FORGET ANY of those legislative miracles that your local lawmaker may have sworn to perform if elected to the 1983 session of the state legislature--if it costs money, it's in trouble even before any opening gavel hits the first plate of steamed crabs in Annapolis today. Lucky as Maryland has been during these rough financial times around the country, the pinch is on in earnest now --and the test of the state government as financial shock absorber will tax the best minds of the executive and legislative branches.
House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin wasn't exaggerating when he wrote in these pages Sunday that "there never has been a greater need for creativity and bold leadership in state government." Not in recent memory has Maryland stared at such a depressing financial picture, which includes a budget deficit, a national recession and near-desperate pleas from impoverished local governments for state dollars.
Gov. Hughes, fresh from election victory, should seize the time as well as the initiative to do the unpleasant: increase revenues and tighten spending. Already, he has suggested shifting some corporate income tax revenue from the transportation trust fund to the state's general fund, as well as using instant lotteries; if the legislators don't care for these proposals, let them propose others.
Perhaps the most interesting test of where the bucks stop involves Prince George's County, where the voters have insisted on continuing TRIM one more time--keeping an unrealistically flat dollar ceiling on property tax revenues while electing a county executive who sought modest relief from this restriction. The result has been a proposal by the county executive, Parris Glendening, for some form of local-option sales tax increase; frowns from the county's delegation to Annapolis and shrugs and doubts from the governor. If help is on the way, no one yet knows in which direction to look.
There are other matters coming up of course: jobs, the environment, education, transportation and all the other regulars on the legislative shopping list. But with each there is the matter of the tab-- and how much of it a responsible legislature is prepared to pick up.