Bush budget would trade cuts for some benefits

February 05, 1991|By John Fairhall | John Fairhall,Evening Sun Staff

WASHINGTON -- Maryland officials say President Bush's proposed 1992 budget doesn't contain enough funds for education, the environment, drug treatment or programs for low-income people.

About 25,000 Maryland families would lose home-heating subsidies next winter and federal funding for cleanup of Chesapeake Bay would be cut from $14.8 million to $12.7 million, they say, citing two examples.

But there is "good news" for Maryland, as a state official put it, including an increase in a supplemental food program benefiting low-income women and children.

Almost $63 million is budgeted for construction work at Maryland military facilities. That includes $6.4 million for a cold storage warehouse at Aberdeen Proving Ground and $3.4 million for a composite materials laboratory at the David Taylor Research Center in Annapolis.

The Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt likely would benefit from a proposed $1.7 billion increase in NASA's budget.

On the civilian side, the Bush budget acknowledges legislative initiatives pushed by Maryland lawmakers, by setting aside $4 million for planning and design of the Christopher Columbus marine research center in Baltimore and $206 million for relocation of IRS headquarters from the District of Columbia to Prince George's County.

There's $21.8 million for a new U.S. courthouse in Prince George's County and $1.4 million for research into superconducting materials at the University of Maryland.

The president also proposed an increase in lead poisoning prevention funds from $8 million to $41 million, which could benefit Baltimore and other areas hit hard by the problem.

In another positive note, Gov. William Donald Schaefer said he approves in concept of Bush's proposal to transfer various federal programs and supporting funds to the states, as long as future funding is assured.

Congress, of course, will have a role in shaping the $1.45 trillion budget, although within the restrictive guidelines lawmakers and Bush agreed on last year. The agreement sharply limits overall domestic spending.

Some Maryland members of Congress criticized proposals to cut the capital gains tax and require wealthy senior citizens to pay sharply higher Medicare Part B premiums covering doctor visits and outpatient treatment.

Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-3rd, warned against a "dual system" for Medicare. A spokesman for Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., termed the capital gains proposal "a step in the wrong direction."

"The president's budget also makes some proposals which could seriously affect Maryland," Sarbanes' spokesman said, among them a "significant decline in funding for the Appalachian Regional Commission, which contributes to the economic revitalization of the western part of the state."

Schaefer administration officials listed other budgetary disappointments:

. * There's no money for the expansion of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway or continuation of the Baltimore Metro to Johns Hopkins Hospital.

* The proposed increase in drug-program funding is largely for federal programs. Treatment funds are increased only 4 percent, roughly the rate of inflation, and less than what state officials want.

* A program paying for health care for high-risk mothers and children would be cut by 6 percent, a loss of $666,000 for Maryland. State officials say "about 8,000 fewer low-income recipients would be able to receive adequate medical care."

* The early childhood education program, Head Start, received a 2 percent increase, not nearly enough to expand the program. "Since the governors and President Bush have agreed that all children should start school ready to learn, it is surprising that the main program to accomplish this was not increased," said a report on the budget prepared by state officials.

* Bush's proposal to provide $731 million for child care nationwide falls short of the $825 million state officials say they hoped would be earmarked. "That's probably the biggest surprise, child care," said Monica Healy, director of Schaefer's Washington office.

On the plus side, Maryland's share of funding from the Women, Infants and Children program would increase by $1.5 million to $28 million. Even so, state officials say this will cover only inflationary costs of food and "not allow for an increase in persons served."

Mick Rood of States News Service contributed to this story.

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