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Glendening submits state spending plan

January 16, 2001

Glendening submits state spending plan



By LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer


ANNAPOLIS - Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening proposed a $21.3 billion operating budget Tuesday that showers millions of new dollars on education and on his Smart Growth initiatives.

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The amount earmarked for the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center won't be released until Glendening unveils his capital budget next week.

Glendening said Tuesday he is committed to fully funding all proposed higher education projects next year, despite increased construction costs.

University officials have estimated it will cost $15.3 million to renovate the former Baldwin House complex in downtown Hagerstown for the education center. The largest chunk needs to come in 2002 for construction.

"My guess is the Hagerstown campus is at the top of his list," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who is on the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

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The challenge will be to keep that money in the budget, since Glendening's spending plan is $234 million more than self-imposed limits set by the Maryland General Assembly, said Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington.

When legislative leaders shared that number with the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, Hecht and other committee members let out a collective gasp, she said.

The legislature will have to cut Glendening's spending plan, although it's too early to tell where.

"We have to live within our pocketbook," Hecht said.

Glendening admitted he is "pushing the edge of affordability requirements," but feels his budget is responsible.

The state has more than enough reserves in case of an economic downturn, he said. In addition, the state's budget surplus is being spent on one-time capital costs that would be less painful to cut than new programs.

"I am a progressive governor. I believe government has a role in helping people. We should invest in the community and invest in people," he said.

Glendening received more funding requests from state agencies and lawmakers this year over last, even though the budget surplus is only one-third of last year's unprecedented $1 billion, said Michael Morrill, the governor's spokesman.

Glendening has proposed spending an extra $203 million statewide on direct aid to primary and secondary schools, an increase of 9 percent.

The Washington County Board of Education would get a total of $61.8 million, which is $3.1 million more than last year, for a 5.4 percent increase.

Glendening wants to give private schools statewide $8 million for textbooks, a request that is bound to be controversial. The legislature approved $6 million last year by a narrow margin.

In the area of higher education, Glendening proposes spending an extra $159 million on operating expenses, a 14 percent increase over last year. In addition, Glendening proposed adding $43 million to campus building projects, which is 12 percent more than last year.

While the legislature won't want to cut education programs, it will closely scrutinize some of Glendening's $228 million in Smart Growth proposals, Hecht said.

Those include:

- Creating an Office of Special Secretary for Smart Growth, $700,000.

- Initiating GreenPrint, a program to preserve ecologically valuable land, $40 million.

- Increasing the Rural Legacy land preservation program by $10.8 million for a total of $38.6 million.

- Creating a Community Parks and Playgrounds initiative, $15 million.

- Creating a Community Legacy program for neighborhood revitalization, $15 million.

- Spending $1.3 million on local Smart Growth planning services.

- Spending $82 million on mass transit.

- Spending $56 million on streetscaping, underground sidewalks and other transportation projects that help revitalize neighborhoods.

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