WITH THE ELECTION of new leaders in both houses of the General Assembly, the prospects for good government in Maryland look unusually bright. From the governor's office to the legislative halls, the guidance of state affairs should be in the hands of experienced public officials who have been known for their independence, openness and intelligence. Like the governor-elect, Harry Hughes, both the new Senate president, James Clark Jr., and the new speaker of the House of Delegates, Benjamin L. Cardin, have considerable experience in fiscal matters; and each says his leadership will be marked by a concerted effort not just to curb government spending but to restructure the present tax system. And they begin with intentions of forging a good working relationship with Mr. Hughes.
We'll see. Though these leaders share an interest in fiscal restructuring and other progressive legislation, their styles do differ. Mr. Hughes, with a landslide victory, should be in a position to exert considerable influence, while respecting the legislative independence of the General Assembly. Sen. Clark, who represents Howard and Montgomery counties, is not considered a dynamic figure, but he enjoys respect in the legislature and is capable of being a good mediator as well as an able shepherd of bills. Mr. Cardin, a 35-year-old Baltimore City lawyer who was only 29 when he moved into the chairmanship of the House Ways and Means Committee, is an extraordinarily skillful legislator who already has a powerful grip on the House -- and whose election as speaker was never in doubt.
Most significant, in our view, is Mr. Cardin's strong commitment to greater graduation of Maryland's income-tax rates. That wasn't the most popular topic of candidates during their campaigns (Mr. Hughes certainly wasn't calling for more tax brackets), but it is a change long overdue if people expect any serious property-tax relief. Mr. Cardin, whose leadership was crucial in enacting the property-tax-relief legislation this year, should now work to enlist the support of the entire leadership in Annapolis to make the income tax more equitable. While that campaign takes shape, the people of Maryland already can take comfort in the prospect that the political air in Annapolis should be a lot fresher in 1979.