Governor, city get a few bones Baltimore officials say $10 million windfall not enough.

April 01, 1991|By Jon Morgan | Jon Morgan,Evening Sun Staff Larry Carson contributed to this story.

When Maryland's budget is formally enacted by the General Assembly tonight, Baltimore will pocket nearly $10 million to help balance its budget.

But Baltimore officials say the windfall, though helpful, will not solve the city's long-term needs.

"Each year, we come begging, begging, begging and this time we were hoping for long-lasting relief," said Del. Margaret H. Murphy, D-City, who chairs the city House delegation.

The state's largest city went to Annapolis this year with several items on its wish list but the top priority was money.

Short of cash but with a citizenry that is long on needs, the city was hoping for a variety of measures to help it through the next year and for a change in the way state tax revenues are distributed.

Unfortunately, the state was facing money problems greater than the city's.

But over the weekend, budget negotiators for the House and Senate came up with a package of new taxes and spending that would pump $9.8 million in additional aid into the city to help it close a $54 million budget shortfall.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke met last week with key legislators to seek more money. The city has delayed writing its own budget until it knows how much money it will get from the state.

"Everybody seems to recognize that we need additional resources," Schmoke said.

He said the additional state aid would help, but added, "We would still have a shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year and that will affect services or personnel."

But, he added, "In a year in which every jurisdiction is having difficulties, I think this will be a good session."

Of great help to the city is Gov. William Donald Schaefer's decision to have the state take over the City Jail. Legislation approving the deal is well on its way toward passage.

In the deal, Baltimore will give up $38 million a year in police aid but save about $43 million in operating costs for the jail.

Lawmakers are also finalizing the governor's proposed take-over of the Baltimore Zoo. That probably will be accomplished through a phase-in of state aid to gradually replace the $2 million the city gives the zoo every year.

The city was also seeking $2 million to help fund an expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center. But lawmakers in the House, concerned about the funding for the project, cut the request to $850,000. A Senate committee approved $1.7 million, with stipulations that private money also be used.

The differences between the two chambers will be worked out in negotiations this week.

The city held back many of its requests this year, hoping that a major tax restructuring proposed by Schaefer would succeed. That plan, named for R. Robert Linowes, the man who helped write it, called for a dramatic revamping of the state tax system that would have raised about $800 million a year in new taxes and helped poorer jurisdictions such as Baltimore.

But lawmakers balked at enacting the proposal this session and have referred the matter to summer study.

After the failure of the Linowes plan, Schmoke discussed with lawmakers a one-year, 10 cent tax on lottery tickets sold in the city as a way to bridge the gap. But that idea was put on hold when the budget talks looked as if they would yield extra money for the city.

"It's been a difficult year. There aren't many resources," said state Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-City, the chairman of the city Senate delegation.

He said the $10 million is "not enough."

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