In an attempt to keep up with expanding pupil enrollment, the General Assembly voted yesterday to spend more than a quarter of the state's $390 million construction budget to build and renovate public schools.
Next year's capital construction budget, to be financed through the sale of state general obligation bonds, also includes $48 million for a new prison south of Cumberland, $12 million for a District Court and multiservice center in Annapolis, and millions more for hospitals, universities, jails, parks, museums and sewage treatment plants.
Del. Richard N. Dixon, the Carroll County Democrat who chaired the capital budget subcommittee, said senators and delegates alike insisted that more money be spent on school construction.
"There are a lot of counties that have a significant need," he said. "How can you disagree with that?"
Maryland public school enrollment increased 12.1 percent from the 1988-1989 to the 1993-1994 school year. Counties with double-digit growth in that period included Calvert (31.2 percent), Howard (24.9), Frederick (18.3), Harford (17.9) and Baltimore (17.4), according to the education department.
The legislature set aside $117.5 million for school construction, $11.5 million more than last year and the largest amount for that purpose since 1976. The total includes money previously appropriated in this year's operating budget.
The final version of the capital spending plan, approved by a joint conference committee Sunday night, was ratified by the House, 130-2, and then by the Senate, 46-0, on the session's final day.
It includes more than $107 million for college and university projects. Among the biggest are a $17 million physical education building at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, a $15 million life sciences building at Baltimore City Community College and $8 million for Hill Field House at Morgan State University.
The budget includes nearly $58 million for public safety facilities, including jails in Anne Arundel, Harford, Frederick, Garrett, Wicomico and Talbot counties, and money to design a new state police barracks in Westminster.
More than $25 million in bonds was authorized for environmental projects, including shore erosion, asbestos abatement and storm-water control.
The budget includes $2 million to build a Jack Nicklaus signature golf course at Rocky Gap State Park east of Cumberland and $250,000 for a statue of the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on the State House grounds.
Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Budget and Taxation Committee, said the city did relatively well in the capital budget because so many regional or statewide attractions were funded.
Among them are the Baltimore Children's Museum, $1 million; the National Aquarium in Baltimore, $1 million; the Walters Art Gallery, $750,000; the Lyric Opera House, $600,000; the Constellation, $500,000; and the Eubie Blake National Museum, $200,000.
The budget also includes $4 million for the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center and $2.7 million for a juvenile justice center in Baltimore.
Within the $390 million budget are about $20 million in projects pushed by individual lawmakers. Projects include $250,000 to improve the Annapolis City Dock; $450,000 to reconstruct a building at Ladew Topiary Gardens in Harford County; $350,000 for the Center for Cultural Arts in Gaithersburg; $1 million for the Hospice of Prince George's County; and $100,000 for the Chesapeake Bay Floating Theatre, a measure pushed by Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Prince George's Democrat.