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Serafini offers budget warning

April 03, 2009|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

ANNAPOLIS -- Del. Andrew A. Serafini warned fellow lawmakers Friday about the dangers of borrowing money to pay for the state's capital budget.

Serafini, R-Washington, said $1.1 billion of the $1.7 billion state capital budget approved Friday by the House of Delegates is paid for with borrowed money, which will result in even larger sums of debt over the long term from interest payments.

Maryland currently has about $5.4 billion in state debt, which results in $692 million annually in principal and interest. The added $1.1 billion in debt -- known as general obligation bonds -- will result in an additional $114 million obligation, Serafini said.

"We have a lot more debt than people realize," Serafini said on the floor of the House before the capital budget passed 124-13.

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All Washington County delegates voted in favor of the budget.

Serafini said he expected the capital budget to be approved, but warned lawmakers about the state and federal debt.

"It's like using your credit card to buy groceries ... and you can't do that forever," he said.

Serafini said state debt obligation does not tell the whole story. There are shortfalls in programs and funds, like the one that pays for pensions and retiree benefits for state employees, that also should be considered part of the state debt.

"We just keep borrowing, and it's different programs, but when you add it all up, it's scary," Serafini said. "I'm just concerned. You can't just keep borrowing money, because sooner or later it will catch up to you."

The capital budget the House approved Friday included an amendment offered by Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, that would take $5 million from $15 million in funding proposed for a new Maryland State Police barrack in Hagerstown and transfer it to the Washington County Free Library renovation project, which was not included in the fiscal year 2010 capital budget.

Donoghue's amendment was adopted Thursday. He said at the time that his amendment to the capital budget would allow both projects to begin this year.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, said Friday that a Senate subcommittee had included Donoghue's amendment into the version of the capital budget that will be presented to a full committee. Munson, a member of that subcommittee and committee, said it is likely that Donoghue's amendment securing library funding in the upcoming fiscal year would be in the final version of the capital budget voted on by the full Senate.

The Senate will vote on the capital budget next week.

How they voted



Here are the votes of members of Washington County's delegation on the House version of the state capital budget:

Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr. -- Yes

Del. Andrew A. Serafini -- Yes

Del. Christopher B. Shank -- Yes

Del. John P. Donoghue -- Yes

Del. Richard B. Weldon Jr. -- Yes

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