$815.5 million capital budget called too high

January 22, 1991|By Jon Morganand Marina Sarris | Jon Morganand Marina Sarris,Evening Sun Staff

Gov. William Donald Schaefer's proposed capital budget -- an $815.5 million plan for new schools, prisons and other initiatives -- is already drawing criticism from lawmakers who contend it exceeds their spending recommendations.

Higher education won big dollars in Schaefer's spending blueprint, with $114 million requested for the University of Maryland system, including $19.8 million to build a new home for the University of Baltimore's business school and $19.2 million to expand the Kuhn Library of UM's Baltimore County campus.

The governor also wants to spend $75 million on prisons and jails, $53 million on new public schools and $88 million to buy office space in Baltimore now being rented for state workers.

Although the capital spending plan is 4.6 percent smaller than last year's, it still exceeds the limit of $330 million for new general obligation bond debt recommended by a legislative committee.

Schaefer asked the legislature to treat the $88 million for buying office space as a one-time cost and not as part of the $330 million limit. However, Senate Budget and Taxation Committee Chairman Laurence Levitan, D-Montgomery, said he thinks the money to buy office space should be considered part of the bond limit.

"That's obviously going to be a battle," he said. But he said converting leased space to state-owned space "may be the only thing we can do that's healthy this year," adding, "I think there's a big opportunity to pick up some pretty good buys."

Delegates will be reluctant to exceed the $330 million limit, agreed House Appropriations Committee Chairman Charles J. Ryan, D-Prince George's. "We agreed to that last fall," Ryan said.

The lease-conversion plan is also bittersweet for Baltimore: Although some 5,000 state jobs will stay in the city, about $1 million a year in real estate tax revenue will be lost.

The state now rents from private owners, who pay property taxes. However, if the state buys the offices it will not pay property taxes.

The capital plan must be approved by the General Assembly, which can make revisions. The governor's separate operating budget proposal is expected to be submitted at the end of the month and will contain highway, mass transit and other requests made for the Department of Transportation.

Other highlights of the governor's capital spending plan include:

* $16.3 million for renovations of dormitories and other buildings at Morgan State University, the scene of student protests last year.

* $5 million each for a new cancer research and treatment center at Johns Hopkins University and for the replacement of the south hospital building of the University of Maryland medical school in Baltimore.

* $2 million to expand the Baltimore Convention Center.

* Several high-technology initiatives, including $1.8 million for the Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Research and Exploration at the Inner Harbor, and $2 million for a new bio-technology processing center to assist bio-tech companies.

* $37.8 million for "project open space," a parkland acquisition and development program that saw its budget cut to meet state revenue shortfalls last fall.

* $15.3 million installment on a $23 million expansion of the computer and space sciences complex at the University of Maryland at College Park.

"It's a real good budget for higher education," said Jeff Welsh, spokesman for the Maryland Higher Education Committee, which helped prepare recommendations for the governor's office.

UB is to use its $19.7 million to begin construction this year on a new building to house the Merrick School of Business at the southwestern corner of Mount Royal Avenue and Charles Street.

The Kuhn Library addition also is to serve as joint headquarters for the graduate programs of UMBC and UMAB.

At Morgan State, student leaders were to be briefed today on the request for their facilities, including more than $7 million each for Holmes Hall and Tubman-Harper House. A state official said it contains money for an acceleration of rehabilitation work that was already in the planning stage when the student protest broke out.

"It sounds in the ballpark," said Chante Anderson, president of the Student Government Association. But, he added, "we really didn't get much out of our protest."

The plan to buy office space in Baltimore will save the state $126 million over the costs of renting during the next 25 years, officials estimate. The plan calls for the state to buy buildings or condominium-style sections of buildings.

A total of about 750,000 square feet of office space is needed, said state budget official Frederick W. Puddester. In many cases, the state will buy buildings it now leases. The offices are now scattered among 11 buildings and probably will be consolidated somewhat, Puddester said.

State officials had considered building a new office tower but decided the lease conversion plan would be cost-effective and would spare the city a glut of empty offices, Puddester said.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.