House OKs $12.5 billion budget plan Delegates find cuts to avoid new taxes STATE HOUSE REPORT

March 19, 1993|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Staff Writer

In a session that bordered on a lovefest, the Maryland House of Delegates overwhelmingly approved a $12.5 billion budget last night that includes $91 million more for public schools but no new taxes.

Delegates praised the operating budget as one of their most conservative. In fact, they believe they have put an end to the near-constant deficits that have plagued state government for three years. Their plan now goes to the Senate, which already has begun its review.

"We have imposed self-discipline, which few other legislatures can do with cash in the bank," crowed Del. Timothy F. Maloney, a Prince George's Democrat, before the 117-17 vote.

The House budget for next year is 2.5 percent higher than the current one, but smaller than the plan Gov. William Donald Schaefer proposed. House leaders cut $220 million from his proposal to keep the spending increase in line with projected growth in the economy.

Delegates refused to abolish the new keno lottery game, preferring its revenues to more budget cuts.

They kept intact many of the governor's health initiatives, including $1 million for contraceptives for low-income Marylanders.

But while boosting spending for public schools, they killed a voucher program that would have enabled 200 Baltimore children to attend private schools.

During the decidedly upbeat meeting, delegates praised one another for passing a budget with minimal bloodshed and unusual cooperation between Republicans and Democrats.

They agreed to increase aid to the 23 counties and Baltimore by $216 million, which is about $40 million less than Mr. Schaefer proposed.

To make up for some of the cut, the House asked the governor to increase local school funds by $16 million using a special formula that benefits Montgomery and Prince George's counties the most.

Both of those counties were the losers in the last round of education cuts in November, and lawmakers had vowed revenge on the apparent winner, Baltimore.

The formula rewards school systems with above-average student attendance while providing extra support to those with many pupils who do not speak English. Baltimore would receive only $1 million, in part because its attendance record is only average.

The $16 million is not part of the House's plan and would be doled out only if the governor decided to include it in a supplemental budget.

Delegates trimmed about $50 million from welfare and medical assistance funds because they believe fewer people will need the help and those that do will use up less money.

They took a heavier swipe at the state work force, eliminating 600 more jobs than Mr. Schaefer did. The vast majority of these 1,100 positions being abolished are vacant, officials said.

The House left in enough money so about half the work force would receive so-called increment, or longevity, raises. For the third straight year, government workers would go with no cost-of-living raise.

Many of the major health, welfare and education programs in the governor's budget plan remained mostly intact. For example:

* The House agreed to include $1 million for Norplant, condoms and vasectomies for low-income residents, as the governor proposed. However, delegates put some conditions on the program. State health workers should make sure they do not coerce people into using birth control and should encourage teens to abstain from sex, they said.

* The House voted to give 2,000 more 4-year-olds a head start on learning by boosting funds for pre-kindergarten classes. The governor had asked for enough money to help 4,000 additional youngsters.

Delegates decided to withhold almost $5 million from Baltimore schools until the city works toward implementing certain school improvements.

The improvements, the result of a 1992 management study, include giving principals more authority, rewarding good schools, and finding easier ways to get rid of bad principals or teachers.

Under intense lobbying from the city, however, the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee moved yesterday to neutralize the threat. Senators decided to ask the city to make the improvements but deleted all mention of withholding funds.

If the full Senate goes along, the disagreement would be hashed out in a conference committee.

The House also wiped out the governor's plan to provide tuition vouchers so 200 Baltimore students could attend private, parochial and suburban public schools.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.