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Lawmakers to appeal to governor for campus

March 03, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County lawmakers will appeal to the "education governor" to put $800,000 in his budget for a Hagerstown campus of the University of Maryland.

Backers of the proposed campus off Interstate 70 have put the project on a fast track.

They told Washington County lawmakers Wednesday they need at least $800,000 in state money this year in order to meet an aggressive timeline that has classes starting in September 2002.

Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, said she'll ask Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening during a meeting set for Friday to add the money to his budget.

The Washington County delegation also will ask Glendening for a meeting to pitch the idea, appealing to the governor's legacy of supporting education.

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The legislature does not have the power to add to Glendening's proposed budget. In fact, lawmakers are faced this year with making sharp cuts, which will run even deeper if a proposed $1 a pack tobacco tax doesn't pass, Hecht said.

The campus would be added to the $225 million in requests that have come in so far for capital projects across the state, said Glendening spokesman Ray Feldmann.

How much Glendening can honor largely depends on whether the legislature approves his proposed tobacco tax increase, Feldmann said.

The majority of the Washington County delegation opposes the tax increase, which they fear would hurt county businesses.

Getting the governor to add the Hagerstown campus is an uphill battle, Hecht said.

The campus, with a total price tag of about $12 million, is at a disadvantage because it isn't in the University System of Maryland's long-range plans, she said.

But Robert Sweeney, who has been working with university and county leaders on the campus idea, said the Hagerstown Center should be treated as a one-time exception.

That was how supporters of the similar satellite campus in Shady Grove got built, said Delegation Chairman Robert A. McKee, R-Washington.

"I don't know if you'd call it a strategy, but we're doing our homework," McKee said.

The Hagerstown campus project has two things going for it that Shady Grove didn't have, said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington. The governor has proven he is committed to education and the state is enjoying a good economy.

There is tremendous support for the campus from the university and the community.

The Washington County Commissioners have committed $500,000 this year and business leaders are expected to match that. The land off Downsville Pike has been donated by Allegheny Power.

"This is the most incredible project in my 25 years in public life," Munson said.

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