If success is truly measured in money, then Prince George's lobbyist Michael Arrington said this week that the county is far from being a winner.
But, when the 2003 legislative session ended this week, he doesn't think that anyone came out victorious.
"From a monetary standpoint, one doesn't have a lot to brag about," Arrington said Monday as the General Assembly finished its 90-day session. "But neither does any other jurisdiction."
Prince George's County officials said earlier this week that they are still waiting to see how the county might be affected if Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) goes ahead with his promise to veto tax increases for businesses and replace the lost cash with $135 million in budget cuts that would severely affect jurisdictions such as Prince George's.
"Cuts to local aid, that's the frightening thing," said County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D).
Johnson said defeat of Ehrlich's plan to legalize slot machine gambling meant a loss of revenue for Prince George's. The county, home to Rosecroft Raceway in Oxon Hill, would have shared a small percentage of the $1.5 billion annual revenue if the controversial proposal had survived.
In search of money, the county did manage to get at least one of its revenue boosting measures through the General Assembly.
Beginning in July, the county will collect more money from developers who build new homes in Prince George's. According to the Department of Legislative Services, the county could generate $11.7 million in the new fiscal year from a higher surcharge.
Del. James W. Hubbard (D-Prince George's) proposed the legislation, which calls for the current county schools surcharge on home builders to increase from $5,000 to $12,000 per unit.
"[Passage of] the Hubbard bill is a tremendous success," said Council Chairman Peter A. Shapiro (D-Brentwood). "I think it's the best news to come out of Prince George's in years. We can't win them all, but we won a big one."
The measure could affect residential growth and help to address school overcrowding.Johnson said the surcharge bill was one of two major items on the county wish list approved in the waning days of the session. The other was his plan to get rid of the county's current representatives on the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
Johnson pushed to win the right to remove and appoint the county's representatives to the powerful commission, something his predecessor, Wayne K. Curry (D), had been unable to achieve.
Late Monday, the General Assembly voted to allow Johnson to remove the current members before their terms end and replace them with his own appointees. By contrast, Montgomery County members, who make up the other half of the bi-county commission, are selected and appointed by that county's council. The county executive can veto the selection, and the council can override the veto.
"Overall, I think we had a great session," Johnson said.
Here of some of the failed efforts that would have generated some additional revenue for the county:
* A lottery surcharge. County officials asked the legislative delegation to approve a measure givingJohnson and the county power to impose a surcharge on lottery tickets purchased in Prince George's. County officials would have decided how much should be tacked onto the cost of a lottery ticket.
The bill, which said the additional money would have to be spent on education, never made it out of subcommittee, where it was shot down unanimously. County officials have complained for years that Prince George's ranks atop the list of counties with the highest lottery sales, but county residents don't receive anything in return for buying so many tickets.
* Retail sales tax. A House committee rejected a bill allowing the council to place a 1 percent local sales tax on goods purchased in the county. The tax, which would have needed voter approval, would have raised an estimated $33.7 million in fiscal 2005 and $70.8 million in fiscal 2006.
The additional money would have been appropriated for school construction and operating expenses for county schools. The legislation had failed in the past.
* Charitable casino gambling. Legislation that would have revived the controversial charitable casino gambling in Prince George's died in the Senate without action.
Nonprofit groups, led by Steve Novak, president of the Crescent Cities Jaycees, figured that with all the talk about slots this year, they had a good chance of getting lawmakers to sign onto a bill that would allow casino operations in Prince George's again. Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) shut down casinos in Prince George's six years ago after many encountered problems from lack of oversight.
* Property-tax cap repeal. Two high-ranking lawmakers, Del. Sheila Ellis Hixson (D-Montgomery), chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, and Del. Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore), chairman of Appropriations, said the state shouldn't have to keep handing money to counties that continually ask the state to pay more for local services, including schools.
So they offered a bill that would allow county councils to override voter-imposed property tax caps in counties where the limits exist. The move was clearly aimed at Prince George's, where voters in 1978 approved the Tax Reform Initiative by Marylanders (TRIM) and reaffirmed it in a 1996 referendum.
County officials have said the cap has stifled the county's ability to provide quality services and has handcuffed the financially troubled school system. Officials in other jurisdictions have criticized Prince George's for unwillingness to pay more for schools.