Maryland sees 2 big winners Boat businesses, preschoolers to gain

January 30, 1992|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,Washington Bureau of The Sun

WASHINGTON -- Maryland's biggest winners in the Bush budget proposals are an unlikely pairing: high-priced boat dealers and poor preschool children.

The president has called for axing the 10 percent luxury tax on new boats costing more than $100,000. The year-old tax has crippled the yacht market and cost upward of 4,000 marine jobs in Maryland, industry analysts say.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's call for a $600 million increase nationwide for Head Start -- the preschool education program for poor children -- would allow the state to serve 1,000 more children, boosting the total to 7,000, or one-third of those eligible.

"The Congress has been pushing him on Head Start. It's a good program," said Democratic Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes.

Boat dealers praise plan

Dave Harrison, owner of Harrison Yacht in Grasonville, lauded the plan by Mr. Bush to eliminate the boat tax, which many in Congress also want to scrap.

"We're still selling boats cheaper than what we'd like to sell," said Mr. Harrison, who trimmed his 95-worker force to 8 last year. It has since crept up to 15 workers.

The Marine Trades Association of Maryland estimates that between 3,000 and 4,000 marine jobs were lost in Maryland over the past year as a result of the tax and the recession. The boating industry usually employs up to 20,000 in the summer months, said Mick Blackistone, the association's executive director.

Sales of boats over $100,000 in Maryland totaled $15 million during 1990's first six months. After the tax went into effect last January, boat sales for 1991's first six months dropped to $3 million.

"If Congress really wants to help us, they need to do it now," Mr. Harrison said.

Some winners, some losers

The rest of the Bush budget is a mixed bag for the state.

While the president has proposed an increase in its drug-fighting law enforcement budget from $12 billion this year to $12.7 billion next year, the money will be spent at the national level at the expense of state and local enforcement, Maryland officials said.

Overall, federal aid for local law enforcement will fall 22 percent compared with the current year, under the Bush plan.

The president is proposing a drastic cut -- $74 million -- from the $81 million Juvenile Justice Assistance Program, which funds pays for gang intervention and youth programs.

"You're virtually eliminating that program," said Kenneth Mannella, director of the state's Washington office. He did not readily have figures on how much Maryland receives from the program.

At the same time, the federal program that aids local law enforcement -- such as city-county anti-drug strike forces -- will drop from $506 million this year to $496 million next year under the president's budget blueprint.

Cash-strapped states will also be asked to provide half the money to qualify for federal funds. States now provide 25 percent of the anti-drug funds and the federal government pays 75 percent.

But news for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup program was good: The program, led by the Environmental Protection Agency, would rise $3 million to $17 million under the Bush plan.

And the president also calls for a $65 million increase in the $2 billion national program that provides low-cost loans for sewage treatment plants.

Mr. Bush had already targeted Baltimore to receive $40 million for upgrading the Back River sewage treatment plant.

But Mr. Bush, as he did last year, suggested a $4 million decrease in low-income energy assistance. If that figure stands, state officials would have to cut 22,000 families of the 95,000 they serve with an average grant of $217.

Parkway renovation runs dry

Transportation programs were also hit hard.

No money to continue the Baltimore-Washington Parkway renovation is included, although the federal government is paying $20 million this year.

At the same time, the operating budget for mass transit was slashed from $802 million this year to $217 million for next year under the president's plan.

Baltimore would lose the $10 million in operating assistance it got this year.

But there is good news for the Washington Metrorail system. The budget proposal sets aside $16 million to extend the Green Line into Prince George's County.

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