Md. fares well in Clinton's first budget, though federal pay freeze is included THE CLINTON BUDGET

April 09, 1993|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Washington Bureau Richard H. P. Sia of The Sun's Washington Bureau contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- While President Clinton's February proposal to freeze the pay of federal workers for one year remained unchanged, the budget he sent Congress yesterday offered Maryland an assortment of goodies, including millions in construction projects and a $1.25 billion computer project for Social Security.

The Social Security Administration, headquartered in Woodlawn, is also scheduled to get a substantial increase in funds to cope with soaring disability claims, but officials warned that this may not be enough and that the time it takes to process a claim could slip from 3 1/2 months to 4 1/2 months.

Though the federal pay freeze remains in the budget, some of the money those workers -- including 300,000 in Maryland -- would have gotten this year may be restored as the budget makes its way through Congress.

Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and head of the subcommittee that handles federal employees' pay, said last month that the Clinton administration had agreed to restoration of some of the money.

An aide to the Maryland Democrat said yesterday that the money would be restored as the budget works its way through Congress.

Speaking of the budget's impact on Maryland, Kenneth E. Mannella, the state's chief lobbyist in Washington, said, "It looks pretty good. In the last few years, we have been looking at [Bush administration] budgets that cut funds 20 or 30 percent and we had to go to Congress to get them restored."

"The big change," he added, is that the Clinton administration is proposing to maintain many programs at or near existing levels, and to increase some.

Under the budget, he said, Maryland can expect to get $36 million for mass transit subsidies, an $11 million increase from the current year; another $10.8 million for extending the Baltimore Metro subway line to the Johns Hopkins Hospital; $300 million in federal highway construction and rehabilitation funds, and $200 million for continued construction of Washington Metro subway lines to Montgomery and Prince Georges counties.

The budget also includes $27.9 million toward construction of a Census Bureau super computer facility near Bowie which, according to an aide to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, would be shared by the University of Maryland.

It also provides $74 million for consolidation of Food and Drug Administration operations at two sites, one in Montgomery County and one in Prince George's County.

Mr. Mannella, the Maryland lobbyist, said that $200 million to begin the FDA project was appropriated by Congress in 1992, but the Bush administration did not spend the money. Presumably, he added, the Clinton administration will release those funds even as it asks for additional money in the new budget.

In the military construction budget, a perennial source of federal pork, the administration wants to spend $201.5 million for defense projects and military housing in Maryland beginning Oct. 1. This largess would make the state the nation's fifth largest recipient of Pentagon construction money, surpassing California for the first time in recent history.

Funding for Maryland facilities includes $52.7 million to begin building a super computer facility at National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade, $20.2 million for three projects at Aberdeen Proving Ground, $2.8 million for alterations to the Army National Guard armory in Towson and $1 million for new underground fuel storage tanks at Glenn L. Martin Airport in Essex.

Maryland's share of the military construction budget represents more than an eight-fold increase over the current funding, but many other states are seeing dramatic increases in the first Clinton budget also.

At Social Security, the budget includes $1.125 billion to continue installation of a "state-of-the-art computing network" to help the agency deal with an increasing workload, including disability claims.

The budget also contains $1 billion, an increase of nearly 10 percent, for processing disability claims, which have shot up 41 percent over the last three years.

Another $202 million for handling those claims is included in Mr. Clinton's stimulus package for the current fiscal year. The package has been blocked by a Senate filibuster.

While the budget includes a cut of nearly 600 in the Social Security work force of 64,321 employees, officials said they may ask the Office of Management and Budget for an exemption from that requirement.

The budget also includes $30.8 million for construction projects at the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, $21 million for the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay programs, as well as money to begin operation of a new "medium security" federal prison in Cumberland.

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