Capital construction budget advances Senators trim some to lessen borrowing

March 26, 1992|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- The pork was gone, and this year so was some of the money that traditionally pays for a variety of state construction projects.

So the Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee had to do a little trimming yesterday as it unanimously approved a state capital construction budget for fiscal 1993 that calls for borrowing $330 million through the sale of general obligation bonds. That's $20 million less than Gov. William Donald Schaefer proposed.

To save money, the Senate's spending plan calls for phasing in over two years state funding for two major projects in Baltimore, the Christopher Columbus Center of Marine Research and Exploration and the Maryland Bioprocessing Facility.

Under the Senate plan, the Columbus Center would receive $10 million of a requested $17 million appropriation in fiscal 1993, with a promise for the remaining $7 million in fiscal 1994.

Also split was the $15 million requested for the Bioprocessing Facility, with $10 million to be in next year's budget and the remaining $5 million in 1994.

Such actions are subject to change by both the full Senate and the House of Delegates.

"We are hoping for a better recommendation once both houses have heard the arguments," said Barbara Plantholt, chairman of the Bioprocessing Center, a facility that would help Maryland's small biotechnology companies move products from the laboratory to the assembly line.

Ms. Plantholt said a split appropriation would mean a one-year delay in opening the center and might add another $3 million to its cost.

The reduction in the overall size of the capital budget was prompted by a drop in personal income here.

In an effort to retain Maryland's triple-A bond rating, the legislature tries to keep its borrowing below a certain percentage of statewide personal income. Because personal income has dropped, the Senate panel decided it should borrow less.

Legislators have also decided to give up most of the $15 million they traditionally spend on projects in their home districts, the part of the capital budget usually known as "pork barrel."

Because of previous multiyear commitments, the Senate panel agreed to fund $2 million for continued renovation of Bon Secours Hospital in Baltimore, $1 million for the Kennedy-Krieger Institute and $2.1 million to continue restoration of the Lake Roland Dam. "These are prior commitments to multiyear projects," explained Sen. Charles H. Smelser, D-Carroll, chairman of the Senate's capital budget subcommittee.

Among the more than 100 separate projects financed through the Senate's version of the capital budget were:

* $2 million to purchase the old Celanese plant south of Cumberland for construction of a 2,500-bed medium-security state prison.

* $13 million for parkland acquisition and $2 million for agricultural land preservation, programs generally financed in the operating portion of the budget. The committee decided to borrow money after funds for both purposes were cut from the operating budget to save money.

* $40 million for a Plant Science Building at the University of Maryland in College Park. The project was originally part of the university's capital construction program, but was moved into the statewide program.

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