Most Of Carroll Delegation Expected To Back Parks Cuts

Some Lawmakers Set To Help Drive Up Motor Vehicle Fees,some Balk

June 26, 1991|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff writer

Most Carroll lawmakers are expected to go along today with two General Assembly measures that will strip money for some county parks projects and raise many of the fees associated with driving a car.

During a special legislative session in Annapolis today, Carroll's two senators and four delegates will vote on bills that will wipe out a $109 million deficit in the state budget for the fiscal year that ends Sunday and increase the amount of money flowing into the state's transportation budget by $34 million.

While the budget would be balanced and the Motor Vehicle Administration's higher fees would mean the protection of nearly $312 millionin matching federal highway funds, at least one of Carroll's delegation members says he isn't about to go along with the bills on the floor today.

"I'm going to vote against both measures," said DelegateRichard N. Dixon, D-Carroll. "I don't like emptying fund balances because we couldn't find ways to cut.

"I won't vote for any kind of increase. I don't like it, and I feel like we're being told to do it under duress."

Of greatest impact to the county is the proposal totake $31 million from the state's popular, 22-year-old Program Open Space as a way to raise $125 million. Such a measure, say state fiscal analysts, would ensure a $16 million surplus for the 1991 budget.

That surplus, legislative leaders promised last week, would be put back into Program Open Space.

But municipal and county leaders aren't so sure. And Gov. William Donald Schaefer said that he was troubled by legislative promises of making Program Open Space the first priority, insisting that he must be given flexibility in any budget give-backs.

Sykesville Mayor Lloyd R. Helt Jr. last week called the emptying of the open space fund a form of "state-sponsored robbery."

Almost $600,000 worth of parks projects in Carroll's towns are in jeopardy. And, in the cases of Sykesville, Westminster and Union Bridge, money already spent that the state had promised to reimburse may not materialize.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, said yesterday that he may offer an amendment to the budget-balancing bill that would authorize some interagency loan agreements in an attempt torestore some open space funding.

"I have a problem with the transfer of money out of Program Open Space," the freshman senator said. "I am going to do everything I can do to retain those funds. Those cuts will hurt, especially in some of the towns in Carroll."

In addition to the budget balancing measure, the General Assembly also is expected to pass the higher MVA fees. The fee felt by most people will be the 230-percent increase in the cost of renewing a driver's license. Rising from $6 to $20, the new licenses would be good for five instead of four years. There would also be an increase in the costs of more than 60 other MVA services.

"I'm very disappointed in how thesefees were presented to us," said Sen. Charles H. Smelser, R-Carroll,Frederick, Howard.

"While I agree that some of the fees should beraised, I don't entirely believe that we would lose those federal dollars by not raising the fees. But that's a gamble I just don't want to take."

While he said that even the threat of losing more than $300 million in highway funds is enough to compel him to vote for the measure, he said he wants to take a look at transportation spending.

"I want to look at all the money we spend on light rail, on buses,on the port, on aviation," he said. "If there are places where we can cut costs, then I think we should look at that, too."

Delegate Donald B. Elliott, R-Carroll, Howard, agreed: "When you start raising fees, it's time to look and see where the fat in the organization is."

Members of the delegation could not say whether any long-standing roads projects in Carroll -- such as the oft-delayed Hampstead bypass to Route 30 that was to begin early next year -- would get the green light as a result of the higher MVA fees.

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