U.S. cuts may hurt Maryland

February 05, 1994|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Washington Bureau of The Sun Sun staff writers Peter Hermann, Thomas W. Waldron, Timothy B. Wheeler and Ted Shelsby contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- Maryland is likely to feel the pinch when President Clinton unveils a tight new budget next week that proposes killing scores of federal programs and trimming hundreds of others.

While few details have been released, it was clear yesterday that transit, housing and education funds are being targeted for substantial cuts in the administration's spending plan.

"The worry on Capitol Hill is housing and transit cuts," said an aide to Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat.

At the same time, it appeared that some cuts would be offset by increases in related programs.

For example, the administration is expected to seek a 25 percent reduction in mass transit operating subsidies, a move that would cost Maryland transit systems $2 million, said Kenneth E. Manella, the state's chief lobbyist in Washington. But the administration is expected to seek an increase in subsidies for mass transit construction projects.

It may simply be "a shift from one program to another," said Mr. Manella, who was anxiously awaiting Monday's budget unveiling.

The Clinton plan for the 1995 budget year, which begins Oct. 1, is expected to undergo considerable change as it moves through Congress. The budget documents will be formally released Monday, although a number of details have leaked out in advance.

In a move sure to pinch local school systems, the administration is proposing to eliminate a $123 million program that gives extra money to districts with large numbers of military dependents, the source of millions of dollars to Maryland school systems every year.

For example, the Harford County school system gets $1.75 million annually, and Anne Arundel County gets about $3.5 million, less than 1 percent of their budgets.

Mr. Clinton is proposing to stop putting new money into a college student loan program that is used on nearly every campus in the country. Presidents since Jimmy Carter, including Mr. Clinton last year, have proposed cutting the program, known as the Perkins loan program, and each time the idea has been rejected in Congress.

The Johns Hopkins University, for example, received $450,000 in new funds under the Perkins program last year. Overall, Hopkins has made about $3.5 million in Perkins loans this school year, said Ellen Frishberg, director of student financial services.

Officials said yesterday that other expected cuts under the Clinton budget would harm boating safety, tree planting and Chesapeake Bay research in Maryland.

The state's Natural Resources Police get more than $1 million a year in boating safety grants, which are used to buy fuel, boats and equipment to patrol the bay, said Col. Franklin I. Wood, the force's superintendent. That money will be eliminated if Congress goes along with Mr. Clinton's plan.

The Department of Natural Resources also receives about $300,000 a year in Small Business Administration funds that it has used to plant 6,000 trees throughout the state, said Gene Piotrowski, associate director of urban forestry. Those funds are also on the Clinton hit list.

The president's move to cut the clinical law program budget would affect the University of Maryland School of Law, which runs a nationally recognized legal clinic. This year, the clinic received $110,000 from the federal program, said director Richard L. North. The money pays for health-related legal services for the poor.

A $400,000 cut in the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration budget for bay buoys would short-circuit a promising effort to monitor weather and water conditions in the Chesapeake from a series of fixed measuring stations, said Dr. ++ William Boicourt, an oceanographer with the University of Maryland's Horn Point Environmental Laboratory.

Such information could save boaters by improving predictions of storms in the bay, he said, while giving scientists new information to help restore the bay's ecosystem.

That program is being removed from the budget, but Mr. Clinton is expected to propose $1.5 million for research on oyster diseases and $1.9 million for other NOAA bay programs, a Sarbanes aide said.

As the first copies of the $1.5 trillion spending plan were rolling off the presses yesterday, the administration was emphasizing its tightfisted approach. Officials confirmed the accuracy of a list of 115 programs, costing $3.25 billion, that will be proposed for termination. The list was first published in the Washington Post yesterday.

The list included some real cuts. For example, the administration is proposing to close a the federal Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, a Bethesda medical school that trains physicians for the military services.

Other items appear to be programs that had already been killed or were one-time appropriations last year. For example, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's advanced solid rocket motor -- new boosters for the space shuttle -- were included even though Congress killed the program last year.

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