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Governor takes questions on wide variety of issues

September 16, 2006|by TAMELA BAKER

Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich responded to a number of questions from members of the Hagerstown/Washington County Chamber of Commerce during a Friday luncheon. Topics ranged from budget considerations to the Baltimore Ravens and included:

· Transportation - Asked whether state resources were available for the proposed "Southern Boulevard" that would connect Edgewood Drive to Frederick Street, Ehrlich said, "You say it, and that will be the priority" for the state's contribution to county transportation projects.

· School construction - Ehrlich reminded the group that the state had earmarked $338 million this year for school construction projects, and renewed his pledge to allocate at least $250 million per year in new money for school construction - if slot machine gambling is approved.

· The comptroller race - "It is incredibly important to everybody in this room that (Democratic nominee) Peter Franchot not be the next comptroller of Maryland. And that's not a partisan statement. Ask the Democrats in the legislature."

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· Group health insurance for small businesses - Attractive in concept, he said, but suffers from lack of support from insurance agents, as well as lack of capital to cover claims.

· Energy deregulation - The problem with the original bill to deregulate utilities in Maryland, Ehrlich said, was that it froze retail prices, which prevented the development of competing suppliers. He said one positive to come out of this year's deregulation crisis is that he believes a competitive retail market might develop now.

· Affordable housing - "The number 1 issue in the state," Ehrlich said, especially with new development around Fort Meade. But he said he expects a "slow diminution" in housing prices.

· The Ravens - "As usual, I have an opinion," Ehrlich said, predicting the team would go 11-5 and earn a playoff berth.

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