session are "everything," including the already killed math-science high school, a repayment plan for savings and loan depositors that was voted down by three committees, and the light rail system.