Regional lobbying yields $2 million for Owings Mills

April 04, 1995|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Baltimore County's new team approach to extracting money from Annapolis produced a goose egg in Gov. Parris N. Glendening's first supplemental budget, so county senators changed tactics and got a $2 million prize.

Whether it was county lawmakers flexing new-found muscle or just a matter of fairness, the money to improve the infrastructure in Owings Mills showed up Friday in the governor's $4.1 million second supplementary budget.

At the time, the Senate Finance Committee was considering a Glendening bill that would allow the state to use a $10 million surplus from its insurance company for high-risk drivers to finance additional school construction.

The committee's chairman is Baltimore County Democrat Thomas L. Bromwell, who was pushing hard to get additional aid for the county.

Frederick W. Puddester, Governor Glendening's deputy chief of staff for budget affairs, said he and the governor were lobbied persistently on the county's behalf by a variety of lawmakers from both the county and Baltimore City.

Since the money in the governor's first supplemental budget was divided among the city, Prince George's and Montgomery counties, Mr. Puddester said, the governor was persuaded that Baltimore County should get something, too.

"I didn't see it as a response to pressure. It was a fairness issue," Mr. Puddester said.

Mr. Bromwell agreed. "No threats were made. I was as subtle as I could be," he said of his efforts to persuade the governor.

However, he added, "You've got to get their attention. I think the governor is working with us." He said he still hopes for some additional police aid and school-construction money for Baltimore County this year.

Additions to Perry Hall High and Perry Hall Middle schools, both in Mr. Bromwell's district, are the top unfunded county priorities this year.

County officials were delighted with the outcome and willing to credit political muscle.

"Politics is a give-and-take process," county lobbyist Michael Davis said yesterday as he and County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III explained the windfall.

County officials attributed the money to an implied threat that the bill allowing the transfer of money from the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund might die with just one week left in the 90-day session. They also credited lobbying by Sen. Barbara Hoffman, chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee; Sen. Michael J. Collins of Essex, the county delegation chairman; Mr. Ruppersberger; and others.

Mr. Puddester said, however, that he never feared for the MAIF bill, and that the governor only responded to the fairness arguments.

The county's $2 million for Owings Mills will likely be used to help finance the Red Run Boulevard extension or an accompanying sewer line.

Both are necessary to open more than 1,000 acres along Interstate 795 to industrial and office park development.

Although Baltimore County got nothing in the governor's first supplemental budget, Mr. Ruppersberger said he was glad that persuasion produced results in the second.

The executive has been visiting Annapolis weekly and has organized team appearances by the county legislative delegation, County Council members and school officials to help persuade the state Board of Public Works to give the county more school-construction money.

Baltimore County's influence in Annapolis has been at a low ebb since 1992, when most county legislators voted against former Gov. William Donald Schaefer's tax and spending package. Mr. Schaefer and legislative leaders retaliated by locking the county out of most school-construction money and stripping county delegates of leadership posts.

The county turned out strongly for Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey in the 1994 gubernatorial election, but it still picked up some influence in this year's General Assembly because of an unusually high turnover of legislators and because Mr. Glendening has been reaching out to Baltimore area leaders.

With 10 of the 42 state senators now representing some part of Baltimore County, and with Senators Bromwell and Hoffman chairing key fiscal committees, county officials feel they once again have some muscle.

"We're back. We're players again," Mr. Ruppersberger said yesterday.

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