ANNAPOLIS -- The General Assembly is praising the $350 million public construction budget as one of the leanest in years, but fat is still a relative term in the State House.
The legislature did lop off many of the "pork barrel" projects that traditionally crowd the construction budget before it took a final vote late Friday.
"I think it's the most pristine budget I've seen in a long while," said House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., a Kent County Democrat.
But two proposed projects -- an intensive care unit for newborns in Baltimore and a minor-league baseball stadium in Bowie -- illustrate the trouble lawmakers had trimming the "fat" and deciding which projects were truly worthy.
Del. Charles J. Ryan, the Appropriations Committee chairman who represents the Bowie area, pushed hard for the stadium, saying it would bring Double-A baseball to Prince George's County and boost the local economy.
Last Monday, the day the legislature was supposed to finish its work, the Appropriations committee finally agreed to trim the baseball funds down from the original $4.25 million to $2 million.
But in the process, House and Senate budget negotiators axed $1 million for the construction of a neonatal intensive care unit at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore.
But by Friday night, the tables turned: The stadium was out and the neonatal unit was back in.
"We felt in light of the current fiscal climate, [the stadium] was not the highest priority for the general obligation bond program," Mr. Maloney said.
The construction budget also includes:
* $69 million for public school construction statewide;
* $25 million to buy land for at least 16 park and open space projects around the state;
* $43 million for a health sciences building at the University of Maryland at Baltimore;
* $10 million to build and equip the Christopher Columbus Center for Marine Research and Exploration in Baltimore, and
* $2.1 million to repair the Lake Roland Dam in Baltimore County.