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Campus funding fix took efforts of dozens

April 20, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Familiarity played a part in recent negotiations for University System of Maryland at Hagerstown funding.

Some key players who helped reach a deal this month previously stood in each other's places.

The university system's Annapolis point person, Patrick J. "P.J." Hogan, was a state senator until last year. Within his Senate Budget and Taxation committee, he chaired an education subcommittee. He also chaired a separate state commission on higher education.

Hogan's current job as USM's associate vice chancellor for government relations previously was held by Joseph C. Bryce, who is now Gov. Martin O'Malley's chief legislative officer. Observers have said Bryce was an integral part of the funding talks.

When Hogan left the Senate, Del. John L. Bohanan Jr., D-St. Mary's, became chairman of the higher education commission.

Bohanan's House Appropriations subcommittee stripped all $2.1 million for fiscal year 2009 for USM-H. The money was to be spread among several higher non-USM centers, including one in Bohanan's district, with Hagerstown getting a share.

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After weeks of public and private talks, a House and Senate budget conference committee struck a deal reversing the change made by Bohanan's subcommittee.

USM-H got back $2 million out of $2.1 million. State funding for non-USM centers, Bohanan's concern, will increase, too.

Of USM-H's $100,000 gap, about $40,000 to $60,000 will be made up with revenue already scheduled to come in, Executive Director C. David Warner III said.

That includes rental agreements for the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, a Hagerstown police substation and office space for U.S. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., plus daily rentals to businesses.

Many played a role

Warner said Hogan spoke with him several times a day during negotiations, and he heard frequently from Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

Many others played roles.

"There might have been 100 key players," Munson said.

Munson rallied support from afar, urging Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce members to pressure House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Anne Arundel, and Appropriations Committee Chairman Norman H. Conway, D-Wicomico/Worcester.

E-mail appeals also circulated via the City of Hagerstown and other channels.

"I know we have a list of 500 people or more" who weighed in, Munson said.

City, county and public schools officials got involved. So did former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp and Patricia K. Cushwa of Williamsport, a former state parole commission chairwoman, Munson said.

Munson broke from his party to vote for a higher income tax on millionaires so a computer-services tax could be repealed.

His vote didn't swing the outcome, but he said it symbolized support for O'Malley, a Democrat, and his computer-services tax repeal plan.

Otherwise, Munson said, "I don't think the governor would have spent so much time" on the USM-H issue.

One day, Bryce and Bohanan talked for several hours about the issue, Munson said.

Munson said Donoghue also helped O'Malley with tough votes in favor of tax increases.

Delegation members lobbied directly, too. Munson and Donoghue talked to Bohanan, O'Malley and others. Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, and Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany, did the same.

Myers, who unsuccessfully tried to overturn the USM-H cut in his Appropriations Committee, wrote to O'Malley on behalf of the delegation, asking for help.

Did politics also play a role?

Donoghue objected that delegation Republicans -- besides Munson -- got involved, saying their votes against O'Malley's budget gave them poor standing.

He also cited a GOP lawsuit in which Shank was a plaintiff. The suit tried to negate the special session that O'Malley called in the fall to pass new taxes.

The backlash over GOP obstacles, Donoghue said, led to the USM-H cut and another year without money for a new state police barrack in Hagerstown.

Shank has denied his vote against the budget sparked the USM-H cut. He said Bohanan's stance was "political posturing to get something for his district."

"To a certain degree, a crisis was created so certain individuals could solve that crisis," Shank said, referring to Donoghue's budget amendment to save part of USM-H's funding.

The amendment ensured at least $1 million for USM-H by pulling money from USM's main office.

But Hogan said Thursday the transfer would have hurt USM's main office so much, it couldn't have happened.

Instead, $300,000 to help restore USM-H's budget will come from elsewhere within the university system.

Bohanan has insisted he was trying to correct a funding inequity between education centers inside and outside the university system.

Busch, too, has said Bohanan's stand was philosophical, not political.

In addition, O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese has said the governor didn't take the GOP lawsuit personally, and will work with lawmakers of either party.

"Never say never"

One final piece of the USM-H solution involved Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown.

So non-USM centers could get more funding without taking it from USM-H, money was drawn from a state work-force development fund connected to the Base Realignment and Closure Act. Brown chairs Maryland's BRAC subcabinet.

Some say USM-H probably won't face the same jeopardy again.

"You can never say never, but I think there was a general understanding that it won't come back next year," USM Chancellor William E. Kirwan said.

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