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Hecht says campus, tobacco tax linked

March 09, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Gov. Parris Glendening told a Washington County lawmaker he likes the idea of a University of Maryland satellite campus in Hagerstown.

But he cautioned that paying for it might depend largely on whether the Maryland General Assembly approves his $1-a-pack tobacco tax increase, opposed by a majority of the Washington County Delegation.

"(Glendening's) more than willing to talk with the delegation but he can't do it without their support," said Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, who met with the governor on Monday.

Other members of the delegation, who oppose the cigarette tax, tried to downplay the link with the campus.

"We have plenty of money. Money is not an issue for that project," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said the cigarette tax has never been tied to educational buildings.

"I don't think now is the time to start," he said.

The proposed $12 million campus off Interstate 70 at Downsville Pike is exactly the type of one-time capital project that Glendening wants to fund with extra tobacco tax revenue, Hecht said.

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Glendening had not heard about the proposed campus until he read newspaper articles detailing its link with the cigarette tax.

Washington County Republicans had publicly accused the governor of holding the project hostage.

"(Glendening) said, 'If you want to put it that way, yes I am holding them hostage,'" Hecht said.

Hecht said the harsh reality is that the tobacco tax is needed to pay for the campus.

"We don't print money in Maryland. We have to identify how we're going to do it," she said.

Meanwhile, Delegation Chairman Robert A. McKee is trying to set up a meeting with Glendening to ask him for $800,000 in planning money.

The governor will be asked to add that amount to a supplemental budget. The request was not submitted in time to be included in his proposed budget, now being trimmed by the legislature.

"This governor, I would think, who values education, will do what he can for the community," said McKee, R-Washington.

The campus has the support of Washington County business and government leaders.

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

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