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Thanks to Gov. Ehrlich for USM center funding

January 22, 2004

Thanks to Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, $1 million has been added to the state budget to fund the start-up of the University System of Maryland's Hagerstown Education Center.

Citizens interested in this vital project should send expressions of their appreciation to the governor and to the as-yet-unnamed local businesspeople funding a lobbyist's effort to shepherd the cash through the budget process.

Under Maryland's constitution, only the governor can add money to the budget, but the legislature can cut it. We had expected Ehrlich to push the Washington County delegation for a public statement of support for his programs, but if promises have been made, they haven't yet been revealed.

Now the effort will focus on House Speaker Michael Busch, who is at odds with the governor on a variety of issues, including slots and taxation.

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Just as former Gov. Parris Glendening pushed local lawmakers to back a tobacco tax increase as the price for putting construction money for the center in his budget, Busch may have a price of his own for not knocking out the operating funds.

In a perfect world, issues like increasing access to college education wouldn't get tied up in unrelated legislative matters. But in the real world, such things happen, and the county delegation will need help in their quest for this cash.

That may mean traveling to Annapolis to meet with lawmakers and demonstrate support for the project. It may mean shelling out a few dollars to help pay lobbyist Bruce Bereano's bill.

Whatever it takes, it will be worth it. As we have noted previously, one top obstacle to attracting those good-paying high-tech jobs everyone talks about is the relatively low percentage of local residents who have four-year college degrees. Anything that can be done to increase that percentage can only help.

The first step is to thank Gov. Ehrlich for what he's done. Write to him at the Office of the Governor, 100 State Circle, Annapolis, MD, 21401, or e-mail him at governor@gov.state.md.us.

Why do this? Because elected officials constantly hear cries of "I want." When they deliver, as Ehrlich has, they deserve a great big thank-you.

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