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Johnson says Pr. George's finances in good shape, but won't give details

A day after his budget director confirmed that Prince George's County will start the next budget year looking for $50 million to cover rising expenses, County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) said he expected that the county would be able to cover the gap, but declined to give details of the county's fiscal picture. He said he would not make the details public until he briefs his likely successor, Rushern Baker (D).

Saying he was concerned about a report in The Washington Post about the gap, which Budget Director Jonathan R. Seeman discussed at a County Council fiscal policy committee meeting Tuesday, Johnson said the county's fiscal picture was brightening

"When you look at our projections we are absolutely fine," he said. But he would not say what those projections show.

"We know historically we have to grow every year" to cover rising expenses, he said. "Expenses grow every year, and we are talking about the health care and other expenses ... income tax is growing, property tax is growing, the recordation tax is growing," he said.

But by how much, he would not say.

"We don't have the numbers to give you yet," he said, and he also would not say when he would give the numbers to Baker. Meanwhile, officials in the District and in Montgomery County have said that their projections show that their jurisdictions face tens of millions in gaps between revenues and expenses for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
Several council members criticized Johnson's administration during Tuesday's session about what they said was their difficulty getting a clear understanding of the county's fiscal picture. Several said they have been kept in the dark for years about the county's true financial condition.

The discussion came after Johnson asked the council to approve cost-of-living raises for non-union employees that would total about $2.4 million a year, a 2 percent increase. The council has until its last session Oct. 26 to act on the proposal.

Johnson said the council "will get what information they need."

Johnson and five council members are leaving office in early December because of term limits.

By Miranda S. Spivack  | October 13, 2010; 5:41 PM ET
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