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USM-Hagerstown funding talks expected to resume

No compromise yet, "but it's closer," says Senate panel chairman

No compromise yet, "but it's closer," says Senate panel chairman

April 04, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS -- Talks about how much money Hagerstown's university campus should get are expected to resume today, according to a Senate committee chairman.

Sen. Ulysses Currie, the chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said Thursday night there's no compromise yet on the campus funding, "but it's closer than it was."

Negotiations over the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown were canceled Wednesday and a new session was never scheduled Thursday, pushing lawmakers closer to their end-of-session deadline, which is Monday.

The Senate has maintained that the campus should get all $2.1 million allocated in the proposed fiscal year 2009 operating budget.

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But, on the House side, a southern Maryland Democrat has led a push to take that money from USM-H and spread it among several lower-funded education centers outside the university system, with Hagerstown also getting a share.

Del. John L. Bohanan Jr. of St. Mary's County has said Hagerstown's campus has far fewer students and much higher funding.

He has held firm in his stance that non-USM centers need better state financial support.

As approved in the House version of the budget, USM-H would get $1 million from within the university system, plus a share of the $2.1 million. One plan has put that share at $700,000, although the money isn't guaranteed.

Total USM-H funding would then be $1.7 million, under that plan.

After a few days of fruitless negotiations, Bohanan put forth a compromise offer Tuesday guaranteeing USM-H $1.6 million and calling for the center to make up the rest through rent and local government contributions.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, has said the Senate's counterproposal, which Bohanan rejected, was $1.8 million guaranteed, with $300,000 to be made up by the center.

Munson said Thursday that Gov. Martin O'Malley is involved in helping to settle the funding shortfall.

O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese has said the governor is interested in restoring full funding, as he originally proposed.

Currie said Munson's vote in committee Wednesday - in favor of O'Malley's proposed new tax on millionaires so a computer tax could be repealed - could help the campus negotiations.

"He took a tough vote," Currie said. "It was not a quid pro quo, but that means a lot."

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