Pig ensures appropriations are kosher

April 03, 1992|By C. Fraser Smith | C. Fraser Smith,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- A $2.1 million repair job at Lake Roland Dam, a $500,000 facelift for the Baltimore Convention Center, the Christopher Columbus Marine Research Center, a $4.25 million baseball stadium for the committee chairman's home town . . .

These projects were just a part of a $350 million capital spending program approved yesterday by the House Appropriations Committee.

As a reminder of the purely political, pork barrel projects doled out in better economic times, the committee voted under the xTC watchful eye of a stuffed pig the color of pink cotton candy.

The General Assembly announced earlier during this session that it would confer no pure pork this year. But when that part of the budget came up, committee members began to clear their throats -- loudly. Then they began to hoot a bit. And chortle.

This good-natured derision was directed at the committee chairman,Del. Charles J. Ryan Jr., D-Prince George's -- whose hometown of Bowie gets the baseball stadium money.

The project was listed under the heading of economic development -- an argument used vigorously and successfully to promote the new stadium in Baltimore.

Bowie officials want the money because they think they can attract a Double-A minor league team. The town would match the state's contribution with $4 million of its own.

"Mr. Chairman," said Del. James E. McClellan, as the Bowie stadium was presented yesterday, "could we divide that pig?"

Without debate or discussion, the committee voted to approve the spending, to be paid for with the proceeds from the sale of general obligation bonds.

The House bill calls for $20 million more in borrowing than the $330 million plan approved March 26 by the Senate. Senators said they were fearful that more borrowing at a time when personal income seemed to be declining might jeopardize the state's triple-A bond rating.

The gap between the House and Senate proposals is greater than it appears, however, because the Senate bill includes a $40 million plant science building for the University of Maryland at College Park.

The House allowed this project, but kept it part of the university's own, separate capital budget, while the Senate thought another $40 million unduly taxed the university's independent borrowing capacity.

Since the House did not have to account for the $40 million project, it had $40 million for other goodies.

The House, for example, provided the full $15 million needed to build a bioprocessing facility in Baltimore, designed to get technological breakthroughs from the laboratory to the production line, while the Senate provided only $10 million for the project.

The two chambers were almost of the same mind in regard to the Christopher Columbus Center in Baltimore. The House provided $10.5 million, the Senate $10 million. The Bowie baseball stadium does not exist at all in the Senate bill.

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