LEST IT APPEAR from so many reports that the District of Columbia government has cornered the local market on red ink, there is unpleasant budget news as well from Montgomery County -- long touted (ad nauseam, in fact) as a home of rampant affluence. There, too, it turns out, the books aren't looking that great. Much of what County Executive Charles W. Gilchrist is saying these days could pass as excerpts from the spring volume of Marion Barry press releases. Word has it that Montgomery's revenues may not cover expenses unless -- you guessed it -- some serious budget cuts are made and some taxes raised.
As one course of action, Mr. Gilchrist is calling for a clipping of the payroll, through the elimination of jobs, a hiring freeze, cuts in overtime and travel bills and -- to the howls of highly sensitive parents -- reductions in school spending. Like Mr. Barry downtown, Mr. Gilchrist in the county is being portrayed by school board members as being unduly harsh on education. Here, too, the county executive has responded by noting that cuts throughout government are essential: "We've got to stop this belief that if you cut a nickel out of the school budget you're anti-education."
That Montgomery is suffering financial problems so similar in nature to those being felt in the District Building is of no comfort to residents of either jurisdiction. In fact, the same symptoms are being felt throughout the region and the public reactions have been strikingly similar though not all that surprising; it's a familiar cut-something-else response. The real question is how responsible and politically courageous the various councils and boards in all these jurisdictions will be when the executives come to them for help in meeting the grim realities of austerity.