Maryland gets more good news than bad under Clinton's proposed budget

February 08, 1994|By John B. O'Donnell | John B. O'Donnell,Washington Bureau of The Sun Sun staff writers Peter Jensen and Nelson Schwartz contributed to this article.

WASHINGTON -- Federal employees got the prospect of a slim pay raise, and Maryland's state and local governments got more good news than bad from President Clinton's budget yesterday.

In general, the spending plan for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 was welcomed by Maryland's chief lobbyist in Washington, who said the state did well in a tight budget year.

The Northeast-Midwest Congressional Coalition published an analysis that, while critical of the president for proposing to slash mass-transit subsidies, public-housing money and energy assistance for low-income families, showed that Maryland would receive increases in 11 of 12 federal programs it analyzed. The exception was the energy assistance program. Overall, the administration cut energy assistance by nearly 50 percent, and Maryland will lose $11.3 million, according to the analysis.

The administration's cut of 25 percent in mass-transit operating subsidies will cost the state $4 million, according to state officials, although it would be offset by a similar increase in construction money. A 25 percent cut in public-housing assistance, still being analyzed, is expected to affect Baltimore.

Officials were pleased with the Environmental Protection Agency budget, which keeps the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort at $21 million and provides substantial increases for wetlands conservation, sewage-treatment-plant construction, drinking-water treatment-plant construction and fighting pollution from runoff.

A proposed 21 percent increase nationwide in Head Start money for preschoolers, a 9 percent increase in education financing and substantial raises in job training programs and highway construction funds could also mean more money for Maryland.

The budget provides a 14 percent increase in an anti-drug effort in which the Baltimore-Washington corridor was included last week. To that end, Mr. Clinton increased from $86 million to $98 million the money for High Intensity Drug Traffic Areas, an average of $16 million for each of the six areas. The money is used for a federal-state-local effort at combating drug trafficking and hard-core drug addiction. Maryland officials said they did not know how the state would benefit from the president's inclusion of money to begin hiring 100,000 police officers over five years.

"Overall, this is really a good budget under difficult budget constraints," said Kenneth E. Mannella, Gov. William Donald Schaefer's lobbyist in Washington. "Obviously, there are going to be areas where we go to our congressional delegation and seek some changes."

The nearly 300,000 federal workers who live in Maryland got a measure of good news. Unlike last year, when he proposed to freeze their pay, President Clinton included $1.1 billion that would provide a 1.6 percent raise for the nation's 2 million civilian federal workers.

Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland was critical of the decision, noting that federal workers were expecting a 2.6 percent raise. At the same time, an aide to Democratic Rep. Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland said, "We are pleased because the president closed no doors."

Mr. Clinton also included $2.1 billion to finance the first "locality" pay increase, a nine-year program to close the gap between the pay of federal and private-sector workers.

Although federal workers got no across-the-board cost-of-living increase last year, Congress approved the first installment of the locality pay increases for them by directing agencies to find the money elsewhere in their budgets, and the president accepted that decision. Most Marylanders in the federal work force received a 4.23 percent locality raise. The budget unveiled yesterday includes money for that raise, relieving the pressure on the budgets for the current fiscal year.

The president's budget message yesterday said the final shape of the raise for the next fiscal year would be determined after consultation with employee unions "and other interested parties."

Perhaps the biggest chunk of transportation money for Maryland will come from the $200 million set aside for the latest installment on expansion of the Washington Metro subway system -- which includes extensions into Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

But the $4 million cut in mass-transit subsidies, including $2.6 million for the Maryland Mass Transit Administration, troubled state officials. That cut could force them to raise fares, reduce services or divert money from construction projects.

State transportation officials said diversion of construction money was the most likely response. They argued that the complexities of the transportation budget would require them to reduce capital spending by $8 million to make up a $4 million loss in operating subsidies.

Mr. Mannella, the Maryland lobbyist, expressed concern about the transportation budget's impact on Maryland.

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