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Education Center not cut

March 15, 2001

Education Center not cut



Annapolis

By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Downtown Hagerstown's University System of Maryland education center has survived the first round of state budget cuts.

The $13.2 million project was not among more than $200 million in cuts that the Maryland House of Delegates tentatively approved Wednesday.

Washington County came away fairly unscathed, despite millions of dollars in cuts to higher education and mass transportation.

"Given the tough squeeze we're in right now, I think we fared pretty well," said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

The budget is being crushed between Gov. Parris Glendening's aggressive $21 billion spending plan and a softening economy that's resulting in less tax money.

House Republicans criticized Glendening's budget at a press conference Wednesday, saying it was too lavish in some areas while underfunding basic services such as mental health and Medicaid.

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Glendening's spokesman defended the governor's priorities. He also said the economy is not in a tailspin.

"We have not been hit by the big downturn," he said.

Local lawmakers were relieved that the budget cuts spared the University System project on West Washington Street.

"It's incredibly important to the future of Washington County. I'm glad that it's moving forward," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, a member of the House Appropriations Committee that recommended the cuts, said there is still a chance for a minor delay in the University System project.

Renovation of the Baldwin House complex in Hagerstown for the education center could be held up for about six months as a cost-saving measure, she said. A final decision has not been made.

The center is expected to be finished in September 2003.

Also unresolved is a request by Washington County business leaders for $4.4 million to improve parking and open space around the site.

Glendening may agree to add it to the budget later this session, or it could qualify for one of the governor's new Smart Growth programs such as Community Legacy.

The Senate will also take a crack at the budget, coming up with its own plan to make it conform to the legislature's self-imposed spending caps.

Differences between the House and the Senate cuts will be resolved by a conference committee.

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