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Business leaders given projects update

February 28, 2001

Business leaders given projects update



By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County lawmakers must compromise with Gov. Parris Glendening in order to bring home more state tax money, local business leaders said Wednesday.

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Some lawmakers argued that it's a misconception that they oppose the governor at every turn, while others defended their views.

The exchange came at a breakfast meeting between the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly and the Greater Hagerstown Committee.

Business leaders who serve on the committee visited Annapolis for an update on local projects such as open space at the University System of Maryland Hagerstown Education Center, a Civil War museum and Hagerstown Regional Airport's runway extension.

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Committee Chairman James D. Latimer suggested Glendening might be more supportive of local projects if there were a little give and take from local lawmakers.

"Isn't it called quid pro quo? Sometimes you have to support something you and your constituents might not like," Latimer said.

Sen. Alex X. Mooney and Del. Joseph R. Bartlett disagreed.

"Don't ask me to compromise my principles," said Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington.

As an example, Mooney talked about the Senate's failure this week to give the legislature more power in the budget process.

Thirteen senators who co-sponsored the measure voted against it, prompting some to speculate about how the governor might reward them for preserving his budget power, Mooney said. Mooney and Sen. Donald F. Munson voted for the proposed constitutional amendment.

Munson and other lawmakers said it's a myth that they always disagree with the governor.

Munson, R-Washington, said he recently told the governor's lobbyist he would try to protect some of the governor's budget items from being cut.

"We're going to see if they pay off," said Munson, a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, said he voted for 15 of the 18 bills the governor was pushing last year. This year, he said, he is supporting a bill to combat racial profiling by police in traffic stops even though he has some concerns about its effect on the Washington County Sheriff's Department.

"I weigh each issue on its merits. I compromise when I can. I'm entitled to represent my constituents," Shank said.

Bartlett, R-Frederick/Washington, said he appreciated the comments of the business leaders, but said he has 110,000 other constituents to consider when making decisions.

"We have a very complex job down here. There are some issues I can't be flexible on," Bartlett said.

Hagerstown jeweler Tom Newcomer said the problem may not be with the votes, but rather how dissenters come across in the media.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, agreed.

"Do you constantly bash the governor over the head, vote against the budget and then go back home and support those projects?" he said.

Mooney has voted against the budget the last two years.

The business leaders asked about the budget now being reviewed by the legislature, in particular the money for the University System of Maryland education center.

Munson said he will work to keep $13.3 million in the 2002 budget to renovate the Baldwin House complex in downtown Hagerstown.

Business leaders also have been lobbying Glendening to fund $4.4 million in open space improvements around the university.

Glendening told one business leader the program could be funded through one of two new Smart Growth proposals.

Local lawmakers said they like the new programs, but don't know if the state can afford the multimillion dollar price tag.

Even if the funding survives the budget ax, it doesn't guarantee Hagerstown will get any money.

The money will be distributed through a competitive process, the governor's spokesman, Michael Morrill, said after the meeting.

Here is the status of several other local projects:

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Hagerstown Regional Airport runway extension. Lawmakers said they have been working to convince transportation officials to add it to the state's six-year plan.

The latest meeting is set for Friday.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Downtown Hagerstown's Arts and Entertainment District. Lawmakers have submitted legislation to get a $275,000 state grant, which will be matched by local government.

HEIGHT="6" ALT="* "> Civil War museum. Supporters want Glendening to add $1 million to the state budget through a supplemental request later this month.

Some lawmakers and business leaders were skeptical about whether the $46 million museum would be funded.

Morrill said there is no guarantee the governor will even release a supplemental budget this year because of the extent of budget cuts needed.

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