In an attempt to keep votes against a proposed Maryland sales tax increase in line Sen. John C. Coolahan (D-Baltimore County) circulated today the names of senators who have indicated opposition to the tax accompanied by the question, "Who will be Judas?"
Coolahan's unprecedented gesture, a major gamble in the protocol-conscious Senate, is an effort to combat Gov. Marvin Mandel's strong lobbying in favor of a one-cent increase in the current sales tax of four cents per dollar with what Coolahan regards as his only weapon - a tide of public opinion against additional taxes.
"I'm fighting the governor, but what do I have to fight with?" asked Coolahan, informal leader of opposition to Mandel's proposal to balance next year's $3.9 billion budget with the sales tax increase. "The only way I can fight him is with public opinion."
Coolahan's list of potential "Judases" contains 24 names, enough to defeat the sales tax bill in the 47-member Senate. He said each of the senators on the list has either pledged to oppose the tax, or has indicated publicly he will vote against it. The tax bill is expected to come to a vote on Thursday.
Early reaction from some of the senators on the list indicated Coolahan may not have the votes to succeed.
Sen. Thomas P. O'Reilly (D-Prince George's) said he was "very incensed" by the inclusion of his name on the list. "I don't react to that kind of pressure from Coolahan, from Mandel, from the P.G. organization, or from anybody . . .
"I think a lot of people here (in the Senate) feel as independent as I do," said O'Reilly. "I think it may backfire on him."
Sen. Homer White Jr. (D-Eastern Shore), another whose name is on the list, said a move like Coolahan's might induce him to change his vote "on any other issue on earth" except the sales tax.
"I wish John hadn't done that," said White. "I happen to be on his side, and I admire a fighter. But I don't admire that tactic . . . I don't think you should impugn people's motives. I've thought sugar caught more than vinegar all my life."
Most of the senators on the list, though, said their opposition to the esales tax increase, which would yield the state about $120 million, is firm. Among local senators on the list are O'Reilly, Sen. Howard Denis (R-Montgomery), Sen. James Clark Jr. (D-Howard), and Sen. Jomes Simpson (D-Charles).
In legislative action tonight, the House of Delegates eliminated from the budget the $1,000 paid the state's poeet laureate each year despite a plea that such action would make Laureate Vincent Godfrey Burns "give up every reason to live."
Del. Patricia O. Aiken (D-Anne Arundel) told the House that the money and the job means everything to the 83-year-old Burns - even clean shirts.
Reached at his cottage at Epping Forest near Annapolis, Burns declared: "I'm the poet laureate of the state and $1,000 is nothing compared to what I do. I have written 30 books. I may publish another novel or another book and that would help.
"But it (loss of the sipend) creates quite a problem."
In fact, it is not yet clear whether he will have to give up the $1,000. If the Senate decides to restore it to the budget, the final decision would be up to a House-Senate conference.