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Education center money survives budget cuts

March 26, 2004|by LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

Startup money for the University System of Maryland's Hagerstown Education Center, which was the top priority for local lawmakers this session, has survived legislative budget cuts.

House and Senate spending committees left the $1 million appropriation intact after cutting Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's $23.7 billion budget for fiscal 2005.

"It's one more hurdle to bringing that project to success," Hagerstown Mayor William M. Breichner said.

The center is scheduled to open in January after contractors finish renovations to the former Baldwin House Complex on West Washington Street.

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On Wednesday, the city officially gave the Baldwin House to the state. The $10 transaction was approved by the Board of Public Works.

Lawmakers said they were lucky to get Ehrlich to add the money to his budget in such tough fiscal times. Ehrlich started his budget with a $700 million gap.

The line-item withstood further scrutiny by lawmakers on the budget committees.

The Greater Hagerstown Committee hired lobbyist Bruce Bereano to follow the money.

As a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee, Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, shepherded the project through the Senate, which passed the budget last week.

In the House, Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, claimed credit for constantly reminding House Appropriations Chairman Norman H. Conway, who sits next to him on the House floor.

Conway said it helped that staff analysts did not recommend cutting the money.

The Eastern Shore Democrat also said he recognized the need for higher education in rural areas. He is trying to get operating money for a higher education center in his district.

The House debated the budget plan Thursday night.

Although a conference committee will have to work out differences between the House and Senate cuts, the Hagerstown Education Center money is safe because it's in both plans.

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