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Mooney cries foul on budget

March 30, 2001

Mooney cries foul on budget



By LAURA ERNDE / laurae@herald-mail.com

ANNAPOLIS - Washington County will get more state money for local projects than its larger neighbor, Frederick County, and members of the Maryland Senate are blaming political gamesmanship.

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Senators who voted against the state budget say they were punished by Democratic leaders who rejected their requests for state grants.

On the Senate floor Thursday, those who were shut out complained it was unfair political retaliation.

"This is an outrage what's going on here," said Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington. "I've said all along I wasn't going to go along to get along.

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"The budget taxes too much and spends too much," Mooney said. "This is vindictive and it's wrong. We in Western Maryland pay taxes too, and we deserve our fair share of funding."

Mooney and Timothy Ferguson, R-Frederick/Carroll, voted against the state's $21 billion budget last week.

They also missed a public hearing on their $1.3 million in requests for the American Red Cross, House Hospice and the Weinberg Center for the Arts.

The Senate cut the entire request, even though the House of Delegates approved $550,000. A conference committee will decide what the nonprofits get.

Mooney, who was distracted by preparing amendments to the gay rights bill, said he made a mistake by not attending the hearing but placed blame on revenge for his budget vote.

"I had a lot on my mind. I'm not going to make any excuses," said Mooney, who said he hoped the Republican rant embarrassed Senate leaders.

Washington County is in line to get as much as $575,000 for three local projects - Red Cross of Washington County, an arts and entertainment district in downtown Hagerstown and Discovery Station interactive children's science center.

In addition, Washington County Hospital is expected to get $470,000 to finish work at the Walnut Street Community Health Center.

It's unusual for Washington County to get more state grant money than Frederick County, which has about 50 percent more people. For example, over the past four years, the House has given Frederick County projects an average of about $160,000 a year more than Washington County.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, was one of only two Republican senators who voted for the budget.

Senate Minority Leader Martin G. Madden spoke against the apparent political payback, along with Ferguson and Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Eastern Shore.

"It's kind of disturbing and sad," said Madden, R-Howard/Prince George's.

Sen. Charles M. Middleton, D-Charles, defended his subcommittee's actions. The panel was faced with tough decisions, and lawmakers who don't support the budget can't expect to get money, he said.

Some senators who voted against the budget got money because they suggested cuts elsewhere.

"You may not like the budget but you have a responsibility to help and to do something about it and not just vote red. You shouldn't be rewarded for taking the budget lightly," Middleton said.

Senate Majority Leader Sen. Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore City, said political games have been played for centuries, but the discussion about it was necessary.

"This is the kind of discussion that has to take place. Before a wound can heal you have to open it and let it bleed. Otherwise you have an infection that will grow," he said.

After the debate, Del. Sue Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, was critical of Mooney and Ferguson for hurting the Frederick County projects and not owning up to the blame.

"It's always somebody else's fault," she said.

Munson declined to comment.

"I'm not going to get in the middle of that one," he said.

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