LOOK CLOSELY AT the latest fiscal vision of Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes and you can detect a hint of rose in the glasses he's wearing. He sees a state that is relatively flush and eager to make substantial down payments on all sorts of ambitious programs and projects. He also happens to be a lame duck whose legacy could well be a heap of heavy financial commitments for his successor, for the legislators and for those from whom all budget blessings flow: the taxpayers. Though some lawmakers may term the governor's budget proposal creative, most are understandably worried that Mr. Hughes seeks to spread the state's money far and wide but not too deep -- with insufficient regard for obligations still to be spelled out but starting with the letters S and L.
Certainly the assumptons on which Gov. Hughes has built his budget are impressive: he seeks to expand programs, resolve the savings and loan crisis and avoid a tax increase. But although Maryland approaches the next fiscal year in relatively sound financial health, the lawmakers are more than a little nervous. The uncertainties of the S&L situation concern them, as does the prospective impact of Gramm-Rudman-Hollings on the state coffers.
The Hughes budget has its appeal, of course. It would create 1,800 new jobs, increase housing and welfare efforts and improve local facilities for the mentally retarded. But House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin, who is generally supportive of the Hughes budget, has voiced concern. He commented that in housing, for example, he would prefer "fewer initiatives." Mr. Cardin has said the governor "should have tried to set priorities and moved more aggressively in some areas rather than trying to do something for everybody."
That's a good point -- and it won't be lost on Mr. Cardin's colleagues in the house or their counterparts in the state senate. The legislators can cut but not add to the administration's budget. There's room for some remodeling. Lawmakers who expect to be around after Gov. Hughes is gone from the mansion should give the budget double scrutiny.